8/28/11

Amazing Media Hype Over a Tropical Storm

Yes, Irene was (is for people now in it) dangerous. Yes, it resulted in the unfortunate loss of life.

But Irene made landfall as a tropical storm while the media insisted "hurricane! hurricane! hurricane!" It wasn't a hurricane because if you actually looked at the wind measurement data (not the articles or TV and radio reports, but the actual data) there were no sustained hurricane force winds.

As I'm writing, the sun is out in NYC. It's still windy, but it has stopped raining. The forecast on Weather.com says there's a 50% chance of scattered thunderstorms between 12 and 1 PM. But what does the Associated Press say? "Unusually quiet New York waits for Irene's worst," is the headline. The lead paragraphs read like a bad novel instead of a news report:

Waterlogged and silent, New York awaited the worst of Hurricane Irene as an unsettled dawn broke over the city Sunday. Wall Street and the labyrinth of cables and pipes beneath the nerve center of global finance were at risk from cascading seawater.
The storm pushed a 3 1/2-foot surge of water into New York Harbor, and forecasters said the peak could be twice as tall later in the morning.
Irene barely maintained hurricane strength, delivering winds of 75 mph, just above the dividing line for a tropical storm. But it was massive and powerful, forming a giant figure six that covered the Northeast. It was moving at 25 mph, twice as fast as the day before.
Since it'll probably be updated by the time you read this, here's a screenshot.


There were some powerful wind gusts that woke me up at night. There was lots of rainfall. People died. There's no question that it was a big, powerful storm.

But Irene was nowhere near what the media made it out to be. The highest wind forecast I saw, while the media hyperventilated about 75 mph winds was 49 mph.

The media are to blame for any stress related injuries people suffered as result of the storm coverage. The media are also to blame for no one listening in the future when a real hurricane comes through. 

Now will come the experts with their estimates of how many billions of dollars in damage the storm caused (unless it's too low). Mayors, governors, and maybe even the President will tour the most damaged areas for photo-ops. They will pat themselves on the back for a job well done. The worst president in American history might even get an an approval rating bump (it's at oversold levels anyway, in trading parlance) for taking charge at the hurricane command center. But the next time the nanny state and its media lapdogs cry wolf they shouldn't expect people to listen.

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