I will post this week

Just catching up after Irene, which is why I’ve been MIA. No serious damage in my town, but power outages and annoyance abound.

However, I will say this: I’m going to kick the next jackass who whines that the storm was overhyped. (It actually wasn’t, it was a category 2 and category 1 hurricane in some areas, and at one point out at sea a category 3.) Would you prefer that we not prepare and then it turn out to be a bona-fide hurricane? I mean, that works out well.

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35 Responses

  1. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin August 29, 2011 at 3:12 pm |

    I agree. Being over-prepared is much preferable to being under prepared. The issue now is that people will refuse to take subsequent warnings seriously and end up dead or seriously injured. Sometimes there’s no way to win.

  2. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable August 29, 2011 at 7:09 pm |

    Hahaha, please tell me you’ve been reading Gothamist

  3. Gretel
    Gretel August 29, 2011 at 7:12 pm |

    I completely agree. I wonder how many more people would have died if there hadn’t been mandatory evacuations and media coverage (although some of the coverage was absolutely ridiculous).

  4. LC
    LC August 29, 2011 at 7:26 pm |

    Tell the people in Vermont it was overhyped.

    Seriously, that it didn’t devastate New York City does not make it overhyped. It means the Big Apple got lucky.

  5. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. August 29, 2011 at 7:30 pm |

    Is it wrong of me to want to wudga-wudga that kitten?

  6. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar August 29, 2011 at 8:00 pm |

    Just outside the City there are towns where people were rescued by boat. Winds were not that high, but it was a big storm that dropped a lot of rain and people have faced serious flooding in the storm track from the shore to Canada.

  7. LC
    LC August 29, 2011 at 8:03 pm |

    Speaking of Canada, my co-worker got swamped out of her house in the Eastern Townships.

  8. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage August 29, 2011 at 8:27 pm |

    However, I will say this: I’m going to kick the next jackass who whines that the storm was overhyped.

    Yup.

    I’m reminded of the reaction to the Y2K bug, which didn’t bring down computer-reliant organizations because a legion of programmers were hired to fix the problem before the rollover hit, and thus was deemed “hype” and judged a fizzle for not bringing down civilization as we know it.

    Just because someone at CNN and Fox put way too much effort into overproduced video packages and 3D title graphics does not mean the storm was itself overestimated.

  9. MadGastronomer
    MadGastronomer August 29, 2011 at 8:36 pm |

    As someone raised in Florida, I appreciate good overpreparedness — we were literally taught it in school, and had to make a new household hurricane kit every year, and were taught to track the storms at age eight. I still keep track of what rooms in my house have windows, and I live in Seattle now.

    And dumping way too much rain on places that are not prepared for it is bad, and this storm did a lot of damage.

    But a category 1 or 2 is not a serious hurricane, to us. Even a cat 3 is not all that bad, and to people who knew something about hurricane patterns, it was obvious that it would never stay a cat 3 long enough to reach states with little hurricane experience. So it did kinda sound overhyped at the time, yeah. From a Floridian perspective, it’s a big persistent thunderstorm, and that’s it. Kids in Florida look forward to cat 1s and 2s like northern kids look forward to heavy snow: it’s a free day off school.

    Which is not to minimize the damage it did do, and not to say that taking precautions wasn’t the right thing to do. But it is to say that, since a hurricane heads up the coast every few years, maybe the northeast should be a little more aware in general, and a little more prepared in general, rather than panicking at the last minute. And maybe know what are the right things to pay attention to, rather than panicking about the wrong things, which the media encouraged.

    Matter of perspective, I suppose. Andrew headed through Dade County when I was in junior high. I knew a lot of people who went down to help with cleanup, and a lot of the kids from Homestead ended up in my school. That’s a serious hurricane.

