The news today has been overwhelmed by stories about the awful aftermath of Hurricane Ike in the Gulf Coast area, especially East Texas. Search-and-rescue teams have been on 24-hour duty, despite no knowledge of how many are in need of them (or how many luckless others are beyond their help, subject only to search-and-recover efforts).
Millions are without power or potable water; restoring them could take as long as a month in some places, according to Bloomberg.com. Eight American deaths have been confirmed attributable to Ike (five in TX, two in LA, one in AR). A curfew has been imposed by local police in Houston to keep people off the streets at night.
However, the news is not all horrible.
Much of the upside relates to what didn’t happen: the death toll, for example, is statistically slight compared to the 70 dead in Haiti. Evacuation plans went off very smoothly, with excellent cooperation from state and local authorities that was not forthcoming in New Orleans three years ago. Humanitarian aid is pouring into the afflicted areas via government and private enterprises, and rioting and looting appear to have been kept to levels that are encouraging in that little to none has surfaced in the news coverage.
Oil rigs and refineries appear to have come through the ordeal much better than expected. After an initial spike in oil prices born of trader fears, crude prices dropped back to a
five-year seven-month low [see update. — Ed.] after 309.000 barrels of oil were slated for release to Texas from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. (Note to Sen. Schumer: this is what the SPR is for, not for seasonal gas price increases, so shut yer smarmy trap.) The carefully-orchestrated measures employed this summer to lower sky-high gas prices were not, after all, decimated in one fell swoop. Just the same, perhaps this will give a little extra heft to the call for expanded offshore oil drilling, if only to ensure that the bulk of our drilling capacity isn’t concentrated in Hurricane Alley.
Since landfall, Hurricane Ike has been downgraded to Tropical Depression Ike as it makes its way toward Missouri and Illinois, which are preparing for floods.
UPDATE: Yeah, I thought so. The initial Bloomberg dispatch said that oil dropped to a “five-year low” after the spike, which sounded weird to me, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt, promising myself I’d post an update if they discovered a mistake. By now they’ve changed “five-year” to “seven month,” which sounds way more sane, and I’ve updated accordingly. Promise kept.