I hate hurricane season. Growing up on the Gulf Coast equidistant from Biloxi/Gulfport, MS and New Orleans, it is always a stressful time of year. You watch every disturbance in the Gulf and even in the Atlantic. I first learned about the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa by tracking tropical disturbances as a 10 year old. Meterology would have been a cool profession to have gone into. One thing that I have found is that people in Louisiana and Mississippi know how to read this stuff better than even some meterologists from other parts of the country. It is literally life and death for them.
That is why when The Weather Channel reporters and other weather reporters come down for a storm, I often laugh out loud. I sometimes cry. The hype and sensationalism and overreaction is often epic. Yes, this is a big deal. Yes, Isaac will cause flooding and storm damage. But, it almost seems as though many of the reporters are just hoping that this will be something so they have something to report. I saw a weather reporter yesterday pointing to the waves in Gulfport that were already picking up, he said. The camera moved over to the Mississippi Sound and I only saw a few whitecaps and just a handful of ripples in the water. There were no waves. But, he said it was picking up. Ok. One day, a lawn chair is going to hit one of these guys at 70 mph and we are all going to think that they shouldn't have been out there to begin with.
Eventually, we are going to have weather reporters hanging onto light poles with rain and wind in their face. Hurricane/Tropical Storm Isaac will have Jim Cantore getting blown around and he will be telling us that it is bad out there. And, we will all watch. But, we need to beware of underreaction as well as overreaction. If we don't get people to evacuate, some folks could get killed. We need to be careful. But, if we cry wolf for every Tropical Storm or Category One Hurricane because The Weather Channel has been freaking out for a week, that is also a problem. It costs money for people to evacuate. They have to find places to stay and they sit in traffic for hours and hours. They have kids and there are elderly people that struggle with this. The problem with overreacting for a smaller storm is that the next time a hurricane comes, people will remember when they sat in traffic for 14 hours to evacuate their homes and nothing happened. Then, for the next storm, they will stay put and that could be the big one.
Lots of people stayed behind for Katrina seven years ago who should have evacuated. But, the thinking for many was "we've heard this before. We are always fine." So, they stayed. Almost 2,000 people died as a result. Sensationalism from previous storms played a part in this mindset. People are still on edge from Katrina and that is why the media is all over the Gulf Coast. They are looking for a story. But, Isaac is a Tropical Storm or Category One Hurricane. It's a big deal and precautions should be taken, but the whole Gulf Coast doesn't need to freak out. I kind of get the feeling that sensational reporting only serves to desensitize people for when the Big One comes again. And, that is a problem.