Number One Lesson *Not* To Take Away from Hurricane Irene

Mon, 2011-08-29 07:30Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

Number One Lesson *Not* To Take Away from Hurricane Irene

I was watching CNN this morning. I don’t know why—except that it was on in the gym at the hotel where I’m staying.

Pretty soon, I was arguing with the screen.

A narrative is developing in the media that Hurricane Irene was somehow “overhyped,” that politicians “cried wolf,” and then the devastating damage that was forecast didn’t appear. Piers Morgan, tonight, will supposedly head up a segment called “Hurricane Hype.”

Never mind that there’s more than enough disaster imagery to keep the cable news channels on the story 24-7. And never mind that the storm killed at least 27 people and has caused an estimated $ 7 billion in U.S. damage.

Nevertheless, somehow Irene still wasn’t damaging enough, and so we’re going to hear about how politicians were covering their $#^@, scaring people when they didn’t have to.

Not only is this idiotic—it’s downright dangerous.

Nobody can perfectly forecast how a storm is going to turn out or where it is going to go—not even the experts. This storm clearly posed a very serious threat to New York, and while it certainly could have been worse, that’s precisely the point. We err on the side of caution. We warn people strenuously because to under-warn them would be unforgivable.

Even worse, if this narrative about hurricane “overhyping” takes hold, it could utterly distract from the real take-away from this storm experience. Namely: This was a test run for a much worse storm that will someday come and threaten New York. And the test run proved that we’re not remotely ready.

The image I’ve posted above (larger here) shows the cumulative tracks of all Atlantic hurricanes on record. As you can see, there is virtually no part of the East Coast that has not gotten hit at some time or other.

New York will be hit again, and it will be hit worse. It is only a matter of time.

And while the city may have withstood Irene relatively well, it will not, with its current defenses, withstand a direct hit from a stronger storm with a bigger storm surge. And if that storm comes and New York isn’t ready, we could have a scenario even worse than Katrina.

So while the journalists are talking about “hype,” here’s what we should actually be discussing:

Sea defenses.

 

Comments

The media vastly overhyped this storm, calling it the "Storm of the Century". Big and bad it was, but not worse than Katrina or Hugo or Andrew or Who-Knows-What-Its-Name-Will-Be in a month or a decade.
The politicians did their job, as did the emergency personnel.
The media had lousy reporting. How many times do you want to see a guy at the beach getting sand-blasted with roiling water in the background? No reports on the effects in towns.
For Vermont, this was a terrible storm. Why don"t they cover that tonight instead of blathering about it wasn"t so bad? Because it"s cheaper to pay an idiot to blather than it is to send an actual reporter to Wilmington, Vt.

What was amazing was when Irene was over the Bahamas, the eye was repeatedly fading away and returning, the body was wobbly and unbalanced. This is a sure sign that the storm is unstable and relatively weak. It continued this pattern all the way up the coast, you could see it was going to fizzle and it did. Yet the media overhyped it for all it was worth.

Some implied that its massive strength was due to ACC, well it fizzled so perhaps they were right.

Cheers

"This is a sure sign that the storm is unstable and relatively weak. It continued this pattern all the way up the coast, you could see it was going to fizzle and it did. Yet the media overhyped it for all it was worth. "

Ginger Lady & Klem overhyped? There are 31 people dead so far.

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2090910,00.html

4 were in New York where there was 4 days warning of it's approach & Vermont 4-5 days.

Sure using words like storm of the century is overhyping,but regardless of any overhyping 31 people lost their lives....so far.

What does that say about the arrogance of human nature? There were DAYS warnings before it had even hit the coast, let alone New York & Vermont. So what makes people ignore those warnings & decide that they know best?

Maybe some of them decided to get their news from fox news affiliate whats up with that?

There is nothing to worry about because Irene isn't packing a punch:

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/08/27/hurricane-irene-not-packing-much-of-a-punch/

There were many more deaths before from stronger hurricanes & this one is weaker, so naturally, you are safe:

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/08/27/hurricane-fatalities-1900%E2%80%932010-context-in-these-stormy-times/

Right wing think tank says why do we even need a weather service? :

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/08/27/cei-misses-the-boat-on-the-need-for-the-national-weather-service/

As long as those 31 people weren't part of my family, the storm was overhyped:

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/08/29/even-the-tv-news-community-is-asking-if-irene-was-overhyped/

The hurricane might have been smaller than previous ones & less lives lost, but there was oodles of warnings & news about it. Many including Klem & Ginger lady here say over hyped warnings. Yet 31 people still dead. If people cannot recognise warnings when they are 4 days out which are patently obvious & take precautions, then no wonder many cannot understand AGW when the warnings are years or decades away.

