Was Irene Over-hyped by the NY Politicians and Media?

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY
http://actvra.in/hC2

Note: This was written from a very New York Point of view, with local sentiment on how Mike Bloomberg  and our local media handled the run up to the arrival of the storm. Please read this comment on the NY Times and this one from my fellow New Yorkers to get some perspective. I would never, ever, downplay or minimize the loss of others, and Ann and I send thoughts and prayers out to those who lost loved ones, property, and power. Bread panic

If you are in Westchester County reading this, then you survived Hurricane Tropical Storm Irene. We are not in a post apocolyptic disaster. We aren't subsisting on water we saved in the bathtub. And the 20 extra D batteries we bought a few days ago are still in their wrappers. I share concern and sympathy for the folks elsewhere who sustained destruction, lost property, and in some cases, loved ones. That is a tragedy that can't be measured.

Our area was fortunate to just have the isolated flooding and a handful of fallen trees that I've seen today. But those things are not terribly unusual for a heavy rain storm, and one wonders if the warnings and fear running up to Irene's arrival weren't just a tad hyperbolic, to our future detriment. 

I have never seen supermarket shelves emptied. I have never seen a run on bottled water and batteries. And I have never heard the use of the word "hunker" with such regularity as the past 72 hours. When I went to the Chilmark A & P Friday, I half expected to see Charlton Heston pushing 2 carts loaded with Soilent Green out the exit the way people were behaving. Elderly folks were loading up on rations. Complete strangers talking in line about how to tape windows and cook with Sterno. Bread, eggs and milk were cleaned out (is it customary to eat french toast during a natural disaster?). It was eerie, and the foreboding was palpable. 

And the media...news people somber, and weather people were excited to the point of being salacious. Why do weather guys get so excited about severe weather? This guy felt that reportage required that he expose himself to seafoam that probably contained raw sewage.

We went to bed concerned about blackouts, a tree falling through our ceiling or car, and our basement flooding. We woke up to a lot of rain, which is not the end of mankind, and that was it. No hurricane. No eye of the storm. CVS in Arcadian shopping center flooded but was just soggy when I went there today. And why did I go there? To get Benedryl for my wife, who got a nasty case of poison ivy preparing our yard for a hurricane that never happened. The worst thing about Irene for my family, literally, is the itching. We are very, very lucky, in light of the news elsewhere, which is destruction and tragedy. 

I am all for erring on the side of caution, but to my way of thinking, the most dangerous thing about this storm for our New York area this far inland is that many people won't take warnings so seriously next time. We didn't need to retreat to the fallout shelter. All those extra batteries will be good for Christmas, but that's it. We're lucky this time, but many people may not be as careful next storm- and that is not a good thing. 

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Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Praful Thakkar 08/29/2011 11:26 PM
  2. Donald Bradbury 08/30/2011 11:49 AM
  3. Pam Hills 08/30/2011 01:15 PM
Topic:
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Location:
New York Westchester County
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Rainer
157,536
Anthony Daniels
Coldwell Banker - San Francisco, CA
SF Bay Area REO Specialist

I was initially wondering why all the fuss over a category 1 hurricane, until I saw the aftermath.

NPR did a report about the moon and the effect on current tide levels.  I think our leaders had access to good scientific information that we just didn't know about.  The damage results speak for themselves.

I think moving forward, our leaders should also advise the public, in advance, that any knucklehead caught surfing, kayaking, attempting to drive across a flash flood or doing any other stupid activity, will not only spend some time in the joint, but also pay for the rescue efforts.

Aug 30, 2011 11:46 AM #41
Rainer
232,428
Mike Yeo
3:16 team REALTY - Frisco, TX

For what it is worth, it is good to be prepare then not. Hype or not, it is the media. Everyone should use their best judgement when it comes to making decision. Glad it is all over.

Aug 30, 2011 11:54 AM #42
Rainmaker
563,161
Scott Fogleman
Witt-Fogleman Team 434-941-8847 - Forest, VA
Witt-Fogleman, Inc. - Bedford, Lynchburg, and Roan

Katrina taugh us a valuable leason, hope for the best, prepare for the worst.... Moving that volume of people takes much time and effort.. Better to be safe.....

