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Newspapers around the U.S. reflect superstorm Sandy

A car is buried in sand that was

A car is buried in sand that was washed in from Hurricane Sandy in Long Beach Island, New Jersey. (Oct. 31, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

The Chicago Tribune, Oct. 31

On Sunday afternoon, millions of Americans moved through their daily routines, secure in the belief that they were in command of their lives. They flipped a switch and a light flickered on. They turned a key and a car rumbled. They pushed a button and the television squawked to life.

Hours later, superstorm Sandy barreled ashore and reminded us all of an immutable truth: There are greater powers on Earth than humans. We are not in control.

The storm generated a torrent of apocalyptic images — a crane dangling from a midtown Manhattan skyscraper, planks of the famed Atlantic City boardwalk torn and tossed by the force of the sea. The death toll rising by the hour. Seven, eight million people without power. Calls pouring into New York City’s 911 center at a rate of 300 a minute. Billions in damages yet untallied.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 31

For the most part, political leaders from President Barack Obama to Govs. Tom Corbett \[of Pennsylvania\] and Chris Christie of New Jersey to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and other national, state, and local officials deserve applause for preparing communities for the storm by evacuating residents in harm’s way, setting up shelters, diverting or shutting down traffic and transit, and later making rescues as needed.

But now comes what may be the harder part — the recovery. Sandy was a deadly and devastating storm. It became a hurricane in the Caribbean on Oct. 24 and wreaked havoc on Cuba, Haiti, and the Bahamas before heading to the United States. By the time the tropical storm finished ripping through Delaware, New Jersey, and New York, it had left more than 30 people dead and caused billions of dollars in damage.

Christie tweeted that, “The devastation on the Jersey Shore is some of the worst we’ve ever seen.” Rescue boats were being used in Atlantic City to find survivors.

Americans can only hope the cooperation that elected officials have displayed in dealing with a killer storm will somehow be duplicated post-Election Day.

The Washington Post, Nov. 1

Sandy reminded Americans not only of the importance of cooperation in times of crisis and the promise that great cities such as New York will restore themselves. It also demonstrated the vulnerability of the seawalls, bulkheads and electrical wires upon which Americans rely. The job now is not simply to pump water out of inundated subway lines. It is also to figure out how to harden the United States’ vital coastal infrastructure, particularly in the face of rising seas, big storms and other predicted consequences of climate change.

Bloomberg News, Nov. 1

The more than 8 million people without power this week may not be reassured to hear it, but power failures in the wake of superstorm Sandy could have been much more widespread.

For a sense of scale, consider that in 2003 the failure to detect a tree branch falling on a high-voltage line in Ohio led to a megablackout that turned off the lights for 55 million people over a wide swath of the Northeast, the Midwest and into Canada. Sandy, though one of the worst storms to hit the East Coast in a century, was far more limited in its disruption of power supplies, reflecting the undeniable progress that has been made over the past decade in bringing the nation’s creaking power grid into the 21st century.

U.S. power companies, with federal help, have begun laying the groundwork to make the U.S. electrical supply more resilient. The havoc caused by Sandy, a storm big enough, by one estimate, to cut U.S. output by $25 billion in the fourth quarter and slow the pace of growth, should be the catalyst to redouble this effort.

Dallas Morning News, Nov. 1

Amazing how an enormous natural disaster has a way of silencing the barbed language and personal attacks of a razor-close presidential race. Amazing how trivial those mean campaign ads look on TV, sandwiched between footage of wiped-out homes, debris and destruction. Amazing how Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both found ways to turn the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy into a call for the nation to come together.

We’re not so naive as to suggest their actions aren’t, at least in part, politically motivated. Obama, no doubt, wants to milk this opportunity for all he can, to manage this disaster effectively before the cameras and to look presidential. It’s a role only he can play. No matter what Romney does, the Republican challenger knows he will be shunted aside in the news coverage.

To Romney’s credit, he’s not trying to manufacture a campaign moment out of this. He could have kept on politicking as usual, but good judgment is sometimes best demonstrated by knowing when to stand down. So Romney used Tuesday’s campaign time to organize a food drive and call for Red Cross donations. Of course, he did it in the crucial swing state of Ohio, which was hardly coincidental.

The Day, New London, Conn., Oct. 31

Losses associated with Hurricane Sandy’s arrival on the Northeast coast Monday will exacerbate the fiscal problems confronting the National Flood Insurance Program. This was a program crying out for reform even before the mega-storm hit. The federal insurance program is supposed to be self-sufficient, but is instead heavily subsidized by taxpayers. Rather than reducing development in flood-prone areas, it has encouraged it.

With ocean waters rising and the number of severe storms on the increase, causing more inland river and coastal flooding, it is long past time for Congress to take a serious look at how the NFIP operates. But the best reforms will not prove popular and will require political courage, always difficult to find in Washington.