Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

When Did Irene Stop Being a Hurricane?

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the anything-with-cliff-mass-is-interesting dept.

Earth 426

jamesl writes "Cliff Mass, a climate researcher at the University of Washington and popular Seattle blogger, asks, 'When did Irene stop being a hurricane? ... there is really no reliable evidence of hurricane-force winds at any time the storm was approaching North Carolina or moving up the East Coast. ... I took a look at all the observations over Virgina, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York. Not one National Weather Service or FAA observation location, not one buoy observations, none reach the requisite wind speed. Most were not even close. ... Surely, one of the observations upwind of landfall, over Cape Hatteras or one of the other barrier island locations, indicated hurricane-force sustained winds? Amazingly, the answer is still no.' Cliff supports his statement with data from NOAA/NWS/NDBC presented in easy to understand charts."

cancel ×

426 comments

CNN! (1)

spammeister (586331) | about 2 years ago | (#37247786)

CNN had that fabu bar that was going bokers for 3 days straight! I know I saw lots of Hurricane force winds on that bar. Surely CNN wouldn't like???

Re:CNN! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37248140)

Wouldn't like what???

Re:CNN! (2)

Bucky24 (1943328) | about 2 years ago | (#37248260)

Question marks apparently.

Re:CNN! (2)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 2 years ago | (#37248282)

I thought that was pretty cute too. It was as if they had a boat out in the thick of it or something measuring the thing live, what with the way it was animated to drift in fits and starts between 90mph and 110mph or so.

Then they goofed up: They had some schmuck standing on the coast of North Carolina saying that it was just about to get the worst of it all... I almost expected the poor slob to suddenly get blown away, or one of those effects out of the 1995 movie Twister (you know, flying cows and shit).

Turned out that the winds barely kept up with the average winter storm on the Oregon Coast, at least according to their 'on location' wind speed reports that scrolled along. Stood in pretty sharp contrast to the "wind speed" of the whole storm. Kind of a let-down, really.

The funniest part was the chick standing near Battery Park, looking down at a 6' wide puddle near one of the storm drains, and using language that made it seem that the whole borough was under "1 inch of water so far"... in spite of plainly visible evidence showing otherwise.

I mean, hell... I know the storm did some damage, but they had the hype machine going like the storm was Katrina on methamphetamines...

   

Who cares... (3, Insightful)

johnlcallaway (165670) | about 2 years ago | (#37247800)

Knowing when it wasn't a hurricane won't help those injured or killed, or fix the damage. Just someone interested in playing Monday Morning Quarterback....

Re:Who cares... (3, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about 2 years ago | (#37247844)

No, but if it wasn't a hurricane then there are implications for planning for the future.

Re:Who cares... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248534)

No, but if it wasn't a hurricane then there are implications for planning for the future.

Oh? And just what would those implications be? Maybe that folks shouldn't listen to Big Government when they are told to evacuate because the storm didn't turn out to be as bad as expected? Or that maybe the money spent on flood insurance would be better spent on a weekend at Atlantic City?

I'm curious as to what you believe the "implications for planning for the future" would be.

I've got one: "The climate's going to get a lot weirder thanks to anthropogenic climate change so you ought to learn yoga so you'll be able to kiss your ass goodbye."

Re:Who cares... (2)

nabsltd (1313397) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248658)

Oh? And just what would those implications be?

That the current infrastructure sucks pretty bad to have had "not-a-hurricane" do quite a bit of damage, and the time to fix those infrastructure issues is before an actual hurricane hits.

Re:Who cares... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37247860)

oh shut up.

Re:Who cares... (2)

MightyYar (622222) | about 2 years ago | (#37247904)

Yeah, we should never improve our data collection methods when someone's life is at risk.

Re:Who cares... (3, Interesting)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 years ago | (#37247922)

Knowing when it wasn't a hurricane won't help those injured or killed, or fix the damage.

No, but it might help to determine just WHY the storm was being hyped so much.

Because, face it, in spite of the 20-odd deaths from the storm (including one surfer), it really wasn't much of a storm. When NYC ordered its evacuation (which most of the few people affected by ignored), NOAA was showing that the storm was probably going to be no worse than a middling tropical storm when it reached NYC. Yet we didn't hear from the media (or any government involved) that this was a relatively minor storm that was going to make staying in your beach house a bad idea - what we heard was "it's going to be HUUUUUGE!!! Devastating!!! If we don't evacuate, it'll be like New Orleans after Katrina!!!"

It should also be noted that traffic fatalities that weekend nationwide would have been about ten times as high as the fatalities caused by the storm that weekend.

Re:Who cares... (5, Insightful)

gcnaddict (841664) | about 2 years ago | (#37248014)

it really wasn't much of a storm

Tell that to Vermont, as well as to the millions out of power, the people and institutions which suffered billions of dollars in damage, and the relatives of those who lost their lives.

This was still a nasty storm.

Re:Who cares... (1, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#37248070)

That isn't a argument New Yorkers can grasp because nothing that exists out side of the NY Burroughs matters or has any value in their minds...

Re:Who cares... (4, Insightful)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248402)

That isn't a argument New Yorkers can grasp because nothing that exists out side of the NY Burroughs matters or has any value in their minds...

In many ways the right precautions were taken. Here some people were affected and some inconvenienced. Luckily the storm calmed down before it was expected. Had there been no preparation and a storm that didn't calm down then plenty more people would be complaining and rightly so.

