As Hurricane Irene, or at least what's left of her, continues to wind down, it would seem as though more than just death and destruction were left in her path. There seems to be some debate going on in the weather world, with people wondering if there was too much hype and build up as Irene developed from a tropical wave, to a tropical storm, and eventually a hurricane, and as her track became more defined. I personally am not a fan of hype, and looking back at things now I would agree that there was too much hype...to an extent.
I am a firm believer in advanced warning when it comes to hurricanes, as I would hope everyone else is. The sooner a person knows what is potentially coming towards them, the sooner they can plan to get out of town and to safety...unless of course you work in the TV or storm chasing world, in which case you drive to town, and away from safety. I think regardless of the amount of hype that went into some of the national headlines, the cities along the east coast did things right. They got out of town, away from danger, and hoped for the best. That is the whole point of having an advanced warning system. Now today, people are saying that Irene was a weak storm, and didn't live up to "expectations". At least 21 people have lost their lives because of the storm, and a large part of the northeast will be experiencing flooding for days, perhaps even weeks if more systems go through there and drop more rain. The feeling I am getting from people is that they expected more death and destruction. Usually people should be rejoicing that Irene didn't come through as forecast, yet it sounds like some are disappointed. In my eyes, it is better to over prepare than it is to under prepare. When there are that many people potentially at risk, you just don't take chances. You get out, and hope for the best. The fact that many people did evacuate very easily may have saved lives. I realize there is the "cry wolf" factor, in that people will hear a warning later and ignore it because "forecasts with the last one were bad and it ended up weakening a lot, so we are staying." My thoughts on that are, that regardless if it was expected to be a Category 4 storm or a Category 1 storm, people are set on what they want to do. Hurricane Katrina is a prime example of that. People were warned days in advance that this was going to be a massive life threatening storm, but some just insist on staying either because they are stubborn and won't leave, or think that it won't be as bad as predicted. Days later, those people are on their rooftops, angry that no one is there to help them. Don't get me wrong, I feel horrible for those people and what they went through, but they were warned to get out. Yet every time there is a hurricane headed for the US, we see interviews on television of people who just won't go.
Forecasters may be taking a lot of heat by some, because Irene didn't live up to their "expectations"...but let me ask you this. What if forecasters said this wasn't going to be a big storm, but then a Cat 3 crashes into New York, and hundred of people die because they didn't think it was going to be bad. Again, the heat would be on the NWS, and local weather outlets. Sometimes it is just a lose/lose situation.
In closing, the next time a storm is heading for the east, people still need to take things seriously. Plan for the worst, hope for the best...that is something I was taught, and still think about today. Just because one storm happens to not pan out as exactly precisely projected, doesn't mean the next one would do the same. I would just caution national outlets on their headlines that they use. I realize it's all about ratings and getting web clicks, but I think that can easily be done without adding too much sensationalism. HURRICANE IRENE EXPECTED TO TRACK UP THE EAST COAST, PACKING STRONG WINDS AND FLOODING RAINS. Boom...that gets the point across. It's honest and straight to the point. "DAY AFTER TOMORROW" STORM TO MOVE IN TONIGHT...ummm really? Ok, so that headline wasn't used, but I believe the movie reference was made at some point. I guess we'll see what lessons were learned from this storm once the next tropical system takes aim at the east/northeast US. We may not have to wait too long either, as some models are spinning up what may end up being Katia, and the second hurricane in this Atlantic season. Stay tuned!