Barrier islands with adequate dunes had better outcomes

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To the editor:
In his recent column, Seth Grossman complains about not getting face time at Stockton College. He should feel lucky. Many Americans have to worry about mealtime, through no fault of their own. 


In a prior column after the 2011 storm evacuations, Mr. Grossman criticized the governor because the casinos lost money on a storm that was forecast to be much worse than realized. He and his supporters have also criticized the construction of dunes on the beach in front of the casinos. Instead of whining about his canceled opportunity at Stockton, he would gain more respect from readers if he acknowledged his mistake last year, as evidenced by what happened last week. 
The governor did an admirable job in using his personality, persistence and character to influence people to evacuate – in both instances. In 2011 the region was spared, but this time we were not so lucky. Forecasts are called “forecasts” for a reason: They are based on mathematical models of prior events and are probabilistic. The power of nature, not even at full force, was evident in its reconstruction of some portions of the barrier islands. However, strips of barrier islands with adequate dunes had better outcomes than those that did not. 
The engineers and geologists know what they are doing. Protection of the environment and land is something they studied. The real estate moguls, attorneys, entrepreneurs and talk-radio hacks did not, and therefore their opinions are meaningless. Their money may buy off the law, cops, building departments and judges, but it cannot buy wisdom, technical knowledge and discernment. I wonder what senseless interpretation Pat Robertson would have about this tragedy. If God punishes voodoo and homosexuality (for the record, I'm straight and religious) then why not the mafia, cheating businesspeople, corrupt municipalities, hedonists and religious hypocrites along the Jersey shore?  
As a former professional geologist in another state, I was trained to have respect for nature and understand that man is an ephemeral participator in the environment, planet, solar system, galaxy and universe – not an orchestrator.

The barrier islands are catastrophically vulnerable. If people want to build on their most vulnerable portions for profit or comfort, then they owe it to the rest of us to educate themselves and buyers and renters about the risks, prepare for those risks, and assume the risks in the event of an adverse outcome. People criticize the poor, the sick and ethnic or racial minorities who were born into handicapped conditions, but we feel sorry for those whose own decisions and politics, led by greed, create problems for themselves or others. Pretty much everyone affected was happy for FEMA. They should also be happy for NOAA, USGS, NIH, CDC, USDoI, FDA, etc.  
 
Jeff Lehman
Northfield


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