  10. wasabi75
    wasabi75 August 29, 2011 at 8:52 pm |

    Ditto Madgastronomer. It did not make landfall as a cat 2 anywhere in the US not even in VA. It was a very typical cat 1 hurricane. And that means it will of course do damage. The media reports kept trying to build it up as either going to be more than cat 1 or that it was going to be a cat 1 that was somehow more than a regular cat 1 and it just wasn’t. The perception here is that if this exact storm had hit down south it would have gotten much less coverage. We know this because we’ve seen the relative lack of coverage a cat 1 hitting the Gulf South gets. So was it a serious storm? Yes. Was it not as serious as the media tried to make it? Also yes. And if I hear one more “Now I know what Katrina was like” comment…

  11. Ashley
    Ashley August 29, 2011 at 9:09 pm |

    I think a possible reason why people are saying it was overhyped is because the storm was more severe in certain places than it others. I have family in Myrtle Beach and the media said it was hitting them hard and then I call my family and they laughed their asses off.

  12. Blue Hawaiian
    Blue Hawaiian August 29, 2011 at 9:21 pm |

    The context of where it happened is important to the discussion, though. A category 1 might not be a big deal in Florida, but it’s a big fucking deal up the east coast, where people understandably don’t know exactly what to do to stay safe. In those cases, it SHOULD be treated like a serious issue.

    I grew up in Phoenix where summer temps are regularly 110+. I know from hot weather and I know how to deal with it, what not to do in that weather, stay hydrated, etc. But when a really bad heatwave hits, say, a northern city that rarely gets temps in the 100s, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to hype the shit out of the danger, because otherwise you get people trying to do their normal routines in that weather and it’s dangerous.

    Same with this hurricane. If you tell people who’ve never experienced a hurricane that it ain’t no thang, they’re going to go about their business as usual, and that’s extremely dangerous!

  13. MadGastronomer
    MadGastronomer August 29, 2011 at 9:34 pm |

    A category 1 might not be a big deal in Florida, but it’s a big fucking deal up the east coast, where people understandably don’t know exactly what to do to stay safe.

    Again, this shit happens every few years. People in the NE should educate themselves better, and actually know what to do. And the media should actually tell them what the real dangers are — heavy rainfall, not winds or storm surges — and how to stay safe instead of causing panic. It’s a bad storm, but the sky is not falling. Panic kills, just as surely as lack of preparation does.

    Same with 100+ temps in northern cities: this shit happens. Educate yourselves.

    Seattle’s had several much-heavier-than-usual snowfalls in the eight years I’ve been here (and again, I’m from Florida; snow is really foreign to me). And when the first one came, I fucking educated myself. I read up on what to expect, how to drive, I asked my friends from snowy places about it. If I moved someplace that got blizzards once even ten or twenty years, I would educate myself about fucking blizzards.

  14. Matt
    Matt August 29, 2011 at 9:46 pm |

    When I was in NoCar on a white water rafting high adventure for the BSA we caught the tail end of some hurricane, and we had to leave camp for a hotel cause the creek flooded our camp. But no one thought we were gonna die. People know exactly how serious it was and what to do.
    Ideally the media needs to instruct people in the real danger, and accurately describe the conditions of a cat 1. The problem is that the media is a business these days, and it makes huge money. The press cares more about ratings than educating the populace. Even if certain individuals like reporters and journalists and anchors might think it is silly, if you don’t get ratings you get fired, and the business majors running the corporations owning the media outlets only care about the money.

  15. Aydan
    Aydan August 29, 2011 at 10:00 pm |

    A run-of-the-mill category 1 or 2 hitting Florida isn’t the same as what just happened, and anyone thinking it was going to be overhyped on that basis should have rethought. Florida usually gets hit while still catching up from the winter drought, not after a season of unusually heavy rains that have already flooded the region– and in Florida, the floods don’t have gravity nearly as much on their side to give them velocity.

    I grew up in Florida, and I’ve seen my share of flooded streets, downed trees, missing roofs, etc. Most category 1s and 2s don’t do as much damage here as Irene did there, for lots of reasons, one of them being simple population density. And I’m not sure what exactly the East Coasters could have “educated themselves” about to reduce the damage. The damage came from the rain on top of what they had this spring, and there haven’t been very many reports of people driving over downed power lines, for example.