Katrina taught us that being prepared is important. Nature is not always easy to predict.

Re:Who cares... (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248588)

Luckily the storm calmed down before it was expected.

No, actually it didn't. NOAA forecasts predicted it calming down pretty much when it did.

Re:Who cares... (3, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about 2 years ago | (#37248238)

Tell that to Vermont, as well as to the millions out of power, the people and institutions which suffered billions of dollars in damage, and the relatives of those who lost their lives.

More importantly, tell that to the relatives of the people who will die next time, because everyone says "bah, evacuate my ass, remember Irene?".

Warning people to protect themselves in the face of a legitimate threat has unmeasurable value to society, it can save countless lives and reduce the actual property damage resulting from unpreparedness. Crying wolf just teaches people to ignore the warnings.


This was still a nasty storm.

No argument about that. That doesn't qualify it as an "evacuate NYC"-level of false alarm, however.

Re:Who cares... (3, Interesting)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248416)

Nature is unpredictable, just like a wolf. It might change it's mind.

Re:Who cares... (1)

Dinghy (2233934) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248642)

Yes, it's unpredictable. Yes, it can change. However, to maintain integrity, you should still be talking about what is known and what is the most likely outcome. You don't overhype it because then it degrades your integrity and causes people to not believe you the next time.

Re:Who cares... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37248412)

Oh no! People without electricity, in the middle of a cool, late summer?! What ever are they supposed to do, being without internet and TV and all! They might, heaven forbid, have to wash their dishes BY HAND! And maybe READ a BOOOK in their leisure time! What horrors! I lived in Florida for nearly two decades. I've been through more Category 4+ hurricanes than I can remember. I was in Andrew, it went 20 miles from my house. I've been without power for weeks on end in most of these instances. I've been flooded in. This Irene crap was one big rain cloud, nothing more. Stop complaining.
 
Last I checked, something like 18 people lost their lives, most from dumb stuff like swimming in the surf, or driving through intersections without stopping for the traffic signal that wasn't powered. Yes, that sucks. But I think FEWER people died in those states during Irene than would have died on a NORMAL day, and they died from lack of precaution, not events that were outside of their control.

Re:Who cares... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37248546)

it really wasn't much of a storm

Tell that to Vermont, as well as to the millions out of power, the people and institutions which suffered billions of dollars in damage, and the relatives of those who lost their lives.

This was still a nasty storm.

Do YOU live in Vermont, or is that what you read in the news? Here in Maine I'm seeing reports of "tens of thousands still without power" - and aside from the facts that a) it barely rained b) its Maine, our lines are safe from ice storms, and when there is an outtage its never more than a couple days because of the quick response - even in the most rural areas - it is a very small state (population-wise) - when you live here you know someone everywhere in the state. No one I know even knows of anyone that lost power for more than a half hour. Its all just a conspiracy to distract from real issues.

Re:Who cares... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37248024)

No, but it might help to determine just WHY the storm was being hyped so much.

You need to know why?

Unless you're one of the paranoid types who think it was some political stunt coming from a conspiracy theory of getting us to chase disasters, then it's because the media loves a story, as the more eyeballs the better. They have every incentive to overplay the drama.

Which is not entirely bad, because underplaying a storm may have worse consequences, but I can understand your concern to a certain extent.

It should also be noted that traffic fatalities that weekend nationwide would have been about ten times as high as the fatalities caused by the storm that weekend.

It should also be noted that there are several agencies engaged in continual efforts to reduce those fatalities, that almost all of them will get some news coverage in the local market, and that they have a plethora of proximate causes, so it's not like there is necessarily anything much to focus on directly for them. In the aggregate, yearly fatality numbers can result in dealing with a problem, but it's not like they aren't being dealt with anyway.

Re:Who cares... (1)

mellon (7048) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248396)

It would be really great if we would treat traffic fatalities with the seriousness that we treat bad weather, but there are a lot of vested interests who work very hard to prevent that. By your logic, we should take a least common denominator approach to risk analysis: if we are stupid about any one sort of risk, we should be exactly that stupid about every other sort of risk. This would definitely have helped to increase the death toll; I'm not sure why that would be a comfort to you, though.

Re:Who cares... (3, Insightful)

technomom (444378) | about 2 years ago | (#37248054)

The not-so-bad-storm has produced record flooding in many places. I don't think the evacuations did any harm and in the case of the mass transit system, it probably saved a lot of mini-Katrina like situations happening as there were flooded tracks, downed utility poles, mudslides, and trees on virtually every rail system in New York. Had people been on trains, they might still be there as much of that is still shut down. I don't recall anyone saying anything about a Category 3 except for Fox News who kept showing footage from the Category 3 1938 "Long Island Express" storm claiming it was going to be "just like that". Idiots. All the local news I was following (CBS 880 mostly) reiterated over and over again that the trouble was going to be the 5-10 inches of rain, not the wind. In most places like low lying Hoboken, New Milford, Wayne, NJ, Elmsford, Mamaroneck, NY, the evacuations were dead on necessary as that indeed was the case. Even in the higher elevations in Staten Island, NY, people had to be evacuated because ponds that had never, ever had a history of flooding did so. Was it hyped? Maybe. So what? With a storm the size of Western Europe, only 21 deaths? That's a pretty good line of success for managing what could have been a lot worse.

