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Hurricane Irene Hype Necessary?

Aug 28, 2011
Hurricane Irene will go down as the storm that affected a very large population from North Carolina up through New England causing downed trees, flooding rains, tornadoes and power outages in the millions. The last I checked there was over 4,000,000 outages across the east coast. Pretty Impressive, but yet Irene affected a megalopolis so you could expect that type of strain on the power grid. This storm will also be known as the most "hyped up" storm in recent memory. Was the hype justifiable? Let's talk about it.

Irene was on a track towards the United States (U.S.) for the past week and was forecast to be a category 4 as it was projected to move through the Bahamas. Thankfully, some dry air had entrained the storm it did not get that intense and it never developed a healthy eye. However, when the category 4 was predicted the media jumped on board and started to mention this could be the most expensive hurricane in U.S. history. On twitter, Hurricane Katrina was a nationally trending topic. Some tweets indicated from users they were afraid this was going to be another New Orleans hitting their city. The New York subway was shut down for the first time in history. People were watching the media portray this could be the storm of a lifetime.

Why the hype? One simple word, Ratings! Media networks earn top dollar for advertising and viewership. I was suckered in because being a weather junkie or a viewer you want to see what television station can get the best footage under the worst conditions. That's action adventure. As the storm moved up the east coast, the video did in fact show Irene was a respectable hurricane, but fell short of the storm of a life time expectation. Take this video for example. Is it necessary for a news reporter to stand in sea foam that may contain hazardous materials to deliver the hype that fell short?

Video of News Reporter:

The National Hurricane Center (NHC), National Weather Service and media outlets did do it's job on warning residents. You have to give them props on that. However, if a Katrina type storm would threaten to hit next time, residents might let their guard down because Irene was advertised as being a possible storm to match that intensity of Katrina. With Irene, it failed to do that and it may cause more residents to stay home next time to protect their property.

The hype may be annoying, but Irene so far has claimed over 35 lives in the states. That's a very high number for a category 1 hurricane. So the hype was possibly justified. You can get deaths from hurricanes when there are flooding, tornadoes and high winds even from a category 1 storm. Irene was a massive storm regards to it's wind field and it had covered a large radius (atypical from your category 1 storm) that it caused more wind damage to powerlines and downed trees. The intensity of the wind was no threat to destroy buildings or cause a major storm surge, but falling trees so far has been the cause of the majority of people being killed from this storm. Hype or not, when people are being killed by a category 1 storm the hype may be justified, but Irene did fall short from the armageddon scenario the media was hoping for.


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