    There are people in Florida who panic at the last minute and don’t know what to do. It’s hardly region-specific. And it’s not like the people panicking added to the damage. A storm like Irene, for that region, is pretty unprecedented; it’s like expecting Floridians to know what to do with two inches of snow since we get flurries every couple of years.

  16. MadGastronomer
    MadGastronomer August 29, 2011 at 10:08 pm |

    Aydan: It’s not about the damage, it’s about the human reaction.

  17. PeggyLuWho
    PeggyLuWho August 29, 2011 at 10:21 pm |

    Did you know that post Andrew, the University of Miami’s official policy for out of state students was to buy them a plane ticket home if a hurricane even threatened South Florida. Every night, we all gathered around the weather report rooting for each tropical depression, but it never happened while I was there.

  18. Blue Hawaiian
    Blue Hawaiian August 29, 2011 at 10:21 pm |

    A few things. The media has ALWAYS been a business; it’s not just “these days.” Some TV stations are going to have better coverage than others, and that’s what happened.

    MadGast: Well then shit, why even bother with a weather report at all? Why not just flash up a caption that says, “It’s a hurricane mothafuckas, you know what to do. Peace.”?

    But even still, on the individual level, do you think people overreacted or do you think they did about what they should have done? If you’re only blaming the media, I don’t know what educating yourself has to do with anything. I think most people in the NE did exactly what you’re talking about.

  19. Thyrso
    Thyrso August 29, 2011 at 11:17 pm |

    MadGast:

    No, really, this shit doesn’t happen “every few years”. Take a second and look at some of the damage in VT right now. It’s just a tad unusual for us to have whole towns underwater and almost every major road impassable. Do share how we’re supposed to “educate ourselves better” about, exactly, to help with that.

    So you can just keep patting yourself on the back about how Floridians aren’t taken aback by a mere persistent thunderstorm, while I go try to dig my town out from under the flood damage and console my neighbors who don’t have anywhere to live right now.

  20. evil fizz
    evil fizz August 29, 2011 at 11:23 pm | *

    The media reports kept trying to build it up as either going to be more than cat 1 or that it was going to be a cat 1 that was somehow more than a regular cat 1 and it just wasn’t.

    You say this like media reports have some sort of omniscience with the weather. Forecasting with respect to predicting where hurricanes will go is pretty good. Forecasting with respect to how strong they’re going to be when they get there is a lot less exact.

    And the media should actually tell them what the real dangers are — heavy rainfall, not winds or storm surges — and how to stay safe instead of causing panic. It’s a bad storm, but the sky is not falling. Panic kills, just as surely as lack of preparation does.

    Same with 100+ temps in northern cities: this shit happens. Educate yourselves.

    I don’t think education is going to do a whole lot for the “trying to evacuate and tree falls on car” kind of thing. Having said that, the last bad hurricane in the northeast was Floyd and that was in 1999. That requires some fairly significant recall.

    Also, I’d point out that education will not do a damn thing in certain circumstances: I’ve been in the Seattle area when the temperature crested 100 (103 at Seatac!). No amount of education will increase the number of homes with AC because it so rarely gets that hot. People are not familiar with the resources which are available, again, because it so rarely gets that hot. Similarly, there aren’t really many snow plows out here because it hardly ever snows. Not having AC or a snow plow in Seattle isn’t irrational: those are big expenditures that you’re unlikely to need and if you do need them, it won’t be for long.

  21. Shoshie
    Shoshie August 29, 2011 at 11:55 pm |

    MadGastronomer- I live in Seattle too, and I was here for snowpocalypse 2008. I know how to deal in a snow storm, since I grew up in Chicago. But that doesn’t help when the county has 18 snowplows, the bus service is dead, and grocery stores are closed. I mean, it’s funny how big a deal a bit of snow is over here. But you can be an expert at walking on snow and know how to shovel and de-ice like nobody’s business, and it won’t do a thing if the infrastructure isn’t there.