Re:Who cares... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37248296)

From TFA.
But as a tropical storm weakens and "goes extratropical" there is a tendency for the precipitation to swing to the W an NW of the storm. That is exactly what happened . The big threat was flooding, not winds. ...
If the storm was known NOT to be a hurricane earlier might the Mayor of NY have held off closing the City down, thus saving billions of dollars?

Yes. Obviously flooding was a major issue, and it was still a serious storm.
There's just a huge difference between that and a hurricane, and there is both the issue of the cost of overreacting this time, and also the problem of "cried wolf" next time.

Re:Who cares... (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 2 years ago | (#37248110)

Oh pooh. There are several rivers in NJ that reached record flood levels, and there are several towns that are completely surrounded by water. Some places in NJ set all time 24 hr rainfall records.

I don't particularly care about a stupid storm categorization system based only on something like wind velocity when clearly there are other measures like rainfall that should be considered. The fact is that with modern storm prediction techniques flooding is the primary cause of damage.

Re:Who cares... (4, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 2 years ago | (#37248160)

Because NYC doesn't get "middling tropical storms" all that often.

Just like New Yorkers get to giggle when those Southern folk shut down schools and stock pile supplies like survivalists because they got 2 feet of snow.

Most places that get tropical storms often enough don't build transportation systems that move millions of people below sea level with nothing preventing them from flooding. Just like most places that get snow don't not have snow plows and salt.

Re:Who cares... (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248616)

Most places that get tropical storms often enough don't build transportation systems that move millions of people below sea level with nothing preventing them from flooding.

Did you know that most of Greater New Orleans is below sea level? The French Quarter is above sea level, and I think there's a manmade hill in the zoo that's a few feet above sea level, but pretty much all of the rest is below sea-level.

Re:Who cares... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37248364)

The storm was being "hyped" with excessive media coverage because of the amount of people that were impacted. If this storm was passing through central FL or eastern TX, no one from the east coast would care to watch it because it does not effect them and not as many news organization would see the need to cover it. More people involved, more media coverage, more people watched it. What is so hard to understand about that.

Now as for the hyping of the potential category or strength? I don''t know about that. It was bad on the coast but it seemed to die really quick once it hit land. I live just outside DC and I think we only got about 4 inches of rain and I NEVER saw any sustained winds at all, only periodic gusts and bursts. The only other hurricane I've been through was Isabel and it was much worse. But.. like I stated in the first paragraph, that did not hit the highly populated NY/NE areas so the national media was not covering it 24/7.

Re:Who cares... (3, Informative)

mellon (7048) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248382)

Beach houses *did* get washed away; if people had stayed in them, the would have died. Tunnels in New York were flooded; if people had been in them, they would have died. The Hudson came up over its banks. The east river came up over its banks. Yes, the storm surge wasn't as big as anticipated. But measuring this storm by the number of deaths is completely fallacious. If that reasoning made sense, then we would measure the strength of earthquakes by the death toll as well, and earthquakes in countries with no earthquake code would always measure stronger. And then we'd assume that those countries just got stronger quakes, and there was nothing we could do about it.

The reality is that we, and by we here I specifically mean people tasked with emergency preparedness, cannot predict exactly what effect any given storm will have. All we can do is try to guess accurately, and to make sure that our guess is more pessimistic than any realistic scenario, so that if that scenario happens to be the one that comes to pass, people don't die because we were afraid of over-hyping, and didn't do the prudent thing and evacuate them to higher ground.

Re:Who cares... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37248496)

Cool rant bro.

However, no one suggested to measure the storm by the number of deaths, which is the thing you're railing about. TFA notes two points:

A) hurricanes need to have a certain wind speed, and below that they're not called hurricanes but tropical storms
B) "Hurricane" Irene did not have that wind speed while going over NE land.

Re:Who cares... (1)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248408)

Somewhere in the world, there is a bridge that is missing its troll.

Or maybe that bridge was one of the many that have washed away and that is why there is a troll wandering around, making stupid about overhyped storm warnings.

Re:Who cares... (0)

Ihmhi (1206036) | about 2 years ago | (#37248056)

And curing cancer won't help all those people who have already died of cancer. Your point?

Re:Who cares... (2)

silky1 (1609493) | about 2 years ago | (#37248258)

Yeah I don't give a crap if it was a hurricane or not, I was moved to fuel up my gas tanks, get money out, check chainsaw and other equipment by all the 'hype'. Good thing I did as the cleanup effort in CT goes on with no power for an unknown amount of time.

Re:Who cares... (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | about 2 years ago | (#37248268)

Well yes, but that doesn't mean that it's not interesting to those of us who weren't killed.

Re:Who cares... (5, Insightful)

mellon (7048) | about 2 years ago | (#37248328)

I don't understand why anyone would mod the above article flamebait. The fact is that this was a tremendously destructive storm, because of all the moisture that it carried. I'm right there with people who want facts to be reported accurately, but the degree of preparation that went on before this storm was entirely appropriate. Should New York City have kept running the subway lines? The tunnels flooded! Should those people in Groton, CT, who boarded up their windows not have bothered? Some of their neighbors' houses were washed away. What about the damage on the Jersey Shore, and in North Carolina? Hype?

In my town alone, with a population of about 14k, there were 30 swift water rescues during the flooding. Houses were carried downriver. Propane tanks, hissing gas, were carried downriver. A young woman was swept away downriver, and drowned, two towns west of here.

