Hurricane Hype

It’s Sunday morning and the eye of Irene — downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm — just passed through our area north of New York City. Fortunately, early reports indicate there weren’t too many deaths on the entire East Coast (less than ten from reports I’ve seen thus far).

We’re relieved the worst is over and we can get back to our lives.

We still have power, though many surrounding neighborhoods don’t (to be sure, we still could lose it as Irene continues its way North). Our garage flooded six inches deep, though many homes in our neighborhood are severely flooded by several feet. Recovery will take days, weeks or months, depending on where you live.

And that’s what’s interesting about this sort of natural disaster: where you live. Because exactly where you live — even given relatively close proximity — can determine the difference between a benign or catastrophic outcome.

Unfortunately, that’s led to an abundance of short-sighted reaction in the early hours post-Irene: sarcastic disappointment is emerging on Facebook, Twitter and even familial phone calls. Many reactions are ending with the statement: “Irene was over-hyped.”

But was Irene really overhyped? News media — of course, now bummed by a relative lack of devastation — surely took advantage of the situation to drive ratings over the past week. Indeed, they raised awareness and  propagated anxiety, perhaps most noticeable in a pre-storm rush to hoard bottled water, batteries and bread (at least at my local Costco, which sold out of all three 24 hours before the storm hit).

However, facts are facts. Irene was a devastating hurricane with a path smack along the coastline of the East Coast. I have family who’ve lost homes and had lives turned upside down due to hurricanes in recent years. I’ve personally been caught in the eye of a hurricane while on a sailboat hundreds of miles offshore. Hurricanes are serious, life-threatening events. They are scary. They are not to be underrated.

Yes, it could’ve been a lot worse.

If you were on the East Coast and were not severely affected by Hurricane Irene, then lucky you.

You should be thankful. We are.

(Photo: NASA)

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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