Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Well, that wasn’t so bad. Maybe.

From today’s New York Times: “Dire predictions of 20-foot-deep toxic rivers running in the streets and huge buildings coming apart did not materialize.” Some of last weekend’s forecasts sounded extremely dire, but if they were more than likely to occur, got people’s attention, and made more families evacuate than otherwise would have, then they were necessary.

The major news ports want to predict and project the final property damage and death toll, but it looks like it won’t be known for weeks. And although New Orleans missed the worst of the wind and storm surge, today’s levee breach means that it isn’t over yet.

Daniel Drezner
calls it Hurricane Porn, and refers to the titillation one receives from reading about a catastrophe happening elsewhere. It’s like the rubberneckers who slow down traffic at an accident, looking for blood. I don’t think animals do this, but for some reason it’s human to want to see someone else’s troubles, as long as we ourselves are ok. Although I’ve been an online-news junkie about the storm and its results, at least I haven’t been watching the TV images of it!

Did the meteorologists cry wolf? I don’t think so. Will people in potentially affected areas not listen, not evacuate next time, because the damage wasn’t as horrific as warned on Sunday? I hope not, and maybe we’ll get more accurate forecasting and tracking models as a result of this storm. What’s the line between sounding a strong, necessary warning, and over-hyping your special area of interest, which only gets a good workout a few times a year?

People prayed for the storm to miss New Orleans with its full brunt, and Katrina (or God) did indeed oblige by turning slightly eastward—were those prayers answered, only to have deeper destruction wrought on Mississippi and Alabama? That sounds like a harsh result. I have a lot of problem with prayer.


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