Sunday, August 28, 2011

All is well

Last night was the scariest night of my life.  I lay awake all night waiting for the electricity to cut off, the basement to flood, and the tornado to touch down and kill me.  Maybe I'd get lucky and wake up in the morning, but there would of course be widespread looting and martial law to contend with.  At least I could build a pretty solid fort out of the hundreds of bottles of water, packs of batteries and loaves of bread I bought at the store in preparation for this misery and madness.

The truth is I made dinner with a friend, and we watched movies, played chess and told ghost stories all night while barely giving the hurricane a second thought.  It was nice.  So well done as always, media, and thanks for the great time, Irene.

Listen.  Minor flooding, falling trees and the damage they cause are no fun, but I find it important to acknowledge the difference between life threatening danger and mere inconveniences.  If your house floods to the attic and you have small children with you, that might be life threatening danger.  If floods damage your car's engine and upholstery, that is an inconvenience.  If your entire town or city descends into chaos, and you lack basic human necessities such as clean water, as we saw with Hurricane Katrina, that might be life threatening danger.  Losing power for a day or two, on the other hand, is an inconvenience.

I know this post is heavy on the Monday morning quarterbacking, but this was a category one hurricane, which was later downgraded to a tropical storm.  I can't speak for all areas up and down the eastern seaboard, but to believe that I was in any danger where I live is to buy into the maelstrom of panic induced by the media and compounded by citizen journalists on Twitter and Facebook.

At least someone at The Atlantic recognized the absurdity of it all.  Here's an article that touches on some of the same things.

A determined biker makes his way along a flooded bank of the Cooper River this morning.

Did I get my run in today?  Absolutely.  I went for a walk around the Cooper River this morning to observe the flooding and take pictures, and while some people decompressed from the intense stress of the past 48 hours, I returned in the evening to run at sunset.  The water had mostly receded, the wind had all but stopped, and all that remained were the four miles on the day's agenda.


  1. Jonathan Storm's TV column in the Inquirer today was critical of the hysteria of the TV reports, including the Weather Channel, reporting on Irene.

  2. Hurricane Irene had led to the deaths of at least 21 people in eight states as of Sunday evening. Your comments here show your ignorance. Well-you show your ignorance and arrogance time and time again-but for the people that have lost...I apologize for you.

  3. Though I wish you had been brave enough to post your name, Anonymous, I do appreciate your comment. As keeper of a public blog, I realize I am responsible for my words and the reactions they elicit, and therefor both expect and welcome dissenting opinions, so I thank you for contributing. That said, criticizing from behind a veil of anonymity is taking the easy way out, in my opinion.

    The death toll you mention is a popular rebuttal by those defending the media for its Hurricane Irene coverage. Even Philadelphia anchorman Jim Gardner chimed in on Twitter: "Claims of media over-hype are silly... hundreds of thousands without power, at least 18 dead and huge damage totals."

    In no way do I lack compassion for the unfortunate deaths of 21 people in this storm. I do, however, invite speculation as to what they were doing outside during a hurricane in the first place. Was it absolutely necessary for them to be out during the storm? Could their deaths have been prevented by finding someplace safe and staying put? According to a Washington Post article, two of these deaths were because two guys in Delaware wanted to go for a run at the height of the storm. You call me ignorant, Anonymous, but even I'm not THAT ignorant. What were the circumstances surrounding the other deaths? In my opinion, it's just as ignorant to use this death toll as a stand-alone figure to support your argument, rather than digging deeper and asking the aforementioned questions.

    I invite you to read my post more carefully. As I said, I can't speak for all areas affected by the storm. The most salient point I was trying to make was the difference between mortal danger and inconveniences, which was a reaction to people in my area (South Jersey/Philly) freaking out about a storm that simply didn't match the danger the media was spouting all night.


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