Aug 30, 2011 12:13 PM #43
Rainmaker
200,377
Bob Zorechak - ABR, GRI, e-PRO
Keller Williams Realty Metropolitan - Morristown, NJ
Sells Homes in Morris/Somerset/Hunterdon Cos., NJ

I seriously doubt the people in the Catskills feel the same way and they are way "inland".

Aug 30, 2011 12:22 PM #44
Rainmaker
280,352
Christine Hooks
Pino Agency - Pennsville, NJ
Celebrating 20 Years in Real Estate!

There was a whole hour on CNN w/Peirs Morgan devoted to this debate.  Bill O'Rielly also had a pretty large segment.  It's a hot topic.

The politicians and the media cannot win in this situation. 

I still say, "better safe than sorry.  prepare for the worst and thank God if it dodges you."

We should all be devoting some time to helping our neighbors this week.  They don't have time for this debate.  They are trying to survive.

Aug 30, 2011 12:27 PM #45
Rainmaker
83,974
Kathleen West
Trademark Realty Group of Palm Coast - Palm Coast, FL
Flagler County & Palm Coast Realtor

As a Floridian and having gone through several of these storms . . . you can never "over-hype" the potential danger.  These storms are extremely dangerous and highly unpredictable.  I was very pleased to see the preliminary stance the states took especially in NJ and NY.  

Aug 30, 2011 12:31 PM #46
Rainmaker
517,870
Jeanne & Ralph Janisch ABR CRS Brokers
The Durango Home Team at Keller Williams Southwest Associates - Durango, CO
Selling Durango CO homes to good people like you!
My heart goes out to those who suffered loss. And yes there are thousands. And yes the loss is tragic and significant. But, This storm was barely outside the power of a typical Texas tropical storm. The problem is the areas that got hit aren't built for those things. Most of the hype was purely for the accumulation of political capital by various groups.
Aug 30, 2011 12:41 PM #48
Rainmaker
326,812
Julia Maher
Nestings: Connecticut Home Staging and Model Homes - Fairfield, CT
Connecticut Home Stager

Ah, the "news".  Most of us know just how much to believe.  However, when it comes to something we cannot control, like the weather, it is better to "hope for the best, and prepare for the worst".  Irene could just as easily been a Cat. 4 - we just got "lucky".  That said, my heart and prayers go out to those who have lost loved ones, got hurt, and/or sustained damage.

Now, if only I can teach my dogs how to drink out of all these little water bottles we still have...

Aug 30, 2011 01:21 PM #49
Rainer
139,254
Chris "The Loan Ranger" McBrearty
The Lending Company - Rancho Bernardo, CA
FHA, VA, USDA, Loan Officer and Educator

Proper planning and concern probably saved alot of lives. Look at Katrina where the warning was not delivered with a stern enough message. That was awful and if people do not heed the warning next time because of the run up and 'hype' over this storm then let them be damned for not taking the proper action.

Aug 30, 2011 01:22 PM #50
Rainer
19,243
Diane Mora
Keller Williams Chino Hills - Chino Hills, CA

Hi, Philip. News, information, cautions, warnings... all important functions of media and public officials. But I'm with you when it comes to that emotional, over-the-top, I-can-be-more-outrageous-than-you "coverage" we seem to get. That clip you linked... silly and superfluous. It's more about ratings and profiteering than it is keeping the public informed. And the sad fact is that they lessen the power of the message with the crap they pull.

Aug 30, 2011 01:24 PM #51
Ambassador
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Peter Pfann @ 1 Percent Realty Victoria, and Pay-Less For Victoria Real Estate Results!
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Hi J. Philip,

this is exactly what we have been talking about here in Western Canada, that all the media, all of the precautions, and as such all the money and energy expanded on this one storm can not possibly be repeated for each and every one to follow, hence the likelyhood of much higher impact will be almost un-avoidable.