  22. Uncle Jong
    Uncle Jong August 29, 2011 at 11:57 pm |

    Eh Blue Hawaiian, you survived da Tsunami!? ;) How fun was that, ESPN mispronouncing “eewaa beach”? This event reminds me a lot of that one: Lots of panic, not much result. Thank Goodness it was neva da kine killer storm fo you folks ova’ der.

  23. MadGastronomer
    MadGastronomer August 30, 2011 at 3:49 am |

    Educating people saves lives. Taking an hour to look at websites when you first hear a storm is coming your way can make a huge difference. And yeah, actually, it CAN prevent some kinds of damage. Trimming back your trees correctly can prevent some of them from falling. Taping or boarding windows correctly can prevent them from being smashed, or prevent flying shards from harming people or damaging property. Knowing what to do with your lawn furniture can prevent damage to your house. There are a lot of kinds of damage it can’t prevent, but there are a lot of kinds it can.

    And knowing how to drive in snow can prevent you from driving down the steep hill with the unplowed, unsalted, icy road, losing control, and skidding into the five other cars already crashed there.

    And, most important, knowing what to do saves lives, which are more important than property.

    Yeah, there should be weather reports. The weather reports, though, should be accurate, and actually give people a good idea of what to expect. You don’t tell the NE a Cat 3 hurricane is coming at them, you tell them a hurricane which is currently a Cat 3, but which will probably downgrade to a 1 or a tropical storm as it gets into colder and colder waters is coming at them. You give people accurate information on what to expect, not Chicken Little nonsense.

    I think a lot of people did what they should have, but I saw a lot of people online panicking unnecessarily, and about the wrong things. And that can be dangerous, and can cost lives, and cause damage that could have been prevented.

  24. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 30, 2011 at 7:41 am |

    Oh holy fuck, seriously, we’re breaking out the rulers to see who’s got the bigger, erm, storms here?

    Even a cat 3 is not all that bad

    Really? Tell people in NOLA that. Katrina was a Category 3.

    Look. People did educate themselves, which is why the body count isn’t much higher. We all had our bug-out bags at the ready, non perishables stocked up, etc. (We also have these things called “blizzards” and “Nor’easters” which often require similar levels of preparation. Shocking, I know.) Even though it was “only” a category one and was likely going to be a tropical storm by the time it hit the Cape and Southeastern MA, we prepared because it was due to hit during high tide. We prepared because the rainy side of the hurricane (this was a really fucking weird storm) was going to drop a crapload of rain on flood prone sections of the region. Cities and towns actually had plans in place, and evacuated people, with the hope that the storm would be no big deal. It was more annoying than anything in my town, but there are people in western New England, the Albany area, and Vermont who are in dire straits. We actually did take it seriously, on an individual level and on a governmental level. I mean, what is your problem, exactly? The silly northeasterners need to educate themselves about hurricanes and prepare, yet they panicked? Say fucking what?

    Also, I’m not exactly sure how much educating Vermonters and people in the fucking Albany area (not to mention the Berkshires) are supposed to do WRT hurricanes since they don’t typically tend to cover that wide of an area. FFS. That’s like expecting people in Ohio to know about what to do in the event of a hurricane. This thing was twice the size of an average hurricane or tropical storm.

    I mean, look, I can get all superior and snark about the people who aren’t from New England who think Nor’easters are no big deal because they aren’t hurricanes (and then end up hurt or in need of rescue or dead because they acted like clueless, arrogant douchenozzles). I suppose we can also roll our eyes and snark about the smallish tornado that hit Springfield, MA since ZOMG it’s not an F5 but it doesn’t change the fact that it did do significant damage and people are still recovering from it. And then had to deal with flooding from the tropical storm.

