Over-hyped or not?
Irene was a fizzler compared to the predictions for her, though probably not for those who were in her path. Wind, rain, surge, flooding, small tornadoes aren’t to be taken lightly. Nonetheless, was it tv over hype or was it damned if you do, damned if you don’t?
For Floridians, it was probably, “whatever, as long as we’re out of the way.” However, since so many Floridians have roots and connections along the East Coast, interest was probably pretty high though maybe not as high as the tv coverage. We were traveling the week before and changed some plans to avoid getting in the way, but were interested even as it chugged past Florida. Since we had some family members in the path, interest was pretty high.
At the same time, the coverage was frustrating. All the focus appeared to be on the New York and New England area as a small bit on the Washington, D.C. area. North Carolina got some camera time, but Virginia, whose vulnerability was every bit as high got very little (four people died there). We were interested in Norfolk which has the world’s largest naval base and Virginia Beach, the state’s largest city, and Jamestown, the first American settlement, and historic Williamsburg and William & Mary College, the second oldest college in the U.S., as well as the Chesapeake Bay area.
Apparently, the networks weren’t too familiar with all that and once the storm came in, no one could get there because tunnels and bridges were closed. So, the talking heads on all the networks, including the Weather Channel went on and on about New York and Boston. Lots of people there, of course, but ultimately nothing much more dire than what they’ve experienced in the past in lesser storms.
It is difficult to fault with governors and mayors who took major precautions such as evacuations and closing down travel systems. If they hadn’t, everyone would have accused them of Louisiana-New Orleans negligence. Better safe than sorry and rain and flooding were bad, though not as bad as predicted. However, the hype left little choice.
The question is: was this responsible news coverage? Wasn’t there someone out there with a more sober assessment? I recall seeing an internet headline to that effect, but didn’t open the story. There were predictions that the storm would move further East, but that still made it a pretty big storm. Computer models were pretty much in agreement with the movement, but none seemed to predict the intensity too much. A colliding cold front and a high pressure behind that kind of hinted that the storm would cool down.
Speaking of computer models, there was a smattering of talk about global warming (man-made), now known as climate change, as causes of such a big storm. Warmer sea temperatures and so forth. However, the upper East Coast has been hit by much bigger storms than even what was predicted. Computer models are just that - it depends upon what you put in or leave out. Garbage in/garbage out.
Anyway, it wasn’t a good storm to blame on global warming. Maybe, as the storm diminished, news media focus had to come up with something. Just maybe, someone should have done a more profound examination of the data coming in. All in all it was an exhausting week just watching the wall to wall coverage.
In the meanwhile, as Floridians, we’ll just hope that all the season’s hurricanes follow the same path regardless of the news coverage.