Hurricane Irene: Five Very Bad Things That Might Happen, Beyond Death & Destruction

Irene is shaping up to be the biggest hurricane event to hit the New York area in a while, and since we grew up there, we know people are not used to dealing with these things.

There's a lot that can go wrong in a hurricane, of course: death, widespread destruction, flooding. But there are other things that aren't as obvious, and folks in the area should worry about them, too, because why not have more things to worry about?

So here are five additional things to give you agita:

5. A rat stampede is unleashed If the subways flood, the innumerable rats that live in the system are heading for higher ground, and that means more interaction with people. Fun!

4. Financial market meltdown Of course, no one knows why the stock market does anything. But with our luck these days, traders will take the opportunity of hurricane aftermath to evaporate everyone's 401(k).

3. Riots No electricity and long lines for ice and supplies can be a dangerous combination if temperatures are high. Like a butterfly flapping a wing somewhere, one annoyed shove could lead to a fistfight which spreads to more fights which unleashes a whole lot of trouble.

2. Beach erosion You may laugh, but New Jersey has some picturesque white-sand beaches. How much sand they have after Irene pounds them for a long time is anyone's guess.

1. Rita-like traffic jams We're used to hurricane threats here in Houston, but this is what it looked like when Rita threatened in the wake of Katrina in 2005:

And we don't have the chokepoints of tunnels and bridges to deal with, to the extent the New York area does. Long, long waits in idling cars while media-induced panic builds over the approaching storm -- again, things could get ugly.

Hopefully it won't. If people evacuate the areas they should, there's a good chance Irene will do little more for most people than cause some inconvenience via temporary blackouts.

Remember, New York/New Jersey/Connecticut: Run from the water, hunker down from the wind. If you're in a storm surge area, you should be on the road now. If not, get ready to live without power and figure out which room at your place is least exposed to windows that might catch some flying debris.

Get batteries for your radio, and ride it out. Good luck.

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