What is amazing about this storm is that despite how serious it was, and despite all the damage that was done, so few lives were lost. Many towns in Vermont flooded, and some can only be reached by class 3 roads that are barely passable because the main road and the alternate have washed out, and the road that _is_ passable has two-foot waves in it.

We were shocked by the ferocity of the flooding. Yesterday morning I foolishly thought that the danger had passed, and this was a flash in the pan. I had no idea what that giant bank of orange on the radar over the Green Mountains meant. I'm really glad someone did, and that people got warnings in time, and weren't in the path of the flood waters when they came roaring down Whetstone Brook. I'm really glad that low-lying trailer parks were successfully evacuated, and that we are not reading about the tragic loss of life that could have occurred, but instead about people wondering when they can go back to assess the damage.

So if there was some scientific inaccuracy in the exact name that was given to the type of storm this was, I guess that's of some academic interest, but if this storm had gotten a different name, and that had resulted in less preparation, that would have really sucked. Some of my neighbors would be dead now.

I think this is the point that the parent was trying to convey. It's not flamebait. If there's a problem to correct, let's make sure that correcting it doesn't result in less hype the next time a storm like this comes through.

Media Hype(rcane) (5, Insightful)

AbsoluteXyro (1048620) | about 2 years ago | (#37247856)

Yes, it was a Bad Storm. Nobody is going to deny that. However, the media's over-hype and over-coverage of the storm could have a serious "boy who cried wolf" effect. I would hate to see people woefully under-prepared if and when the next "Katrina" arrives, due to lack in confidence in media storm reporting and forecasting. We really don't need to instill a mindset of "it's not going to be as bad as they say it is" in hurricane prone areas. That kind of thinking costs lives, but is none the less engendered by ratings hungry news networks over-hyping relatively weak storms like Irene.

Re:Media Hype(rcane) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37247920)

Yes, it was a Bad Storm. Nobody is going to deny that. However, the media's over-hype and over-coverage of the storm could have a serious "boy who cried wolf" effect. I would hate to see people woefully under-prepared if and when the next "Katrina" arrives, due to lack in confidence in media storm reporting and forecasting. We really don't need to instill a mindset of "it's not going to be as bad as they say it is" in hurricane prone areas. That kind of thinking costs lives, but is none the less engendered by ratings hungry news networks over-hyping relatively weak storms like Irene.

You do realize this was the 8th most destructive storm, in terms of property damage and I used the top 10 in fatalities in that time frame?

Re:Media Hype(rcane) (1)

AbsoluteXyro (1048620) | about 2 years ago | (#37248192)

You do realize that there is still a huge gap between a storm like Irene and Katrina, or even Katrina and the 1970 "Bhola Cyclone" which took the lives of over 300,000 people? I never once said Irene was not a bad storm, just an over-hyped and over-covered one.

Re:Media Hype(rcane) (1)

mellon (7048) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248484)

The big difference between this and the Bhola Cyclone, which was definitely a bigger storm, is that the Bhola Cyclone occurred in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and the government was woefully ill-equipped to handle it. And of course there were so many people living close to sea level that there was really no way to evacuate them all. By contrast, we live in one of the richest countries in the world, and we did a really good job of preparing for the storm, and to some degree at least we had geography on our side.

If you are complaining about news coverage, I don't have a big problem with that—it's really clear that a lot of news programs looked at this as an opportunity to gain ratings, and could care less whether it was a major storm or not. But it really was a major storm. It probably didn't need 24 hour news coverage for days in advance, but what TFA is talking about is not the news coverage, but rather the science behind deciding what sort of storm it was. I am really skeptical that there was some kind of conspiracy at the NOAA to help Fox News make some more ad money.

Re:Media Hype(rcane) (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248456)

You do realize this was the 8th most destructive storm, in terms of property damage and I used the top 10 in fatalities in that time frame?

If a tropical storm results in such a large damage on properties, then:
a. it says a lot about how prepared are the said properties to cope with tropical storms. Hiding that it wasn't actually a hurricane won't make anyone paying attention to this, thus...
b. ... when a "proper hurricane" strikes, I wonder what will be the extent of the damages?

Re:Media Hype(rcane) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37247934)

We really don't need to instill a mindset of "it's not going to be as bad as they say it is" in hurricane prone areas. That kind of thinking costs lives, but is none the less engendered by ratings hungry news networks over-hyping relatively weak storms like Irene.

Incorrect. The kind of thinking that costs lives is "Gee, wouldn't it be nice to live in [insert hurricane prone area]."

Re:Media Hype(rcane) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37248312)

Another kind of thinking that costs lives is, "those people deserved it because they were not me."

Re:Media Hype(rcane) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37248322)

Wrong, as someone who gets paid to live in a hurricane zone expressly for the purpose of dealing with hurricanes, the thing that costs lives is thinking "We can move away from disaster". Disasters are something to be mitigated, a plan to avoid disaster is no plan at all.

The hurricane zone is moving up the eastern seaboard and moving further inland. Structures within the hurricane zone have been facing ever increasing building and construction standards for decades. There are large parts of the NE where buildings will not standup to anything approaching true hurricane force winds and drainage systems will not withstand torrential rains that can come with hurricanes. In the SE the soil is mostly sandy which means good drainage. In the NE the soils hold the water at the surface much longer creating flooding problems miles inland. Look at what's happening in Vermont and upstate NY.