I read somewhere that a couple of the people who died were in canoes, and somewhere else that a couple of people in kayaks were rescued off Staten Island. What were they thinking?

People ignore warnings. I'm not sure how much that applies to these particular deaths but it was basically the whole story with Katrina.

Ignoring warnings about agw is more complicated because we have other competing warnings to consider regarding possible destructions of economies and the serious danger of inflicting poverty by gov program.

Which warnings are you ignoring?

I ignore the alarmists who claim that cutting back on GHG emissions will utterly destroy the economy. They don't back up their claims, of course, but too many gullible people listen to them.

According to wiki right now, Hurricane Irene killed up to 43 people in all countries including 2 indirectly; and 8 more people are missing.

Many of the US reports only count US casualties.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Irene_(2011)#Impact

(Edited to add link and correct the numbers)

@VJ;
You haven't been following what is happening in the UK lately, more than one fifth of households are now in 'fuel poverty' and they are dimming streetlights and turning off public escalators. The so-called "quiet revolution" in energy is, in fact, destroying the economy there.
But as a US citizen I am actually glad that this is happening now in other areas because it is clearly demonstrating the folly of these policies to the rest of the world. Hopefully politicians here will learn from the mistakes of the UK, etc.
H

'You haven't been following what is happening in the UK lately, more than one fifth of households are now in 'fuel poverty' and they are dimming streetlights and turning off public escalators. The so-called "quiet revolution" in energy is, in fact, destroying the economy there.'

What tosh!

This has little to do with attempts to alleviate the effects of APGW and more to do with the tight squeeze on budgets domestic, municipal, at county level (note not equivalent to County as you know it) and at state level brought on by greedy bankers and other money men who have managed to hive off the wealth of millions by promoting and selling dodgy financial products. Financial products designed to increase the divide between the very rich and the poor and to squeeze out the middle classes - those who would be dangerous from being well educated.

Please try and join that latter group - the well educated - perhaps then you will be able to comment on things that you know something about.

So one fifth of the Brits can't pay for denialists' lobbies any more. Well, Willie Soon and S. Fred Singer are happy, so should those Brits be then.

"People ignore warnings."

And there you have it. Too true. Despite warnings that were between 3-5 days, people chose to ignore the warnings. For whatever reason, they interpreted the information they received as an acceptable risk & it cost them their lives.

There are warnings by other experts, ( the scientists not the media)who like the weathermen are just stating the facts. Cat 3 that degraded into a tropical storm.It was the media that sensationalized things. But AGW is like the event in reverse. It starts small & ends big & takes decades.

"we have other competing warnings to consider regarding possible destructions of economies and the serious danger of inflicting poverty by gov program."

Oh yes, straight out of the Lomborg play book. We already covered this ground:

http://www.desmogblog.com/debating-michael-shermer-and-bjorn-lomborg-climate-risks

We can walk & chew gum at the same time. Your argument is a logical fallacy, a false dilemma.

"Which warnings are you ignoring?"

That there will be an economic disaster from adopting cleaner, more sustainable energy. That going cleantech will put us back in caves. That there is a conspiracy to create a one world government. That there is a worldwide conspiracy of scientists to get more grant money. That progressives invented it.

For what it's worth, of all the news stories I watched on tv as Irene approached my home (Massachusetts), not one mentioned CAGW in ANY of it's many forms (GW, CC, whatever).
And I think people expect every weather story to be over-the-top, at least here in New England they do, where every snow storm is going to be the biggest ever =\
H

Thats right, overhyped.

Definitely a serious storm and for Vermont/upstate New York a RECORD storm.

For most of the Eastern U.S. a disruption and a risk. But some of the rhetoric of the media should be saved for a worse storm.

I personally did not like losing electricity for 9 daylight hours and am lucky to be a major trunk so first fixed.

The governments did a fine job warning people and they did NOT overreact. More people would have died had they not.

But if you heard some of the media forecasting the end of the world, you would say the media overhyped it. People needed to take precautions definitely. BIG STORM -- yes. "Storm of the Century" No. The death toll in 1938 was 600 some people, in Katrina well over 3000, I never heard the final tally counting Mississippi and Alabama.

'Because it"s cheaper to pay an idiot to blather than it is to send an actual reporter to Wilmington, Vt.'

And not only that the talking heads won't get their hair(piece) all mussed up.

