Mother Nature -- in the form of a hurricane named Irene -- appears ready to pound the eastern seaboard over the next couple days.
One of the good things, if such a term can be used, about hurricanes is that you always know where they are, and they also allow meteorologists and others to project where it might head next. Of course, in discussing "what might happen," those forecasters need to make educated guesses -- they don't know with 100 percent certainty where a hurricane will go.
It is in making those forecasts that meteorologists are at times questioned (or more harshly stated, faulted) by the public. "Do they really need to scare us?" is the often-heard complaint. "Oh, come on, it won't be that bad!" is another. "They're talking about it just to attract viewers!" is yet another.
Having worked in more than one newsroom, I can tell you with confidence that meteorologists do not attempt to scare and do not attempt to downplay/overstate what might happen. Neither do politicians, emergency officials and others who are charged with making decisions about evacuations and other preparations. Such people in multiple states are taking a proactive approach about Irene tonight; they'd rather be safe than sorry.
If you live in the "cone" where Irene might hit, you'd be wise to heed the warnings. If you're not, you'll hear a lot about Irene over the next three or four days. And as you do, remember that the uncertainty about where she might go, and what death and destruction she causes justifies the media coverage.