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As Irene rumbled up the East Coast on Aug. 26, we got to witness some very difficult risk-management decisions playing out in a very public sphere.

On the Friday before the storm’s anticipated Sunday morning arrival, Mayor Mike Bloomberg issued New York’s first-ever mandatory evacuation for residents in low-lying parts of the city—an order that affected some 370,000 people. Around the same time, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), in a decision not made but heartily endorsed by Bloomberg (and N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo), announced it would be shutting down the region’s entire subway and rail network at noon on Saturday.

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