Frankly, we as a society need to be much better prepared all the time (in everything we plan, do and built), so that we are safe in our own homes and regions regardless of what happens in nature (even the caveman knew that)

Aug 30, 2011 01:25 PM #52
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Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

J Philip- I've been through many hurricanes beginning with Carla in Houston when I was just a kid.  I also had to secure my house through Hurricane Andrew and sit through 6 hours evacuating to Orlando .. a trip which should have only taken 3 hours.  And, when Hurricane Georges came through in 1998 we were without power for over 3 days.  And, btw, Georges was expected to hit along Florida's west coast but somehow Georges didn't hear the news and headed towards us on the east coast.  

Yes I agree that there will be some people who will not make plans since this hurricane turned into a tropical storm.  BUT... what if it had not?  

People would then be saying why didn't the city of NY take the necessary precautions.  And while the city of NY and the NYSE were trying to get power up, get transportation up and running; get some amount of normalcy in the lives of their citizens, they would also be having to answer to cries of "Why didn't you tell us!  Why didn't you take the necessary steps."

Yes the media can be a bit much... especially the reporter standing in sea foam which was determined to be laces with sewage.  But to some extent they're only filling a need they perceive in us. I have to admit... I was up at 4 am Sunday watching the talking head channels.  

And, I applaud Mayor Bloomberg.  Needed or not, the actions showed me that there has been a lot of thought and planning on the part of the city. 

You're still one of my favorite posters here JP and while I agree there is always a danger in people taking these events too lightly.  However.. trite as it may sound...it is better to be safe than sorry. 

And I'm not nor ever will be a politician but can you blame them for saying what they did?  Good grief, we the general public can be downright mean when it comes to blame. 

Aug 30, 2011 01:34 PM #53
Rainmaker
567,746
Corinne Guest
Barrington Realty Company - Barrington, IL
Country Suburban & Luxury Homes Lifestyles

Regardless of whether media hypes up the potential for disaster or not, and regardless of whether some thinks it's needed or overkill, the sad fact remains that there are always people that ignore warnings and some lose their lives over their own stubborness. I guess maybe that's why the media and those in charge do what they do, to try to save lives.

I commend them for that.

Aug 30, 2011 01:47 PM #54
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous

Yes, someday there will be another Katrina because the public forgets.

I personally survived Hurricanes Beulah (1967), Camille (1969), Celia (1970), Allen (1980), Alicia (1983), Gilbert (1988), and Bret (1999). My brother, nephew, niece, and one sister lost everything in Hurricane Katrina while another sister had four feet of water in her home which had been built 10 feet above ground. I can say only two things: (1) You’re lucky, and (2) There’s a reason why I don’t live in Texas and Louisiana anymore. The yearly hurricane preparations took their toll on me.

Aug 30, 2011 02:52 PM #55
Rainmaker
190,143
Gregory Bain
Mezzina Real Estate & Insurance - Little Egg Harbor, NJ

No one wants to have the New Orleans label put on them - every Politician acted the same way as those in NY. Gone are the days when leaders would display and provide calm. Our buffoon here in NJ can be seen here telling people to "get the HELL off the Beach"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgUZ1hU_YBM&feature=related

 

24 hour news coverage looks for one crisis after another - Obama citizenship, debt ceiling, Senator Wiener, the 100 year storm, Robyn Gardner, Natalee Holloway, Michael Jackson and even (if I may say) 9/11. Never do they talk about the issues that lead to or expose those things that would have a real impact and make people think. They just want the - react-ion to continue to scare the hell out of people.

You can't get more than a sound bite out of politicans now a day. That's why you have Perry and Bachmann. People are stupid. And, that's how you talk to stupid people.

Aug 30, 2011 02:55 PM #56
Rainer
20,195
Ann Faranda
J Philip Real Estate LLC - Briarcliff Manor, NY

I'm always glad to see Phil featured on ActiveRain but maybe this one should not have been featured nationally, as it was really only meant to comment on our very localized area.  I have personally lived through typhoons while visiting Korea in the 80's & know what it feels like to survive one.  We are extremely cognizant of the damage, destruction, and loss of life that Irene in her entirety has caused across a vast swath of states along the Atlantic Coast and our hearts go out to those suffering hardship and who have lost so much.

