What Hurricane Irene Can Teach Us

By Katherine Tarbox, Senior Editor, REALTOR® Magazine

It took me some years to figure this out: The moment you take something for granted, you’ve lost it.  I’ve had to learn this lesson enough times when it comes to the most important things such as health, relationships, jobs, and even homes.  I think many people, sadly, had a fresh awakening about taking housing for granted as Hurricane Irene battered much of the East Coast this past weekend.

I've never seen grocey store aisles so bare, as people bought weeks worth of canned food to prepare for Hurricane Irene

I’ve never seen grocey store aisles so bare, as people bought weeks worth of canned food to prepare for Hurricane Irene

I am scheduled to ride the Home Ownership Matters Bus for the next two weeks.  I left for Connecticut on Friday to attend an event on Saturday.  I knew that I was essentially flying to a hurricane to get stuck in it.  I kind of liked the idea of having a front row seat for mother nature’s extremes.

Connecticut was declared a state of emergency Saturday morning and alas, they canceled the event.  I immediately went into my version of survival mode and headed to the grocery store to stock up on water, batteries, a flashlight, and food. I learned that Pop Tarts were the most in-demand hurricane food and were sold out at both grocery stores I went to.  My mother lived through Hurricane Gloria in 1983 and remembered that parts of Connecticut were without power for up to a month.  I didn’t know what to expect.

I checked into a hotel, which set up a lounge area for CNN viewing.  They put out snacks and left CNN on so we could watch Anderson Cooper getting whipped in 60 mph winds (I still don’t understand how his hair looked perfectly coiffed afterward) and watched as Hurricane Irene made her path up from North Carolina.  One man in the elevator said over and over again, he just wanted his house to be OK.  He heard that a tree had fallen on it and didn’t know what the damage was.  Another was concerned about flooding.  Many were hoping that their home would be there when all was said and done.

A decorative window taping for Hurricane Irene.

A decorative window taping for Hurricane Irene.

It’s easy to take a home for granted as it has probably been there to greet you day after day, year after year.  It sometimes takes natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, or fires to come along until we realize what it means to us. I also think home ownership has been something that we’ve taken for granted.  Ron Phipps, 2011 NAR president, spoke to about 50 members this morning about how home ownership has been a part of U.S. history since the Constitution was drafted.  For almost 100 years, the mortgage interest deduction (MID) has been included in the tax code.  While NAR has tried to educate consumers about how real the threat is — that the MID could be eliminated by lawmakers in Washington — it’s always surprising to me that this is often the first time they’ve heard of this attack on home ownership.

The aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

The aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

Sadly, home owners in Connecticut weren’t in a position to do anything as they watched Hurricane Irene beat and take apart their homes. But they don’t have to sit and watch Washington take apart home ownership.  If I have learned anything on this bus tour, I’ve learned that home ownership can’t be taken for granted.  And if we all take it for granted, we’ll lose it.  To learn more about NAR’s advocacy, check out our September cover story.

  1. Linda

    What this and every other flood taught us is not to fill in wetlands, not to build in floodplains, and to not use so much asphalt.

  2. zia montesi / BIC Kitty Dunes Corolla

    What amazes me is the guests that had reservations for this week & how nasty / annoyed they are to arrive 4 days later than scheduled checkin, and screaming at rentals company employees because, “…I spent $5,000 dollars on my rental house, I had to cut my vacation short, and there’s sand in my pool and the house hasn’t been cleaned & I better get some of my money back…”.

    Don’t they realize that we had a hurricane 3 days earlier? Some of the employees were blocked from reentering,, some of those same cleaners may have lost their homes to water / wind damage, all non-essential personall were blocked from crossing the bridge over to the island & were not granted access until the same time those guests?

    Who cares if there is sand in the pool, you’re at the beach for heavens sakes, the sand is on the beach, from the beach, the evacuees were told to leave last starting last Wednesday, residents Thursday [employed by the rental companies]…rant no longer, stop screaming at the employees, stop cussing at the phone people and maintenance, strip the beds, your clean laudry will be delivered before bedtime or camp, have some fun, talk to each other …Oh NO can’t do that!

    Sorry there’s no food, booze, this was a national disaster to heavens sake. The last thing needed is a bunch of drunk, incensed people driving around and cussing at the retail establishment employes!!! Remember we’re [the locals] are in the same boat as you and we left our homes to come to work and SERVE YOU!

    And your kids usually track sand into the pool anyway since they are too lazy to shower off…with the outside shower right there.
    We love paradise and we share it with you, please respect us and calm down.

  3. Situations like the hurricane teach you that you can never be to prepared for a disaster. I have been through earthquakes, but never a hurricane. It must have been such a weird feeling watching Irene roll in. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone that was affected.

  4. We missed the wrath of Irene here in Atlanta. We got some much needed rain, but none of the flooding and winds that brought the wrath of God up north. Although one of my listings did get flooded in peachtree city but that was only due to a faulty roof.

    Everybody take care and God Bless