Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Disastrous Hurricane That Wasn't Quite So Disastrous

As Atrios notes, some people have complained about the way the media covered hurricane Irene. It's hard to know if these complaints are about the hurricane not being sufficiently murderous, after all, or about the disaster-pron aspect of much commercial media coverage.

The latter is annoying and ultimately counterproductive, resulting in the sort of backlash Atrios mentions and perhaps in people in the future refusing to heed evacuation orders. It's like the boy who cried wolf too many times. I believe that ongoing disasters should be covered in the way of public health warnings, focusing only on information and instructions.

The former: Irene being less horrible than forecast, is obviously a blessing, not something to grumble about. Most everyone understands that our ability to forecast the path and consequences of major hurricanes has improved but is still only a probabilistic forecast, and that the recommendations to evacuate (in, say, New York City) were made within the light of then-available information.

Hurricane Irene caused severe flooding in Vermont. I agree that the media coverage seemed to get tired after Irene was past New York City. Let's rectify some of that: