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

J Philip Faranda August 29, 2011

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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