Had the eye wall stayed east of the Bahamas, followed the gulf stream north and made land fall directly in the NE, it would have been devastating. This hurricane was disrupted by the Bahamas and hot dry air over FL and GA. The entire western side of the storm as it passed FL became unusually dry for a hurricane.

This storm was a close call and hopefully a wake-up call too. This is no time to thump chests saying we can handle nature's worst. The worst is yet to come. These types of storms are no longer once in a 100 year events for the NE.

Re:Media Hype(rcane) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37247942)

> Yes, it was a Bad Storm.
> "boy who cried wolf" effect

Uh, that only happens when you doomsay and then pretty much nothing happens.
The worst case scenario didn't happen, but more than enough happened that the people in the hurricane zone are all saying "holy crap, and it could have been worse", not "pff that was nothing, next time I'll ignore the warnings".

Posting this from a friend's house, because I still have no power, water, phone, or internet, two days later. It came back today for him, lucky guy. Everyone else I know is still out. (but then, over half the state is out, so that's to be expected).

Re:Media Hype(rcane) (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#37247976)

Sorry, no.. it is only going to have "boy who cried wolf" effect if idiots like you keep talking about over-hype when there was clearly a potential for mass catastrophe.

To put it another way, STFU and be happy we have a way to tell that a storm is coming that has the potential to cause us massive harm.

Re:Media Hype(rcane) (5, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 2 years ago | (#37248008)

I think what's kinda telling is that the prediction services and government agencies can't win. Shrug it off as another storm; people crucify you if one person dies. Sound the alarm, shut down major cities, and people crucify you if there aren't at least a few hundred dead. Unless everything happens exactly according to predictions, and everything can be fixed up within a week, it's a major disaster and scapegoats need to be scapegoated. And the media is definitely part of the problem. We are hardwired to look at how people in our surroundings behave to figure out how we should behave. If everyone on TV is going ape-shit, we're going to go ape-shit as well. I'd love the news media to take a hard look at how they report on events, and how it influences the discussion around events.

I guess there's a reason that the only news agencies I've paid money for in the last 5 years are The Economist and my local public radio station.

Re:Media Hype(rcane) (2)

AbsoluteXyro (1048620) | about 2 years ago | (#37248108)

This. A million times this. We have serious problems in the way media presents information before, during, and after events such as this.

Re:Media Hype(rcane) (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 2 years ago | (#37248012)

When they called most of the evacuations, it was still a category 3. I think the government officials made the right choice.

And then it hit New Jersey at dead-low tide during a new moon - one couldn't get any luckier than that. The Jersey Shore floods during a regular full moon high tide with a strong easterly wind (it doesn't let the water recede from the back bays).

But the media, well... their job is to get you to watch TV. To their credit, I was watching because of their hype and thus caught a tornado warning that I otherwise would not have known about.

Re:Media Hype(rcane) (1)

BarefootClown (267581) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248526)

And then it hit New Jersey at dead-low tide during a new moon - one couldn't get any luckier than that.

Because moon phases and tides are notoriously hard to predict.

Re:Media Hype(rcane) (2, Interesting)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | about 2 years ago | (#37248120)

Check out this article [nytimes.com] by a couple of guys who are pretty statistically reliable. The "hype" for this hurricane was nothing out of the ordinary.

Re:Media Hype(rcane) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37248190)

That's where the rating system comes in handy:

I live in Raleigh, and the consensus among the people I talked to around here was that a storm that was only category 2 at landfall was nothing to worry about, because its effects here would be on par with a severe thunderstorm. If Irene had peaked at category 4 or 5, and made landfall at category 3 or higher, we would have been thinking back to Fran, and consequently would have been somewhat worried. People further east naturally have a different scale, as Floyd was only a category 2 when it hit, but even then it had peaked at almost category 5.

Hopefully, the next time a big hurricane hits the northeast, it will be meaningful when the media says that it's two categories stronger than Irene, and people will take it seriously instead of merely dismissing any storm the media calls "big".

Re:Media Hype(rcane) (1)

mellon (7048) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248426)

Then why are you contributing to the precise mode of thinking that would lead to that boy-who-cried-wolf scenario? This really, really was a bad storm. Nobody cried wolf here. A lot of people would have died without the preparatory measures that were taken, and the occasional heroic emergency rescues that were nevertheless required.

What about this smacks of "crying wolf" to you?

Re:Media Hype(rcane) (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248638)

As someone who routinely rides out storms in Florida the reason isn't the forecasters. The problem is the local governments that refuse to let you back to your house because there is no power or water. They like to blockage places playing safety guard instead of just checking to see if you actually live there and let you back. This may work for one storm but after having lots of damage that could of been prevented if you were allowed home you get pissed. And don't say insurance will handle it because the hurricane deduction is 2% of the covered value of the house so can run several thousand dollars.

Altitude? (1)

ckblackm (1137057) | about 2 years ago | (#37247858)

Does it matter at what altitude the wind speeds are measured? The buoys and measuring stations are at or near ground/sea level... while the aircraft are considerably higher. I remember a local forecaster stating that he was seeing 70mph winds less than a mile up near Raleigh.

