Sunday, August 28, 2011

Some "interesting" reactions to Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene began her assault on the eastern seaboard late Friday and she continued to leave a large swath of destruction through the weekend. Tonight, she's been downgraded to a tropical storm as she exits the United States and moves into Canada.

I'm baffled by the number of people who via Twitter, Facebook or other mechanism are offering sarcastic reactions to what took place over the weekend. Consider just some of these tweets I've come across today:

Told you that was not a bfd
At last, no more inane Irene coverage
Yes, New York City and its immediate environs were spared the brunt of the storm, but that was not the case in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Inquirer notes what eight inches of rain caused.
Flooding still threatened residents of Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey today, even as Hurricane Irene was well past the area.
Irene dumped up to eight inches of rain on some parts of the area, chasing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and from shore vacations. Thousands ended up in temporary shelters.
Most of the high winds never materialized, even though strong gusts were reported. But, as of this evening, the most serious result of the storm was flood water, rising alarmingly fast in some places.
The storm already has left 180,000 homes in Quebec without power. Millions in the United States are in a similar fate, and there is no firm timetable for when the power will return.

And yet there are those who will tell you that the hurricane was a whole lot of nothing, a waste of time or another effort by the media to scare the public.

Perhaps those who are being so snarky ought to instead be thankful and perhaps even chip in to help those whose lives are in various states of disrepair. And then they should take the time to read this editorial from The Economist.
Hurricanes are serious business. They have the capacity to cause billions of dollars in damage and kill hundreds or thousands of people. They have political consequences, too—no politician wants to be blamed for a disaster the way President George W. Bush was after Hurricane Katrina. Moreover, it is very unusual for a hurricane to hit America's north-east, where around one sixth of Americans live and a quarter of the country's economic output is produced. An unusual, potentially disastrous event that was certain to affect millions of Americans and put billions of dollars of property at risk is just the sort of thing the media should be covering. Just because Irene wasn't the disaster that some Americans feared doesn't mean it wasn't important to cover it.
Although the media's coverage of Irene may have seemed wall-to-wall, Nate Silver, the New York Times' in-house statistician, says that, according to his research, "Irene received only the 13th most media coverage among Atlantic hurricanes since 1980," and that "Hurricane Gustav in 2008 received at least as much coverage as Irene and Irene may wind up causing as much or more damage." It's good news that Irene was not as devastating as some feared. Extensive media coverage meant people were more aware of the oncoming storm and better prepared to deal with it when it hit. That's a good thing, too. Remember: 19 people are dead, millions of people are without power, and there is widespread flooding and property damage across over a dozen states. People complaining about the "hype" are missing the point. Americans should be thankful the storm wasn't a lot worse.
So, spare me (and others) your sarcasm.

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