Sometimes you just can't win.
With criticism flying at everyone from New York City mayor to the media, you'd think Irene had taken a sharp right turn and gone out to sea before hitting the USA.
Instead Irene was, as advertised, the first hurricane to make landfall in the USA in nearly 3 years, and it cut a swath through the most densely populated part of the USA.
We have just witnessed a major success story when it comes to saving life and property. We just pulled off a major, well organized and executed mass evacuation, with a high degree of "situational awareness" thanks to broad media coverage. More on that below, but first a look at Irene's toll through the numbers, (with some of my comments regarding they "hype" accusations with Irene.)
21 people killed by Irene at last count. (Isn't that a major news story all by itself? How much media coverage would we have seen if 21 people had been blown up in Time's Square, or shot in an attack at a local mall?)
4.5 million people without power. (If it was a "blackout" the cable networks would be in nonstop coverage)
7 billion dollars in estimated losses from Irene. (That's billion with a big "B")
9,000 flights cancelled due to the storm
5 places Highway 12 on North Carolina's Outer banks was wiped out by Irene's surge.
2,500 people cut off from the mainland on North Carolina's Outer Banks.
2 landfalls as a hurricane in North Carolina and New Jersey. (Irene barely diminished to Tropical Storm force before a 3rd landfall in Brooklyn, New York.)
University of Wisconsin precipitable water loop shows Irene spinning up the east coast last weekend.
Too much hype?
Some are saying Irene was over-hyped...probably in large part due to the lack of extensive damage in New York City...where much attention was focused. To be fair there were a few "lame" live shots along the coast during the network and cable coverage, with reporters trying to make more of the weather than was actually happening. But you can make the case that the reporters were in the wrong places; most of the real damage with Irene was well inland in the form of downed trees and heavy flooding.
Each storm is different:
One of the lessons from Katrina and other big storms is that each storm is different. Storms evolve in different ways, and have different impacts that you might not anticipate going in.
I remember the night before Katrina hit New Orleans listening to Matt Drudge on the radio poo pooing the "hype" over Katrina as it "weakened" from Cat 5 to Cat 3 before landfall. Then it appeared New Orleans had dodged a bullet...until reports came in about a breach in a major levee. The rest is history.
The real stories of storms and other natural disasters often comes from what systems or structures fail during or after a storm. Who knew for sure the levees would fail in Katrina? How could we anticipate the failure of seven nuclear reactors in Fukushima after the Tsunami? Who knew the Metrodome roof would collapse during last December's "Domebuster" storm?
Meteorologists often stress "situational awareness" and "being prepared" for severe weather. We just witnessed a huge success story with excellent coordination from federal, state and local governments that probably saved numerous lives and property.
And still, some complain about the "hype." Go figure.
Dry August: Next rain Tuesday?
Have you noticed your grass getting a little dry lately? You're not alone...here's why.
3.01" rainfall so far in August at MSP Airport
-.81" vs. average this month
.12" of rain the past 12 days
Dryness is creeping back into parts of Minnesota lately. Check out the latest U.S. Drought Monitor which shows parts of the I-90 corridor and the North Shore sliding into "abnormally dry" conditions.
Our next shot of rain may come Tuesday. An upper wave should be strong enough to trigger scattered showers and T-Storms. Models are hinting at rainfall totals between .50" and 1" from the metro south.
Summery week overall: Labor Day Weekend cold front?
September starts Thursday and Labor Day is next weekend! How did that happen?
Look for the sun and summery weather to return Wednesday and Thursday. We may see highs in the mid to upper 80s Thursday with some humidity.
It appears a "timely" and fairly strong cold front may blast through by next Sunday. It could feel a little like fall around here by the time Labor Day rolls around. Right on cue for back to school.
The longer range pattern shows summer like warmth may return by the following weekend and last through mid-September. But keep in mind September is a month where the jet stream builds "high amplitude" or big north-south undulations. Patterns and weather maps can go through big changes in a hurry. Forecast models can and probably will show high degree of variability next month. Rapid weather changes in weather become more likey in September.
In the mean time enjoy a week that is on balance more like summer than fall!
In the little TV coverage I watched of the hurricane, I saw a short interview with Gov. Christie, where the anchor was trying to get him to give a prediction for how long it would take for things to get back to normal. Of course, this was before the hurricane had even reached New Jersey, so he repeated just said that they wouldn't know until they could see how much damage had been caused.
The fact that we can predict the path of a hurricane like this accurately enough to know that there is a high likelihood of severe danger, and where, is amazing. The idea that anyone should be able to accurately forecast exactly how much damage will be caused is entirely absurd. It would be like expecting the morning news to warn you about the flipped semi-truck that will ruin your morning commute two hours before it happens.
Having lived in an active area for hurricanes for some time, I fully agree with the need for knowledge to be spread, preparation actions to be taken, etc. Apathy is rampant, even in a place like Miami that many locals were hit hard with Hurricane Andrew. Putting up those darned shutters is a pain in the rear and it's easy to brush off a "small" hurricane, "Oh it's going to turn".
However as much local coverage a hurricane gets, the amount of national coverage for Irene was a bit mind-boggling.
Does anyone remember the nation watching Hurricane Wilma? Florida had $20.6 billion in damages, 35 deaths and 3,241,000 customers lost power (not including the impact to Cancun and Cuba). So if we're going to measure things that way...
I understand that more people are concerned with NYC having a natural disaster and that part of the country just doesn't have to deal with hurricanes as often and will be less prepared than more hurricane-prone areas. I do wish some of the time and money spent on the non-stop national coverage could be put to finding means of preparation for the next time they don't get lucky.