Re:Altitude? (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 2 years ago | (#37247974)

Yes and no. But for the most part this was a well developed tropical depression, with people running amok including NOAA and NHC, going that this was a storm of the century, and NYC was doomed! DOOOOOOOMED! What's worse was people going off their rails that it was a hurricane after it centrally collapsed. A collapsing depression can cause more damage than a cat 1 hurricane.

Re:Altitude? (1)

anagama (611277) | about 2 years ago | (#37248046)

Oh definitely, altitude makes a huge difference. I heard the Jetsons lost every window on the windward side and Astro almost got blown off the balcony.

Exact science (-1, Flamebait)

bonch (38532) | about 2 years ago | (#37247884)

On climate change: "It's an exact science! Everyone agrees on the conclusions, and anyone who disagrees is just a 'denier.'"
On wrong hurricane predictions: "Geez, people assume we can predict everything [myway.com] . Weather prediction ain't an exact science."

Re:Exact science (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 2 years ago | (#37247932)

You're still on that? Haven't people explained to you already a million times the difference between weather [thefreedictionary.com] and climate [thefreedictionary.com] ?

Re:Exact science (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 2 years ago | (#37248006)

You mean one is something that can't be predicted accurately, and the other one is something that can't be predicted accurately even into the past when there are knowns?

Yeah. Million times difference.

Re:Exact science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37248354)

You mean making sweeping generalizations and stating unreferenced opinions is the same as stating facts and doing research?

Well, now we're getting somewhere

Re:Exact science (2)

brusk (135896) | about 2 years ago | (#37247978)

It's the difference between epidemiology and medicine, or between actuarial predictions and fortune-telling. I might be able to predict that 10% of a population will get a disease, or that 0.054% of 43 year old females in North Dakota will break their left femur this year, without being able to tell you which individuals it will be. There's no reason to assume that large-scale predictions entail small-scale ones.

Re:Exact science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37248018)

Ah! I see the problem, you're stupid!

Re:Exact science (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 2 years ago | (#37248044)

Why? Of course it's an exact science. It has very exact language [wordpress.com] and as such I'm sure that the history of hurricanes in New York [wordpress.com] will lead them to the conclusion, that whatever changes happened to the climate in the 20th century, they prevented large hurricanes in New York.

There were four major Hurricanes cat 2-3 in the 19th century vs. just one major Hurricane in the 20th century (1938). The weaker storms like Irene are barely worth mentioning from an historic perspective.

Your credibility. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37248194)

Sadly, you lose some by writing “an historic” rather than “a historic.”

Re:Exact science (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | about 2 years ago | (#37248092)

Climate is the signal. Weather is the noise.

Re:Exact science (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 2 years ago | (#37248098)

"It's an exact science! Everyone agrees on the conclusions

You must be off your rocker.

Geez, people assume we can predict everything [myway.com]. Weather prediction ain't an exact science.

Haven't you ever heard of margin of error? The National Hurricane Center publishes everything with error margins displayed right on a color chart... The hurricane fell well within their error bars. IIRC, it had a 10% chance reported for hurricane speed winds in South Jersey on Friday morning. Officials decided to evacuate based on that and the potential for flooding.

Climate scientists also have error bars - really, really wide ones that get even wider as you go into the more distant future. Thing is, everyone who has actually put the effort in to build a model in recent times comes away with the same conclusion - even their most conservative model still predicts anthropogenic warming.

Neither is an exact science. Some won't even credit either field with being a "science". But they do make fairly solid predictions within their stated margin of error more often than not. They give you your odds.

Re:Exact science (1)

danbert8 (1024253) | about 2 years ago | (#37248274)

So what are the error bars on climate change? 1% every 1000 years? 100 years? 10 years? Because if a hurricane has 10% error bars 2 days in the future, I'd hate to see how accurate our predictions are for 100 years in the future. Especially since we are predicting human changes, which not only are not constant, but we have no idea where the human race is going in terms of technology. Hell in 100 years, we may not use any fossil fuels at all with or without government intervention.

I'm still not sold on the global warming bandwagon. I'm not dismissing it, but call me a denier if you must. What I'm even less sold on is if global warming will be a catastrophe. In fact, what are the error bars on that? Is it possible that global warming will be a good thing for mankind?

Re:Exact science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37248392)

So what are the error bars on climate change? 1% every 1000 years? 100 years? 10 years? Because if a hurricane has 10% error bars 2 days in the future, I'd hate to see how accurate our predictions are for 100 years in the future.

For hurricanes? Nobody tries to predict that far in the future for them. Heck, even yearly predictions of hurricane numbers are just BS when it comes down to it.

They might be on the dot, but it's a bit like playing the lottery, sure you can get numbers right now and then but you haven't necessarily proven anything.

Especially since we are predicting human changes, which not only are not constant, but we have no idea where the human race is going in terms of technology. Hell in 100 years, we may not use any fossil fuels at all with or without government intervention.

I'm still not sold on the global warming bandwagon.

And you complain about other people's projections. You might as well suggest that aliens will come and wisk us off to heaven instead.

I'm not dismissing it, but call me a denier if you must. What I'm even less sold on is if global warming will be a catastrophe. In fact, what are the error bars on that? Is it possible that global warming will be a good thing for mankind?

If you're going to posit that, then it'll be up to you to research it. You'd certainly be disrupting the lives of billions of people, so you're going to have to look for a really good upside.

