In our paper
Pielke Sr., R.A., R. Wilby, D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku, J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding, 2011: Dealing with complexity and extreme events using a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability perspective. AGU Monograph on Complexity and Extreme Events in Geosciences, in press.
we present a bottom-up, resource-based approach to assess risks to society from extreme events including from hurricanes. We have concluded this is a much more robust approach than replying on a top-down global climate model prediction of changes in climatology (such as hurricane frequency) in the coming decades.
Hurricane Irene presents an example of why we need this bottom-up approach as the primary framework for the reduction of risk.
Hurricane Irene has caused large losses of electric power. For future hurricanes (regardless of how they might change) a program to reduce these outages should be a high priority.
An example of a news article on this vulnerability of the electrical system is by Childs Walker of the Baltimore Sun on August 26 2011, titled
Its subtitle reads
Marylanders try to accept outages gracefully, admit their patience might wane after a few days
Excerpts read [highlight added]
Though Irene did not cause widespread flooding in Maryland or smash buildings to the degree many feared, the storm left as many as 800,000 businesses and households without power.
Maryland appeared to rank second in outages among states hit by Irene. Virginia reported about 2.5 million residents without power, the second-most in state history. North Carolina, where Irene made landfall, reported more than 400,000 customers without power. Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts each reported between 300,000 and 500,000 outages at various times Sunday.
Since hurricanes will occur along the east coast, the improvement of the resiliency of the electic power grid should be goal. We do not need to know anything about how the climatology of these storms might change in the coming decades. Just pruning trees before each hurricane season (as homeowners to in the western USA before the fire season) would be a cost-effective way to reduce risk.