Meanwhile Pat Michaels has been his usual crass self:

Denier Pat Michaels: “It Is Doubtful That Irene Will Even Cough Up Eight Bodies”

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/08/28/306215/denier-pat-michaels-%E2%80%9Cit-is-doubtful-that-irene-will-even-cough-up-eight-bodies/

Is Dick Lindzen at MIT right now? I wonder how his climate sensitivity calculations are doing? Probably a bit Curried.

The media follow their own narrative but in response to the suggestion that Irene was "hyped" I would ask how do you measure "hyped"?

"New York will be hit again, and it will be hit worse. It is only a matter of time"

Correct, and New York will be hit again, and it will be hit easier. It is only a matter of time.

"So while the journalists are talking about “hype,” here’s what we should actually be discussing: Sea defenses."

Sounds good to me. I think every coastal community should be discussing it. The climate continues to change like it always has.

Cheers

Remember, folks: WEATHER IS NOT CLIMATE!

(... except when they can use it to prop up their failed narrative.)

[d'Smogblog: Still censoring comments, still blocking IP addresses. What are they trying to hide?]

Exactly. Thats why every storm will be overhyped from now on, so when a really big storm does arrive they can point and say "See? We told you this would happen. Climatologists predicted bigger storms and now here they are". I know some alarmist activists who actually hope that the next storn is a destruction monster, youd be astounded at some of the things they say. I think destruction makes them feel all warm and fuzzy.

"I think destruction makes them feel all warm and fuzzy." - Yes, some of us really would like people to get what they are asking for. A cat. 5 hurricane onto New York (not Bangladesh). I am all for this kind of education, yes.

"Yes, some of us really would like people to get what they are asking for. A cat. 5 hurricane onto New York (not Bangladesh). I am all for this kind of education, yes."

And the seedy underbelly of the AGW movement rears its ugly head. Gleefully hoping for death and destruction to teach us all a lesson. The public is aware of this facet of the AGW movement and it is a big part of the reason why you can't convince them to want to cut their emmissions. Your kind are anti-human. Who needs deniers when we have warmists like you. It's just too easy.

You really can't see the difference between the KNOWN damage of a Cat 5 hurricane hitting New York and the POTENTIAL long term damage from the threat of increasing temperatures, can you?

To you children in New York need to die so that you can be smug.

Be careful with mirrors.

Increasing temperatures increase the threat of a cat 5 hurricane hitting New York, see. Apparently children in New York need to die so that you can get this dead simple point. Very well ye gods, bring it on.

On the radio in Holland just then: wettest summer since measurements began. This after the driest spring since measurements began. That, now, is AGW.

The climate change story becomes meaningless without disastrous weather events ever increasing in severity and number - it gets so a quiet year is bad news and a bad storm is almost hoped for by some. "Strange days indeed"

You must be speaking for yourself, RickJames, because you are not saying anything true about other people's motivations.

'Remember, folks: WEATHER IS NOT CLIMATE!'

What you need to understand is that, 'climate trains the boxer, weather throws the punches', just as Irene demonstrated and some punch considering that it had been downgraded to a Cat1.

Any argument about that then I suggest you visit Vermont, and any number of other places along the East Coast and try arguing with people there. Good luck with that.

For those who are saying it wasnt overhyped because 31 people died, how many people died in Libya during this time? Watching CNN, I would swear the rest of the world paused during Irene, because I sure didnt get any news about the rest of the world as Irene went up the coast. For three days, CNN ignored Libya, ignored the troubles in Europe, and ignored politics here at home. For three days, there were no murders, no bank robberies, no wars, no fiscal woes, no drought in Africa. For three days, the planet appeared to be silent as CNN fixated on a catagory 1 storm that would its way up the coast. How much of this time that CNN dedicated to the hurricane was actually focused on something new? Much of the reporting was just the same crap retold over and over and over again. Much of it was this weatherman or that making a fool of himself by standing in the wind and rain. What ... did CNN tell those reporters in Libya to just take a few days off, kick back and relax at the pool? I doubt it. But for three days, Libya wasnt juicy enough to get on television.

Chris Mooney started this article by noting it was an unusual occurrence for him to be watching CNN. Maybe, just maybe he shouldnt be commenting on the coverage if he hasnt seen it?

There are other sources of news.

Yeah, there are other sources of news. So what? The question here is was the news coverage excessive. To counter by arguing that I could get news elsewhere is absurd. CNN is 24/7 and they didnt have five minutes of Libya coverage, or any coverage outside of the hurricane, during that span. If an hour news program on another channel can squeeze in five minutes of world news, I would think a 24-hour news channel could at least do the same.