Re:Exact science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37248384)

Yes, exactly. Chemists claim they can "predict" the behavior of a gas to a reasonably high precision using the Ideal Gas Law [wikipedia.org] (PV=nRT), even more precisely with the Van der Waals state equation [wikipedia.org] , and there are more advanced models than that, but can they predict the motion of a single atom in the modeled gas volume? No. It's obviously all a sham and we know nothing about the behavior of gasses.

ratings war (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37247896)

The competiton for ratings causes news services to exaggerate negative stories. A promo like "Large storm, not many hurt" is unlikely to draw as many viewers as "Killer Hurricane on the Way".
The severity of the recent East Coast earthquake was also greately exaggerated.

Re:ratings war (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | about 2 years ago | (#37247916)

No, the Mineral Virginia Earthquake was no exaggerated. There was an earthquake, it did very little damage and we have a magnitude, location and depth.

Re:ratings war (1)

boxless (35756) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248458)

thank you for your crisp analysis.

Your statement is pretty much the whole point of this article, no?

Duh - When people stopped paying attention. (1)

pla (258480) | about 2 years ago | (#37247914)

It gained hurricane status when people actually latched on to their monster-of-the-week and started paying attention to the media's FUD about just-another-storm.

It lost hurricane status when people got bored with it. Which, not coincidentally, happened right around the time people realized that the storm had passed and nothing more interesting than a few downed trees and some localized flooding had accompanied the Grim Reaper on his end-of-summer ride through the heavens.

Yep, a few people died. Flooding will do that, and if doesn't take a hurricane to do that (how many hurricanes does the Midwest get each year?). Tragic, but at the same time, unimpressive - 35 people? Wow. The "storm of the century" caused about half the number of deaths of one interstate bus accident.


And now I note with some amusement, the media has started trolling for flu season already, with "remember bird/swine flu" retrospectives. Fucking pathetic. Let's all just turn it off, and walk away.

Re:Duh - When people stopped paying attention. (0)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#37247996)

The idiocy... it BURNS!

Re:Duh - When people stopped paying attention. (1)

pla (258480) | about 2 years ago | (#37248254)

The idiocy... it BURNS!

Sorry? I can't tell if you mean that in support of, or in opposition to, my post.

If agreeing, then thanks. If against, could I trouble you to perhaps bother to articulate some actual point with which you take issue?

Re:Duh - When people stopped paying attention. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37248302)

And still... it BURNS!

Strongest wind is on the right side of the storm (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 2 years ago | (#37247956)

When a storm is rotating counter-clockwise, the strongest wind will be on the right side of the storm. Because the storm as a whole is moving forward and on the right side, the forward-motion of the storm as a whole coincides with the direction of the rotation of the storm.

Now, as the storm was on the east-coast of the USA and moving north, the highest wind speed would be on the east of the eye of the storm - over the sea.

However, CNN mentioned at some point when the storm was over New York, that it was downgraded. I'm not sure where exactly the eye was at that point. So, it may or may not have been a hurricane. In any case, however it was nowhere near a historic storm. I mentioned as much in one of my blog posts. [wordpress.com]

Stop watching the economy! (2, Insightful)

stevegee58 (1179505) | about 2 years ago | (#37247966)

And watch this hurricane! Oh boy it's gonna be historic!

Now keep watching... keep watching... keep watching...

Hurricane hunters found 949-951 mb pressure Sat. (1)

leftie (667677) | about 2 years ago | (#37248002)

Irene had pressure that low across N. Carolina and into Virginia. Still a strong storm. High winds spread out over wider area.

I was watching the reports at www.wunderground.com Tropical Weather page, and Dr. Jeff Masters blog there.

It did seem unpredictably weak (1)

Kunedog (1033226) | about 2 years ago | (#37248020)

And even if it was a hurricane at landfall, it's the first to hit the US in 3 years, which is unusual. Perhaps climate change is to blame for weakening our storms? Will this finally wake people up?

Re:It did seem unpredictably weak (0)

Mashiki (184564) | about 2 years ago | (#37248042)

Climate change will make hurricanes worse!
Climate change will make them weaker!

Yep. Lots of sense there.

Re:It did seem unpredictably weak (0)

Lifyre (960576) | about 2 years ago | (#37248176)

You forgot the part about climate change making the Moon fall out of the sky...

Storm A Pretext for Testing Mass Evacuations? (4, Insightful)

Ron Bennett (14590) | about 2 years ago | (#37248040)

Glad to see others publicly noticing the wind speed discrepancies and general weakness of the storm.

Related to that is some local stations not only referred to it as a hurricane, but further stated that hurricane force winds extended out 125 miles from the eye when it was already very evident, even to many TV news reporters, some of who, that morning, on the air, characterized it as more akin to a Nor'Easter.

Makes some, including myself, wonder whether state and local governments, from pressure by the Feds, used the storm as a pretext to test shutting down entire mass transit systems and mass evacuations; not to see if it was possible, but what the public reaction would be, and the amount of compliance - reportedly, some local authorities, for people who refused to leave, were demanding them to provide their names and social security numbers.

Ron

Re:Storm A Pretext for Testing Mass Evacuations? (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 2 years ago | (#37248132)

What the public reaction would be, and the amount of compliance

Now that you brought it up, anybody know what the level of compliance was?

