Weather may be the most influential actor in human history. From fluctuating harvests to monumental changes in global climate, it will always be largely outside of our control. Storms are a sudden reminder of this.
Only last week Hurricane Sandy threatened to under- mine the work of dozens of political operatives working on the Presidential campaigns. Sandy is just one of a line of great storms that have threatened the Northeast Unit- ed States and its role as the centre of the global economy over the past century.
The New England Hurricane of 1938 ravaged the north east leaving over 600 dead. Salford’s own Alistair Cooke, in a Letter from America, recalled reports of a New York cinema being carried two miles into the Atlantic with twenty film-goers still inside. In Charlestown, Rhode Island a house was carried across the street, deposited intact and stood, occupied, until it was demolished last year. In 1944 The Great Atlantic Hurricane stormed, uninvited, into the Second World War and sunk a U.S. Navy Destroyer and Minesweeper.
As well as inspiring awe at the force of nature, super storms are responsible for awe-inspiring human endeavour. Hurricane Sandy saw partisan politics cast aside in order to tackle the devastation it created in New Jersey and New York whilst unnamed heroes took to skis and snowmobiles to rescue stranded motorists, buried in their cars, and victims of blocked exhausts on Interstate-95 in the New England Blizzard of 1978. They also inspire innovation. The transport gridlock caused by the Great Blizzard of 1888 precipitated the first US subway system which is fundamental to why New York today is rarely paralysed by heavy snow.
But the weather can turn: who knows if winter will see New York Library’s books burned as kindling?