I dont blame any news outlet for overhyping a storm while folks are getting killed in a war in lybia. These storms come like clockwork in the late summer and they hit the most populated part of the USA. News outlets make good money and potentially gain marketshare at this time selling the hype. Its not the story folks, its the money.

cheers

"These storms come like clockwork in the late summer and they hit the most populated part of the USA."

Name me the last hurricane to hit New York or Los Angeles.

"For those who are saying it wasnt overhyped because 31 people died, how many people died in Libya during this time?"

Why should the focus be on war? What about Africa?

"For three days, the planet appeared to be silent as CNN fixated on a catagory 1 storm that would its way up the "

What an exaggeration. 72 hours of just Irene? Why does the CNN site show differently?

"Why should the focus be on war? What about Africa?"

I also mentioned Africa. Did you read my post or did you scan for soundbites? Im not saying the focus should necessarily be on either Libya or Africa (incidentally, Libya is in Africa), but it would be nice if they were mentioned.

"What an exaggeration. 72 hours of just Irene? Why does the CNN site show differently?"

Do you understand that CNN the website, and CNN the television channel are two separate things? The website included other content during Irene, but the channel did not. Nada. None. Not an exaggeration. There was precisely zero mention of any news outside of Irene during that time. Apparently, you and Chris Mooney have something in common: Neither of you actually tuned in the CNN (the tv channel) during the time in question and yet you are both convinced you know what the coverage was like.

"The website included other content during Irene, but the channel did not. Nada. None. Not an exaggeration. There was precisely zero mention of any news outside of Irene during that time. "

I prefer not to get my facts from deniers. I don't believe that what so ever. It's an exaggerated lie & you know it.

"What exactly am I denying? And what is your rational for calling me a denier? "

Is AGW real & it is affecting our planet or not? I'm prepared to apologize if I have pegged you wrong, but I doubt it.

"Since you dont believe me, how about finding someone you do believe who watched the coverage on CNN and ask them?"

How about we just ask CNN? I did, I wrote to them, lets check your statement against the CNN TV channel transcripts for those days eh?:

""The website included other content during Irene, but the channel did not. Nada. None. Not an exaggeration. There was precisely zero mention of any news outside of Irene during that time. "

25th Rob gets it wrong:
http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/2011.08.25.html

26th Rob gets it wrong:
http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/2011.08.26.html

27th , as the Hurricane bears down on the most densely packed population of the USA & arguably the most expensive real estate - Rob is right:
http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/2011.08.27.html

28th Rob gets it wrong:
http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/2011.08.28.html

1 out of 4 Rob. So you are 25% right.

"I watched the coverage on CNN. You apparently did not. Im telling you what I saw."

No I didn't, but I just asked them for their transcripts, which shows as I said, you exaggerated & lied. Let me repeat your words in case you forgot.

"but the channel did not. Nada. None. Not an exaggeration. There was precisely zero mention of any news outside of Irene during that time. "

Care to revise?

"Is AGW real & it is affecting our planet or not? I'm prepared to apologize if I have pegged you wrong, but I doubt it."

Why even go there? Why should I be subjected to some silly litmus test on AGW when the discussion has nothing to do with AGW? Sure: AGW is real, if that makes you happy. So are baked beans. Neither has anything to do with Irene.

"No I didn't, but I just asked them for their transcripts, which shows as I said, you exaggerated & lied. Let me repeat your words in case you forgot."

Apparently I was wrong. I will say I watched an awful lot of CNN coverage over those three days, and I had CNN on in the background even when I wasnt watching. I saw only Irene coverage. But suggesting I was mistaken wasnt good enough for you, was it? Nooooooo! You had to go that extra little bit and call me a liar. What a jerk.

You need to broaden your viewing habits and don't assume other people limit themselves to some American news network. Why would people watch CNN when there are much better sources of information on the internet which do not confine themselves to only US news?

"Why even go there? Why should I be subjected to some silly litmus test on AGW when the discussion has nothing to do with AGW? Sure: AGW is real, if that makes you happy. So are baked beans. Neither has anything to do with Irene."

No, but when one has been around AGW blogs & message boards as long as I have, you get to know deniers & how they converse on blogs. Some come out with their first post guns blazing, others do so surreptitiously. Their first few comments are usually dismissive or defensive of a subject matter & they take a while to reveal their ideology. An ideology that has led them to have confirmation bias & to ultimately defend that confirmation bias despite evidence..... a denier in other words. Pretty soon, it's all the Liberals fault, it's Al Gores fault, CO2 is beneficial & the more of it the better, it's the suns fault, it's a one world gov plan etc. We will see how your future comments pan out.

"Apparently I was wrong."