  25. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 30, 2011 at 7:52 am |

    And the media should actually tell them what the real dangers are — heavy rainfall, not winds or storm surges — and how to stay safe instead of causing panic. It’s a bad storm, but the sky is not falling. Panic kills, just as surely as lack of preparation does.

    Also? The “real” danger where I live, and where I work, was the wind, and it was a storm surge. This storm was possibly hitting at high tide. This isn’t the first time it’s happened on the Cape. The “real” danger in other parts of the region was the rainfall. The news reports stressed both of these, and which regions needed to prepare for the possible hazards of each thing.

    Actually living here in the Northeast, I didn’t see anyone panic. We stocked up on the stuff we needed, did what we had to do, and braced ourselves. There were people from outside of the area who were still bound and determined to go to the Vineyard or Nantucket for the weekend and couldn’t understand why we were all yelling at them to stop being stupid and take the loss on their vacation budget.

  26. Mercury
    Mercury August 30, 2011 at 8:44 am |

    Did that really just happen?

    Sheelzebub: I will kick the next person who says the storm was overhyped.

    Certain commenters: Okay. But it was overhyped, though.

    That… just… huh.

  27. Annie Smokeley
    Annie Smokeley August 30, 2011 at 10:10 am |

    From a Floridian perspective, it’s a big persistent thunderstorm, and that’s it.

    Naw, that was a hurricane. This is a “big persistent thunderstorm.” And this is what a “big persistent thunderstorm” can do.

    Serious weather is serious and should be taken seriously. And don’t go starting the Bad Weather Olympics when there are Okies in the house.

  28. chava
    chava August 30, 2011 at 10:17 am |

    Could the TV news have given us a little more perspective? Yes.

    Is the Northeast structurally unprepared for earthquakes, hurricanes or tropical storms of any magnitude at all? Also yes.

    I’ve lived in Tornado Alley and I’ve lived right next to the SA fault. But you know, those cities are built to handle that kind of weather and the people who live there have been drilled on how to handle it from childhood. Big difference.

    This isn’t a matter of “fucking educating yourself.” When your city or town is literally not BUILT to handle a particular kind of weather, extra alarm/preparedness is warrented.

  29. chava
    chava August 30, 2011 at 10:21 am |

    This.

    Shoshie:
    MadGastronomer- I live in Seattle too, and I was here for snowpocalypse 2008.I know how to deal in a snow storm, since I grew up in Chicago.But that doesn’t help when the county has 18 snowplows, the bus service is dead, and grocery stores are closed.I mean, it’s funny how big a deal a bit of snow is over here.But you can be an expert at walking on snow and know how to shovel and de-ice like nobody’s business, and it won’t do a thing if the infrastructure isn’t there.

  30. La Lubu
    La Lubu August 30, 2011 at 11:05 am |

    How does “educating yourself” help not only when there is a lack of infrastructure and preparedness in your city, but if the city itself pooh-poohed any precautions? Evacuations weren’t overkill for the people who really needed them, and provided them with backup for employers and/or school districts that wouldn’t have necessarily taken the proper precautions.

    “Educate yourself” assumes that one has the personal resources to overcome institutional ignorance or inertia….for example, an employer who said, “the storm isn’t going to be that bad; you’re coming in tomorrow morning or don’t bother to come in at all.”

  31. Becky
    Becky August 30, 2011 at 11:46 am |

    MadGastronomer: But a category 1 or 2 is not a serious hurricane, to us … Kids in Florida look forward to cat 1s and 2s like northern kids look forward to heavy snow: it’s a free day off school.

    Okay, I live in a city in Canada where the kids don’t even get snow days, because heavy snow is so usual. The city has plows, the cars and school buses have snow tires and everyone has plenty of experience driving in the snow. So it’s expected that on heavy snow days people will be late to work and school but that they will get there. But if Florida got a big dump of heavy snow, I would expect there to be media hype, and I would expect people there to freak out a little. Because the cities probably don’t have plows, people probably don’t have snow tires or maybe even snow shovels, nobody has experience driving in heavy snow, and the power lines aren’t built to handle snow and ice loads. Of course heavy snow would be a much bigger deal than it is here. Just like a hurricane is a bigger deal in a place that doesn’t normally get them than it is in a place that has the infrastructure and experience to deal with them.

