Once upon a time, hurricanes were feared primarily by those who lived or had family or property near the coast. If you weren’t in those categories, hurricanes might have been of some interest, especially if your family was traveling or if there was some possibility that the remnants of the tropical storm would work its way inland and provide some much-needed rain after a hot and dry summer.

Things have certainly changed since the twin wallop of Katrina and Rita in 2005.

Last week, as Fay hovered over Florida for days, forecasters speculated that the storm might gather steam and move west toward the offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and the coastal areas so devastated three years ago.

This week, the speculation is centered around Gustav, a bona fide threat to oil interests and property owners in and along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. The hurricane dumped torrential rains across southern Haiti on Tuesday, killing at least 22 in the Caribbean and threatening crops. Oil prices shot up to above $119 a barrel after the National Hurricane Center predicted Gustav could enter the gulf as a major hurricane this weekend. Prices of futures in natural gas, heating oil and gasoline also rose.

If Gustav continues on its path, it could drive up U.S. gasoline prices by 10 cents a gallon ahead of Labor Day weekend, one analyst told the Associated Press.

Extremely dangerous storms such as Gustav are no longer alarming just to isolated, or even specific, parts of the world. Katrina and Rita showed us how powerful, deadly storms can directly affect not only a small geographic area, but also the rest of the world. Some of that impact was felt as displaced residents were forced to find new temporary - if not permanent - homes in other states. Some of that impact was felt as relief efforts and tax dollars poured into areas that were destroyed. Some of that impact was felt in the form of higher prices for construction labor and materials as that industry converged on the Gulf Coast to rebuild.

America continues to feel all those effects three years later.

Severe hurricanes are no longer the concern of solely small stretches of beach-front property. They are everyone’s concern.

Brownwood Bulletin