To give people not from our area context, this past winter Mike Bloomberg was severely criticized for the city's response to a paralyzing blizzard which had people stranded in their homes for days while the mayor downplayed their struggles. This time around he was was completely opposite.  Bloomberg's shutdown of ALL mass transit plus opening up of shelters in NYC was unprecedented, and it had the effect of impressing upon us up here in Westchester that it was going to be a colossal hurricane if it had the power to blow several-ton subway cars off of their elevated tracks.   

Our worry going forward, and also the main message of this blogpost, is that unfortunately people in our area will probably not take future warnings as seriously as they should, and that can cost lives... Hopefully, we won't be tested on this for a VERY long while.

Aug 30, 2011 03:53 PM #57
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Erica Ramus
Erica Ramus - Ramus Realty Group - Pottsville, PA - Pottsville, PA
MRE, Schuylkill County PA Real Estate

Many in our area are STILL without power, and we're just a few hours south of you. Some in our area had zero effects and others had major loss of power. No flooding locally though. We were lucky.

Did they hype it? I think so, making it seem like NY would see the storm of the century. But what if they didn't do that and then it hit full force?

 

Aug 30, 2011 04:48 PM #58
Rainmaker
391,565
Kristine Ginsberg
Morris County, NJ: Elite Staging and Redesign, LLC - Morris Plains, NJ
Morris County, NJ Stager

Phillip - I agree with you that the media once again stirred the general public into a mass hysteria, but that is so common these days with the news, especially when they have no other story but the weather. However, I will say that I never thought where I live in NJ would have so much flooding, down trees, deaths, and a major highway (Rt. 287) cave in and have to be completely shut down until who knows when. I'm still shocked because I didn't take it seriously because I've heard all the hype before and nothing really comes of it.

It is funny how people buy mass quantities of food and like you say - bread, milk and eggs when any kind of storm is coming. Our local grocery store is wiped out and the shelves are empty! You make an excellent point that next time people might not take these warning so seriously when the real storm hits - that could end up being the biggest tragedy yet.

Aug 30, 2011 05:59 PM #59
Rainmaker
472,875
John Elwell
CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc. - Zephyrhills, FL

I doubt it. Living in Florida for 32 years, trust me, it is better to over-hype a hurricane than to under-play it. There is too much at risk. If Irene had continued to strengthen (and that was very possible) and had arrived in New York and other cities as a Category 2 Storm or worse, "god help you all". Loss of life and assets would have been greatly increased on a monumental scale. Until you have gone through one "up close and personal" you have no idea of the monsters that they can be. At least here in Florida we are mostly flat lands. However, I lived in New York State for many years. The hills, mountains, creeks, gullies, etc create a perfect scenario for rapid moving water that will create havoc on a grand scale.

So if your politicians were over cautious, pat them on the back. If they had under played this storm and it had turned out worse, think of the political, financial and emotional prices they would have paid knowing that they did not do enough.  The message they got and that citizens should understand is "Don't mess around when hurricanes are involved". You may get away with it a couple of times, but when that "dog" finally bites you are going to be very very sorry.

Aug 30, 2011 07:19 PM #60
Anonymous
Anonymous
Mark Larsen (Oculus Architectural Communications)

Media is one thing.

Your tax dollars are quite another.

And your tax dollars are at work every minute of every day at your National Weather Service local forecast office, NOAA Storm Prediction Center and of course, The National Hurricane Center. Get familiar with them. Bookmark their webpages. It only takes a minute to get solid weather info specific to your area. Read the "forecast discussions" on your local forecast office home page, or get fairly heavy scientific thinking on up-to-the minute severe weather in the "mesoscale discussions" (MD's) panel on the Storm Prediction Center site.

It's not politics -- and it's not entertainment or "edutainment". It is, however, hard-working public servants who have the intellect and skill to make their best call on when and where hazardous weather might occur.

 

Aug 30, 2011 09:58 PM #61
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