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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Goodnight, Irene

I'm willing to concede that Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene was more serious than I expected (see previous entry) if the weather forecasters are willing to concede how overblown, and largely incorrect, their buildup was.

First, let's not forget that when Irene formed in the Caribbean Sea, about a week ago, The Weather Channel and National Hurricane Center predicted the storm would skirt across the top of Cuba, turn northward, hit the bottom of Florida directly from the south and then peter out. Yeah, like that happened!

When that miscalculation became evident, they shifted into "May Hit North Carolina" mode, and to sex it up a little, predicted the Category 2 storm could strengthen into a Cat 3 or — gasp! — even a Cat 4!! Guess what: It never got above Cat 2, and it dropped to Cat 1 shortly after hitting North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Then, looking northward, the fear-mongering forecasters — "weather terrorists," a Facebook friend of mine calls them — laid out catastrophic scenarios for New York City, among them that Kennedy and LaGuardia airports and the Battery section of lower Manhattan could be "under water" and that the storm surge from New York Harbor could be so powerful that walls of water could overwhelm the streets of lower Manhattan's financial district.

By late Sunday morning, though, The Weather Channel's hyperventilator-in-chief, Jim Cantore, looked positively mystified as he stood in lower Manhattan amid only minimal flooding and moderate winds from what had been downgraded to — sigh! — a measly tropical storm before it reached the Big Apple.

Virtually ignored, meanwhile, was that here in New York's Mid-Hudson Valley, where the precipitation was forecast to be only moderate and winds were to top out around 40 mph, we got more than 7 inches of rain, wind gusts of over 60 mph, catastrophic flooding in some high-elevation communities, widespread tree damage and more than 100,000 power outages. And, oh yeah, the Thruway was shut down from Albany to Westchester County.

The prognosticators also missed, and the breathless on-air personalities underreported, the storm's widespread impacts in central New England, focusing their Sunday afternoon broadcasts instead on the Boston area and Cape Cod, which were supposed to bear the brunt of the storm but escaped largely unscathed.

It's like these people went into the weekend with an agenda and preconceived notions and weren't going to let something trivial, like reality, knock them off script. They just couldn't bear to admit — or change their reporting to reflect — the fact that this storm was not another Katrina (2005), Andrew (1992) or Agnes (1972).

Irene was bad, to be sure — about 20 deaths, millions of power outages and serious flooding make that fact hard to deny. But I'm still waiting to hear the forecasters say the storm didn't play out at all like they expected.



Blogger Kevin Filipski.... said...


August 29, 2011 at 11:13 PM 

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