Hurricane Irene’s media hype was justified

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As you may know, I tend to keep a keen eye on weather developments. It’s a hobby which has been in my DNA since I was very young. I’ll admit that I was quite disappointed to see that Hurricane Irene hit New York City, but I was not there to live it. (I’ll get over it.) There are a few things that need to be discussed about this hurricane — a post mortem, if you will.

I was wrong. A hurricane can strike New York City. Sorta

I have always been steadfast in my belief that New York is impenetrable from a hurricane strike. What I learned was that it takes a special set of circumstances for a hurricane to make landfall in the City. First of all, a low pressure system drew the hurricane directly up the East Coast. Second, the absence of prevailing westerly winds prevented the hurricane from drifting out to sea, as it does 99 percent of the time. In other words, Irene was a one-in-100 storm. That being said, the geography of New York did not allow the hurricane to get much strength. The cold water and the dry air of New Jersey led to Irene’s weakening. But even a tropical storm can do damage on beaches along Long Island (not to mention the geography of New York Bay, which can cause problems). In this video, taken by my father, the Atlantic is rushing past the beach. There are berms in the background; they won’t stick around much longer.

The media did not overreact

If you looked at Twitter the day of the hurricane and the day after, you’d see scorn. After all, some trees fell over. Well, there’s a lot more than that. Simply put, a hurricane can lead to damage, especially if you consider that not all buildings are up to hurricane standards. Do I think that a major hurricane will hit New York, blowing out windows? I’m still skeptical on that one. But I know that a storm surge can do impressive damage, especially to low-lying areas. A lower-pressure hurricane could bring storm surges higher, causing lots more damage. The media needed to make sure that people understood the severity of the situation (plus it did make for good TV!). Imagine what would have happened had Al Roker said, “I’ve seen worse!” People would have been out on the streets, and the loss of life could have been worse. Remember: People didn’t die in their houses from Irene. They were outside or in their cars or — I can’t believe people are this stupid — surfing.

Kudos to Christie and Bloomberg

I’m not a fan of Mayor Bloomberg. I’m even less of a fan of Governor Christie. But I need to give credit where credit is due: Those two politicians saved lives, no two ways about it. As you may have guessed, a hurricane is a hurricane. You may live through it, and if you do, more credit to you. But you run the risk. Not “oh, you can die crossing the street” risk, but actual, legitimate risk.

The bottom line: Don’t mess with a hurricane.

 

 

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