Friday, August 26, 2011 at 5:20 AM

The hyping of Hurricane Irene

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

News outlets cover natural disasters purportedly as a public service. But there’s no denying that such coverage is a ratings boon for their bottom line – catering as it does to the perverse thrill of suspense that keeps us fixated on the hype of impending doom….

(Katrina’s coming, Katrina’s coming, The iPINIONS Journal, August 29, 2005)

Even worse, politicians now act as if every hurricane heading for the United States is the next Katrina, and they make all kinds of phony gestures to appear more concerned about potential hurricane victims than President George W. Bush did during Katrina.

Nothing is more contrived in this respect than the governor of New Jersey threatening to order mandatory evacuations from the shore just because Irene might strike a glancing blow; or the erstwhile sensible mayor of New York making the patently specious announcement that he might order the evacuation of lower Manhattan. Actually, to listen to some of these news reporters and politicians you’d think they were all reading from the Chicken-Little script of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

Meanwhile, my family and friends down in the Turks and Caicos Islands and The Bahamas just weathered a direct hit – as they so often do. Irene cut a menacing path through most of these islands as a Category-3 hurricane – with sustained winds of over 120 mph.

And, incidentally, they clearly did not even have the option of fleeing inland the way Americans do. Which rather puts all of the talk about evacuations into perspective, no?

Not surprisingly, virtually all of the poorly constructed homes on less developed islands were destroyed, electricity was lost in some places, and trees were uprooted all over like blades of grass. But, thank God, there have been no reports of any deaths directly related to Irene’s wrath.

Initial reports out of Eleuthera indicate the damage caused by Irene was significant, but not as bad as expected. [R]reports out of Harbour Island indicate there was no major damage except for trees and shrubs, beach erosion and destruction of beach huts.

(The Nassau Tribune, August 25, 2011)

This brings me to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States where she’s expected to tease residents – from the Carolinas to New England – over the next few days, decreasing in intensity from Category 2 (96 – 100 mph) to Category 1 (75-95 mph) as she moves up the East Coast.

No doubt there’ll be some flooding, and low-lying places like the NYC subway system are particularly vulnerable. But cities all over America experience major floods every year: remember the “1000-year flood in Tennessee” last year? This, in part, is why all of the talk about Irene being the storm of the century is bordering on Katrina envy. Not to mention that:

Americans are blessed with the technology, escape routes to inland shelters and other emergency management resources to gauge and withstand hurricanes with virtually no loss of life.

(Katrina’s coming, Katrina’s coming, The iPINIONS Journal, August 29, 2005)

In any event, apropos of perspective, there’s certainly no way Irene will do to the United States what this year’s tsunami did to Japan or what last year’s earthquake did to Haiti. Really, am I the only one who figures that if Irene at Cat 3 did not wash away the tiny islands of the Caribbean, then Irene at Cat 1 is hardly likely to wash away the big island of Manhattan?!

That said, I shall refrain from unleashing my pent-up indignation at the absurdity of reporters rushing out of their hurricane-proof, five-star hotel rooms to “brave” the elements just to report on what is so plain for all to see; i.e., that Irene is whipping things up a storm and pissing torrential rain.

Frankly, only when flying debris decapitates one of these misguided storm chasers will everybody exclaim ‘what the hell were they standing outside in the midst of a hurricane for anyway!’

Goodnight, Irene.

Related commentaries:
Hurricane Tomas
Hurricane Ike
Hurricane Ike

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