Hurricane Irene Mostly a Storm of Hype (Updated)

Illustration for article titled Hurricane Irene Mostly a Storm of Hype (Updated)

As denizens of the East Coast emerge from their storm shelters and temporary Starbucks bunkers in Manhattan, they were greeted with a scene of such utter, well, vanilla that many were no doubt wondering, as we were, "That was it?"

Editor's Note: An important update regarding upstate New York and Vermont has been added to the end of this post. A vicious "second wind" of sorts involving heavy flooding and other Tropical Storm Irene-related devastation has reportedly struck those areas in the wake of the all-clear sounded in NYC and urban areas of Massachusetts. -.j.l.

Now, hurricanes are not jokes, and neither was this one. Let's just get that fact up top where it belongs. As she barreled up the coast over these past few days, Irene took 14 lives and caused an estimated "tens of billions" of dollars in damage, reports the AP.


But, that said, as the air clears and the winds die down, as they had done by about 2 p.m. here in Central Massachusetts, the apocalyptic scenarios and complete drowning of Manhattan under an unrelenting tide that 24-hour news outlets like CNN and others would have had you believe were an inevitable fact had all vanished like a fart in a brisk 65 mph wind. We were not immune to its effect, of course, having fired off a warning of our own in the swell before the storm. Lucky for everyone in the East, the storm did not "eff everyone up." We're grateful for that! But we can also sense when it's time for a proper mea culpa. (Personally, I'll be in a dingy out on Long Island Sound for leaving out mention of that Imma Gonna post in the first pass of this post - j.l.)

To its credit, I've been told by fellow editors that NY1 was rather level-headed during the whole affair, with coverage that ultimately reflected the subdued, soggy mess that Irene dumped on New Yorker's heads in the early Sunday morning hours. Kudos to them, and boo-urns to the cable networks, whose yellow-slicker army of reporters and "experts" saturated the airways in a way that ol' Tropical Storm Irene could never had hoped to do on its 14 mph march up the Eastern Seaboard.

Yes, there was damage. $10 billion or so, and yes there were people who went outside in a strong tropical storm and paid for that decision with their lives. But, again, don't get distracted from that other hurricane, only six years old, that killed 1,836 people and caused more than $108 billion in damage a bit further south. You can bet that Hurricane Katrina is still very fresh in the Gulf Coast's minds, and I'm curious to hear what its residents thought of what is now known to be a comparatively mild storm.

We'll update this post as necessary with reader reports, news coverage and any other tidbits that concern the aftermath of this storm.


Update: At 3 p.m. Mayor Bloomberg lifted the mandatory evacuation order for the parts of NYC where it was in effect during the storm (see video, above). Additional flooding concerns have also been dismissed as the trailing edge of the storm has winds that will push water away from the shore.

Update: Here in the Boston area, at least, the defining image of this storm is shaping up to be "fallen tree, without injury." I've seen a dozen or so similar photos from local blogs and news sites this afternoon.


Update: Under an AP headline reading "Damage from Irene appears to be less than feared," consulting firm Kinetic Analysis Corp estimates insured damage will total $2 to $3 billion, with $7 billion more in uninsured damage piled on top of that.

Update: Cell service spotty? Data dragging ass? Could be backup generators running out of juice at select cell towers, says the FCC. We recommend board games to pass the hours until your online gaming is back up.


Update: As some local meteorologists have warned, there was a darker, subtler and devastating "second wind" associated with this storm, which has occurred in Vermont and update New York in the hours after the all clear was sounded in Manhattan and Massachusetts. There are now reports of extreme flooding in upstate NY and Vermont both from local media and at least one Gizmodo tipster. Obviously, this storm was not full of hype for these particular areas. [The Guardian, AP]

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I hate to say I told you so, so I won't.

As I said in another post on this subject, if the media keeps over-hyping the hell out of this kind of thing, when the shit really does hit the fan, no one will listen.

Yes, had Irene hit Manhattan squarely as a Cat 3, it would have been bad.

And, the media kept spouting the worst-case scenario, even though they knew full well there was no way Irene could stay at that strength that far up the coast.

The water temperature could not sustain a storm that size.

But they still kept reporting the worst-case scenario as what was about to definitely happen to NYC.

If the news kept to reporting the actual news, and not just passing speculation off as news, we'd be a lot better off.