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When a major hurricane collides with other news, the storm wins


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Hurricane Ian sweeps away all other news.

That January 6 committee hearing scheduled for yesterday? Canceled.

Other political news? Barely a dot on the radar.

Hard partisanship? Joe Biden and Ron DeSantis have talked for a while about how best to help Florida — this after a day when the president appeared to snub the governor and draw criticism.

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This GOES-East GeoCcolor satellite image taken at 12:41 a.m. EDT Wednesday, September 28, 2022 and provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Ian over the Gulf of Mexico.
(NOAA via AP)

Some life-threatening events are so severe that normal maneuvering and play must be suspended.

Hurricane Ian is exactly that kind of threat.

The Category 4 storm made landfall yesterday at 3:05 p.m. Eastern Time in the town of Punta Gorda, about 100 miles south of Tampa. The 150 mph winds mounted a furious assault on the palm trees, and as you approached the west coast of the state, you could already see cars in Naples almost totally submerged.

Earlier, the Democratic-controlled committee played it up by leaking Roger Stone’s video, first on CNN and then on other networks on Tuesday to drum up interest in yesterday’s scheduled hearing. I’ve never understood why the panel is giving its scoops ahead of time, but by the time the hearing rolls around, the video of Stone that’s been all over the airwaves is definitely going to sound like old news.

This is the video just before the 2020 election where Donald Trump’s longtime pal and GOP operative says “f*** the vote, let’s get straight to the violence… Shoot to kill, see antifa, shoot to kill and says the president should use armed guards to remove any voter from the Electoral College. Stone had cooperated with the project from two Danish filmmakers, but ridiculously calls the video a fake deep.

As for the hurricane, the greatest danger comes not from the impact itself but from the flooding and storm surge that followed.

Eight months after Katrina, I traveled to New Orleans and was stunned by endless miles of abandoned homes, stretching into the suburbs, children’s toys and household products still strewn across the lawns – if great was the damage caused by the floods that followed. The media had mostly moved on, but the region was forever changed by the devastation.

Neighborhoods are flooded with oil and water two weeks after Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans, September 12, 2005.

Neighborhoods are flooded with oil and water two weeks after Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans, September 12, 2005.
(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

George W. Bush took a major political hit when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, staying on vacation and then flying over the devastated city in Air Force One, with some people still stranded on rooftops. “I realized I had made a big mistake,” he wrote in his memoir. “The photo of me hovering over the damage suggests I was detached from suffering on the ground.”

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His reputation was further tarnished by his “heckuva job, Brownie” remarks when FEMA botched its handling of the storm.

It is inevitable that Biden and DeSantis will be judged on their response to Hurricane Ian. It’s a testing time for political leaders, just as mayors lose popularity for not clearing the roads after a blizzard.

FILE - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis listens to a question during a news conference September 7, 2022 in Miami, Florida.

FILE – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis listens to a question during a news conference September 7, 2022 in Miami, Florida.
(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

At the same time, DeSantis will no doubt avoid the political error of Chris Christie kissing Barack Obama when he came to New Jersey to survey the damage caused by Super Hurricane Sandy.

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It reminds us of how these once-in-a-hundred-year hurricanes are becoming more common, and the role of climate change in the rise of more extreme weather. Television loves extreme weather drama, and some storms get hyped before they die down, but that’s not the case here.

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There are times when the awesome power of Mother Nature overwhelms all human effort, and every political battle we’ve been obsessing over suddenly seems small. What is happening in Florida right now is one of those times.

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