How can anyone resist pontificating about Hurricane Irene? Here in New England where weather dominates not only our conversation but our mental real estate, a hurricane – especially on the heels of three earthquakes nationwide – obliges obsession. We half expect this storm to be followed in quick succession by locusts, frogs, fire, and 40% chance of brimstone.
One question always comes up whenever any severe weather approaches: Does it warrant the hype that the media finds obligatory? In other words, should we really play up the potential danger, no matter how unlikely that danger is?
Who can blame the meteorologists? There is nothing like heavy weather to get their pulses pounding like summer thunder. They overstate everything anyway, especially their ability to actually predict what is going to happen. Storms like this one also play into the hands of news directors who want everything to have the immediacy and intensity of setting one’s underwear on fire.
If we oversell this storm and it’s a bust, as such events so often are, we run the risk of crying wolf once too often. Next thing you know, cynical kids get swept out to sea when they go to the beach to try to catch big waves during the storm. Of course, they do that now, so maybe that ship has left port already.
If we undersell it and we get a Katrina, that, of course, is much worse. Thus, I think we’re stuck with hysterical forecasts and forecasters who don’t really have any idea what is going to happen. They are matched only by hysterical viewers who empty every hardware store in the area of generators, flashlights, and batteries.
I’d write more, but I have to go to Market Basket to buy whatever milk, bread, and water they have left.
* Does anyone get this archaic reference to the old standard created by Lead Belly and later made more famous by The Weavers and others? Probably not. I’m dating myself and, believe me, that’s no fun.