Re:Storm A Pretext for Testing Mass Evacuations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37248148)

so it's easier to identify their bodies. head back to your clan meetings and zombie preparedness groups, cretin

Easier to evacuate Sat-Sun in late Aug. w/bad econ (1)

leftie (667677) | about 2 years ago | (#37248168)

Late summer weekend with a crap economy? Little was lost economically by the shutdown

Re:Storm A Pretext for Testing Mass Evacuations? (0)

Required Snark (1702878) | about 2 years ago | (#37248246)

Watch out!!! There are radioactive scorpions under your bed!!!

Over here in the real world, there are vast evil conspiracies that succeed in manipulating your life. This is not one of them. The real manipulators have names like "Chiat/Day Advertising Agencie", " Fox News", "NRA", or "U.S. Chamber of Commerce". When you worry about the government rounding you up you give these groups a free pass to do whatever they want. "Ignore that man behind the curtain."

I suggest that you find some real conspiracies and try to free yourself from them. You might actually get some where and make the world a better place.

Re:Storm A Pretext for Testing Mass Evacuations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37248346)

I don't share your conspiracy fears. Moreover, I hope they were gathering good data on the evacuations, because that data will be useful for any kind of emergency in the future.

Re:Storm A Pretext for Testing Mass Evacuations? (1)

bjustice (1053864) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248524)

... or a media feedback loop occurred in the middle of a slow news cycle. Given a choice between conspiracy vs. systems doing what systems do, I'll go with systems.

When it was no longer convenient (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 2 years ago | (#37248114)

When it was no longer convenient to describe it as such. Just like Pluto.

If true, so what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37248152)

It's a terminological distinction that doesn't change the fact that it was a large, slow-moving, heavy-rain-dumping, storm-surge-generating, high-wind-generating tropical storm that ran along vulnerable, inhabited coastlines where people stupidly build their summer cottages directly on beaches where they will inevitably be trashed by such storms.

In other words, if he is right, BFD. Storm prediction isn't easy (it could also be MORE intense than predicted), and location matters a great deal along low-relief coasts. If it's driving slowly along the coast a storm will be particularly prone to generating strong storm surges that will eventually coincide with high tide, and those are often more damaging and life-threatening than the winds themselves.

Read the actual forecast (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37248200)

If you read the forecast discussions religiously (as I did, being directly in the path), you'd have noticed that the forecasts reflected the extratropical transition and dissipation of the hurricane, as well as the fact that the main threat was flooding, not wind. You'd also have noticed that (for example) the forecasts put the chance of hurricane-force winds in New York City at something between 1 and 10 percent. Mass seems to be saying NOAA should have written forecasts to reflect the weakening and dissipation of the hurricane, and they did. But for some reason he criticizes their handling of it. Or maybe he's just criticizing the way the media, Mayor Bloomberg, etc. didn't seem to look at the up-to-the-minute and actually quite accurate forecasts, and instead just went "PANIC AND RUN FOR YOUR LIVES".

His data is very interesting, but without a baseline for comparison it's not decisive. What wind speeds should we expect to see measured by those buoys in the average Cat 1 hurricane? The buoys are quite widely spaced and could miss the zone of highest winds, or they could be too close to the sea surface (the wind speed used to determine the category of a storm is supposed to be measured at 10 m), etc.

This site shows the historical wind speeds (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37248294)

The answer is... [stormpulse.com]

TR: Why were Irene's Intensity Predictions so Off? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37248422)

Technology Review has a good article about why the intensity predictions were so off:
http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/editors/27119/?p1=blogs

Absolutely was a hurricane... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37248454)

This was absolutely a hurricane as it came ashore and through Virginia. In the hours leading up to landfall, the western side weakened considerably. It was extremely lopsided. We were extremely fortunate that the hurricane speed winds, WHICH DID EXIST, were over the water and not over land.

Re:Absolutely was a hurricane... (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248590)

nope, when the hurricane force winds are over water, we call those "fish storms" and don't give a shit

Overhype of the Century (1)

jjsimp (2245386) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248508)

I was in Virginia Beach and had to keep looking out my door wondering when this storm of the century was coming. My Sat TV and Power stayed on throughout this "Hurricane". Despite supposedly dropping almost 10 inches of rain.

It weakened. Period. (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248568)

I watched this storm closely. The bottom line is it was expected to strengthen before landfall. I recall seeing predictions of 130-135 mph winds. That didn't happen. In fact, Irene kind of fell apart on the way to the Carolina coast, so the devastating storm the news machine had hyped up simply never materialized. That's why there was so much news coverage. It WAS expected to be big. Why didn't they start reporting on Irene falling apart and saying "Whoops, my bad..."? I have no idea.

Headline: Climate Researcher Uses Real Data (1)

Zecheus (1072058) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248582)

That is news.

Out of Curiosity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37248640)

Who is pushing this line? I noticed a concerted effort along these lines days before the storm even hit the US. What gives?

Regardless, from my amateur interpretation, the storm appears to have become a hybrid storm about the time it exited the Outer banks, with baroclinic venting, it's lack of temperature differential between the core and the surrounding environment, development of a subtropical storm like intense band, and a lifting of the wind-field, especially over land. It seemed to have become fully extra-tropical sometime during the third landfall at New York City, with what little core was left being replaced with a pair trough like bands and cooler/dryer air filtering in along the back-side of a cold front like band.

The hybrid ended up being a Cat 3 pressure and rain wise for a cat 1 wind price. The unexpectedly fortunate wind result won't help the people under water much, though. Although, I suspect it took some of the teeth out of the surge near the end.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...