Well, I wasn't expecting that. Commendable.

"But suggesting I was mistaken wasnt good enough for you, was it? Nooooooo!"

Why is the onus on me to quit the debate & to let you get away with something verifiably false?

"You had to go that extra little bit "

Well, I can definitely be accused of going that little bit extra, when others were happy to leave it at hearsay. It seems to be a trait of those that accept the AGW science. That they go that extra step instead of using anecdotal evidence.

"and call me a liar."

No, I didn't call you a liar per se. I said your comment was an "exaggerated lie". Instead of being condescending, you could have looked it up yourself to see if what you were saying were true.

we could put all houses on stilts, we could move the cities back 20 miles from the coast, we could build a sea wall 20 feet high and 3000 miles long, etc. Remember, sea level rise has been going on since the end of the last glaciation, this will continue, we are going to have to do these things no matter what our carbon emissions.

Victims. Not at all a small storm. Compared to e.g. Diana 1984 I don't think the thing was overhyped (although we could do a nice calculation for traffic victims that did _not_ fall because of Irene).

Having become cynical after hurricane Gustav almost sunk New Orleans again in 2008 - proving a virtual standstill in the repair of dykes - I am inclined to hope for a cat. 5 slamming into a major US city with no warning at all. Well. Do I really hope for such an event? Problem is: it's gonna happen to Bangladesh or some such soft target country that will eventually pay for AGW.

"Problem is: it's gonna happen to Bangladesh or some such soft target country that will eventually pay for AGW."

It already has, the Bhola cyclone of 1970 killed about 300,000 Bangladeshi people. Of course it was due to the tidal surge and Bangladesh is a flood plain. These people are sitting ducks.

To blame natural disasters on AGW is a leap of faith, the word "faith" being the operative word.

Wouldn't do that with Irene. Of course, when that becomes a yearly occurence, it is AGW, the operative word having become 'fact' in that case.

AGW is fact. Classical physics, predicted as of 1896, scientific consensus by the early 1950's (which is why they started to monitor atmospheric CO2 levels, remember), prediction significantly true as of about the year 1990. Try that with the existence of God or some other spook!

Denialists now do one of two things:
- They effectively deny CO2 is a GHG;
- They effectively deny the existence of CO2.

90% of all 'alarmism' is straw man work by denialists.

Klem, when do you think the skeptics will win ,this will all be over & we can go home?

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/31/business/global/exxon-and-rosneft-partner-in-russian-oil-deal.html

Like Orwell's '1984' history is in the process of being rewritten, the NYT is in the exact middle of it:

"Once seen as a useless, ice-clogged backwater, the Kara Sea now has the attention of oil companies. That is partly because the sea ice is apparently receding — possibly a result of global warming — which would ease exploration and drilling."

I expect you to concede AGW tomorrow as if you never ever denied it.

This reminds me of the Y2K date bug. Wannabe-critics of government and technical experts still hold it as the gold standard of over-hyped warnings. Even with the billions spent on Y2K preparations and revision of software, there were banking and other problems, but these were very small compared to what it would have been without the warnings and work in advance. But the critics demand TOTAL DISASTER or nothing... at which point they would cry, why weren't we warned?!?

"But the critics demand TOTAL DISASTER or nothing... at which point they would cry, why weren't we warned?!?"

They compete for a darwinian award.

That's what I mean.

Good point, there, Dan. It's just like my neighbours laughing at me for having an anti-Venusian death ray in my backyard, pointed skyward. I built it from some 2x4s and PVC plumbing pipe.

And have we ever been attacked by the lobster-men from Venus? No! Laugh all you want, but you have me to thank for that -- just as I single-handedly take retro-credit for the non-disaster of Y2K.

"And have we ever been attacked by the lobster-men from Venus? No! Laugh all you want, but you have me to thank for that -- just as I single-handedly take retro-credit for the non-disaster of Y2K."

Ahh yes, like the anti vaccination crowd. Why do we need vaccinations? There is no polio or small pox around anymore...it somehow magically disappeared.

Science...saving the sensibility challenged from themselves....then getting a slap in the face for doing so.

I see why you never add your name to your comments.

It seems that the "over-hyped" story is simply a way to get one more story out of it. But I think some of the affected people would disagree, even as Irene disappaits:

New York (CNN) -- It took four trips by a state police helicopter, but 21 people who had been stranded by post-Irene floodwaters in a Prattsville, New York, house were rescued … Emergency workers rescued 87 people from the Prattsville area on Sunday, including 25 people who were stranded… "People can't go home. They have nothing, floors all mud, car on top of the deck. They've lost everything"...

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