  32. zuzu
    zuzu August 30, 2011 at 12:22 pm |

    And the media should actually tell them what the real dangers are — heavy rainfall, not winds or storm surges

    Tell NOLA that the storm surge wasn’t the real danger there. I saw a whole lot of houses in St. Bernard Parish that had had the backs knocked out of them when the storm surge caused the Industrial Canal to overtop its banks.

    Every region gets different weather, so they prepare differently, and accordingly. Vermont and upstate New York get hurricanes only rarely, while they get a lot more snow and winter storms than do Florida. Flooding in Florida isn’t the same as in Vermont, where the mountains channel the water into something like a firehose, which can take down roads and bridges and buildings.

    But do continue to feel smug about your own level of preparedness, and to mock those you feel are worthy of your contempt.

  33. akeeyu
    akeeyu August 30, 2011 at 2:23 pm |

    I’m sick to death over the “NYC is okay, therefore it was just a little cloudburst! Why are people freaking out??”

    Let’s see…My sister is without power, water or heat and will be until next week.

    Driving is problematic, since apparently gas pumps require electricity to work.

    The cell tower that provides her service blew over.

    A tree fell on her neighbor’s house.

    Yeah, I can totally see how educating herself and being better prepared would have prevented all of that.

    Knowledge: The anti-wind!

    I’ll /sarcasm when everybody else /smugness.

  34. anyc
    anyc August 30, 2011 at 9:29 pm |

    I’m a New Yorker, and I think the storm was overhyped. Many NYers do, and it isn’t that we think we should sit back complacently and NOT be prepared, but a lot of the irritation I and others feel is over the politicizing of the storm, and how our mayor USED it to make him and his cronies look good. “See how much we care about our constituents? Look how organized and heroic we are!” Because our illustrious leader was in Bermuda when a blizzard shut down our city this past January, and there were far more serious crises at hand, it’s like he gets a free pass for that enormous f.u. to the city then, by going ridiculously overboard now. It’s media spin, not good governnment.

  35. Anon Here
    Anon Here August 31, 2011 at 10:19 am |

    “Far more serious crises,” anyc@34? I know that lots of New Yorkers like to forget that Staten Island is part of NYC, but half of my family lives there, and they got nailed by the storm. Fortunately they don’t live in the evacuation area, but lower-lying parts of the island were (and some still are) submerged. Did you see the news footage of the swift water rescue teams taking people out in rafts? The cars parked on the street, where only the very tops were visible above the water? My family’s homes escaped major damage, but they lost power, their neighborhoods were majorly torn-up (including grocery stores), and moving around the island was very difficult, which caused them major anxiety since my Grandmother is in extremely poor health and it would’ve been hard to get her medical care if needed. Even in Manhattan there were plenty of issues. Jim Cantore (weather guy) was reporting from the middle of Battery Park with water *halfway up his calves.* That’s not normal fallout from a big rainstorm, and it’s not hype.

    I truly don’t mean to pick on you specifically. I don’t doubt the sincerity of your belief, and that of many other NYers, that the storm was oversold, and I understand that there have been failures of leadership in many other cases (the blizzard is a good example). But please recognize that anyone who is in a position to judge the storm coverage and preparations as “overhyped” is just really, really lucky. It could’ve been much worse for you, with very small changes to the storm’s path and the weather conditions, none of which could have been predicted in advance. I’m very glad that you, much of NY, and the rest of the East coast escaped the worst of the storm. But for most of us, the amount of “hype” was pretty much spot-on, and the news reports and advice from local leaders was helpful and very much welcomed and was NOT ridiculously overboard.

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