By Susan Barnett
More than a week after the storm I’m still hearing people talk about how “the media” overreacted.
As someone who grew up in this area and has worked as a journalist in Philadelphia for 6 years, I’ve heard people complain MANY times about news stations creating too much hype around storms. Usually it’s snow, this time it’s a hurricane. Almost every time, even if I don’t agree with the complaints, I can see peoples’ point. Not that the meteorologists got it wrong, because I see firsthand the care that goes into forecasting these storms and predicting their impact on the area. I’ve learned predicting the weather is a very imperfect science. More of an art form that the weather professionals I’ve worked with take very seriously.
With that said, I sat through several days watching the CBS 3 meteorologists show the forecast track of Irene and the entire time the track stayed pretty much the same, either brushing the Delaware/Jersey coast or actually making landfall there. Both scenarios posed a serious threat to people and property.
Fortunately, PA, NJ and DE officials heeded the warnings and ordered evacuations along the Jersey shore and flood prone areas both inland and along the coast. And thankfully residents listened.
In the end, even though South Jersey shore homes weren’t ripped apart by wind and storm surge (North Jersey is another story), lives were saved because residents and tourists weren’t crowding the tiny towns and continuing to go about their business. People stayed inside, off the roads and for the most part out of harm’s way. In flood prone areas, people got out on their own before they had to be rescued.
Perhaps those who complain about the hype were expecting to experience more “action”, more “excitement”, more danger. Maybe they wanted to “ride out the storm” and have tall tales to tell. They may not realize that just because the weather outside THEIR window wasn’t so frightful, others in the tri-state area experienced a terrifying storm complete with multiple tornado warnings and two tornados actually spotted on the ground.
I believe that Hurricane Irene was a great example of local news providing a public service and serving the community well. Could it have been worse? Absolutely, but chances are you and your neighbors weathered this storm much better because you were prepared.