ouray

ouray
It's me doing a little posing while taking a break at the Ouray, Colorado Jeep Jamboree in 1995.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hyping Irene Was Just More of the Same

Occasionally I actually get to yell, "I told you so!"

Such is the case with hurricane Irene.

Let me preface my I told you so by saying those wacky hurricanes are simpley unpredictable. They are like squirrels charging across the road. If you just keep the pedal to the metal, chances are you will miss them; but if you juke around attempting to avoid them, they will Crazy Ivan left or right, and you'll squash them every time. You can spend a life time studying squirrel behavior and not have sufficient statistics to predict in which direction the Crazy Ivan will be.

Likewise, hurricanes have a mind all their own.

Late August through late November in South Florida is a crap shoot of monumental proportions. Most years while I lived there, we spent that time rushing off to the grocery store every three or four weeks to stock up on bottled water, batteries and bread then kicking ourselves for paying attention to the most recent storm predictions that, at some point, placed the latest named storm right at our doorstep. Those dire predictions were rarely accurate.

Every year at the beginning of hurricane season some crackpot scientist would earn an appearance on the nightly news shows by solemnly intoning that this would be the worst hurricane season in a decade, a century or the millennium, depending on which screwed-up climate model he was using. We would just laugh and think, here we go again.

After such dire warnings, it would be just as likely that not a single hurricane would approach South Florida as it was that we would suffer an Andrew or Wilma. These people are alarmists and for ratings, the media adds to the hype.

Do you really think science that can't accurately predict the weather more than two or three days out can tell you where a hurricane will go with any degree of success? Oh sure, they may get it right, but it's more likely they won't. And even if the scientists manage to tell you with more than a day or two's warning where a hurricane's path actually will be, they have little clue how forceful the storm will be when it gets there.

I can pen a cone of probability for any given hurricane with the same degree of accuracy.

Science has its limits.

Now I understand that most of the national news agencies are headquartered in the Northeast. A hurricane making landfall in South Florida or along the Texas coast doesn't have the immediacy of one that hits Manhattan. Irene, however, was scheduled to hit the Northeast, and as we all know, the sun revolves around New York and Boston. "My Lord, it's coming right for us!!!"

Yawn.

I'm glad Irene, while devastating for a few areas, didn't live up to its hype. But take it from me and more than 20 years experience on the hurricane front lines: hurricanes rarely do.

In the grand scheme of things, some water in your basement, or a day or two without electricity isn't much of a calamity.

For those missing the worst of it, count your blessings and be glad the science was wrong again.

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