'Monday morning emergency services management director" is never going to replace "Monday morning quarterback" in terms of snappy catchphrases, but it's the game many of us are playing this week. We observed the plan Long Island Power Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and state and county officials put into place for Hurricane Irene, and because the storm turned out to be a notch or two below the worst-case scenario, many are second-guessing the preparations, saying they went too far and highlighted a panicky, overly political culture.

They should stop.

Saying the preparations were proven unnecessary because the perfect storm didn't materialize makes about as much sense as saying our homeowner's insurance was unnecessary last year because our house didn't burn down.

And the truth is that even as a tropical storm, Irene was a major event. It was also a dress rehearsal. Millions of people are still without power, hundreds of thousands of them on Long Island. Monday morning the Metro North and New Jersey Transit rail systems were still shut down, and five Long Island Rail Road branches were out of commission -- not because politicians were being careful but because they were too badly damaged to operate.

People up and down the East Coast are dead. Roads are flooded and trees are uprooted. Homes and businesses are damaged. And were it not for the exhaustive precautions, on Long Island, statewide and beyond, it could have been far worse.

What's more, it will be worse, someday, when a hurricane on the same track as Irene brings sustained winds of 105 or 115 miles per hour to Long Island, instead of near 50. We'll be glad of the experience we gained in how to make these preparations when that day comes.

It would be easy to say government officials were in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation, but the two options aren't really equal. If we had failed to prepare and been crushed, the losses of life and property could have been spectacular. But there is little downside to bracing for worse weather than what appeared.

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So let's not damn them for doing, when not doing would have been irresponsible and wrong. hN