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JLeslie's avatar

What do you think about the national weather coverage as hurricanes approach the US?

Asked by JLeslie (57657points) September 18th, 2017 from iPhone

I’m thinking in America specifically, but feel free to answer from other countries too.

I apologize for the length of this Q.

Hurricane Irma just blasted through Florida (I live in Florida) and left some mess in Georgia, and other states north of Florida too.

For many days before Irma we (America) heard about how huge the storm was, how it decimated islands in its path in the Caribbean, and how the hurricane winds were going to cover all of Florida. That Florida would receive very high storm surges, and flooding was anticipated.

America at large heard about the evacuations in Florida in multiple counties. America in general didn’t understand we only evacuate a few miles within the coastline and and mobile homes. We are encouraged to stay in our counties typically. Over 90% of Hurricane deaths are flooding not winds. Not that winds aren’t to be taken seriously, especially cat 3 and higher. Mind you a cat 3 storm only has sustained cat 3 winds very close to and in the eye wall. The news often reports gusts rather than sustained winds, because it’s a higher number.

This hurricane in all my years living in Florida created the most panic I have ever seen in my parents and other people outside of Florida. I blame the news coverage, and I think it went too far, with the main goal of ratings and money. People suffered with anxiety more than necessary. Not that this hurricane was not very serious, it was, people have died, and lost so much, there is a tremendous amount of tragedy, but my parents drove me crazy! I’ve been through multiple hurricanes, but now that my parents have the weather channel and internet, omg. America seemed to think what happened to Barbuda would happen to the whole state of FL. In my opinion my parents, and many others, suffered unnecessarily.

I like that the news coverage helps with awareness. It’s very important, and I would not change the local news coverage in Florida, and our governor, mayors, and other officials did a great job getting information out, as they typically do. The national awareness helps in getting donations and volunteers and even corporate and government attention.

Now, I just saw the Weather Channel talking about Hurricane Maria. They showed the many hurricanes over the years that have gone through the exact spot Maria is in now. Then, they picked the one track that went right for FL out of 20 tracks. That means nothing! But, I’m sure plenty of people are now panicked Maria is coming for Florida. I turned the channel. I am concerned about Puerto Rico and neighboring islands.

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18 Answers

canidmajor's avatar

I have heard reports from both national CBS and NBC this morning talking about Maria as related to the islands, not Florida.

As to what I think about how these storms are reported; I understand that the business is about ratings, and the reports are broader in scope than maybe strictly necessary for information purposes, but what I think you may not realize is that for people who don’t live in areas that are impacted by storms like this, the information about potential scope is important.

The good news is that we can always change the channel.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

The media continues to push boundaries for ratings. CNN has followed FOX news and has lost any credibility IMO. Most others are not that far behind. I have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with the media on multiple ocassions and it never fails that they put a spin or twist on even the most mundane details. IMO it’s borderline criminal.

JLeslie's avatar

@canidmajor Potential scope is important for Floridians too. I’m not sure specifically what you mean.

My dad didn’t change the channel. He was obsessed, and his information was incomplete in my opinion, or he dwelled only on the catastrophic information.

chyna's avatar

Katrina didn’t get enough and many lives were lost. It might be over kill on the coverage now but ratings bring money. So if they can show a weather man tethered to a brick veranda in 120 mile winds without worrying about his safety, then why not?

canidmajor's avatar

@JLeslie, I’m sorry your dad was obsessed, and I’m sorry he didn’t have what you consider to be balanced information. I don’t see how that is the fault of the national weather media. They can’t cater to every level of personality or anxiety disorder. I appreciate that they sensationalized some of the reporting, but people in Florida still died because they were in danger zones and refused to evacuate, so maybe it wasn’t overdone.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@JLeslie To be fair, Irma was the largest and most powerful hurricane ever recorded. Of course it got a lot of coverage.
the National weather service was doing the best they could to predict the track but they are not fortune tellers. They can only deal in probabilities – that’s why the hurricane tracks show cones that get wider the further you go into the future.
The coverage – crazy as it was – got people to prepare and that is a good thing.

I friend of mine owns a trucking company. He has drivers bringing tractor trailer loads of ice and water to communities that are in need. The trucks drive down full and return empty after the supplies are gone. This will stop soon since only a few areas are still in need.
Had most people not prepared it would have been much worse.

Muad_Dib's avatar

Fellow Floridian:

There are many things to take into consideration.

1. Many people don’t have TV service these days. Weather-specific channels are a service of cable companies who are dying for a way to keep customers. Marketing themselves as the be all and end all of Hurricane season preparedness is at least better than switching over to the Real Life of Jim Cantore Reality Show.

2. In my experience (20+ years living in the Tampa area) people have two settings for hurricane preparedness:
—Anything less than a Cat 2: they’re actively driving to work through tropical storm force winds, wondering why it’s so blustery today, and why it’s raining at 8am instead of 3pm as usual, because no one told them there was a storm coming
—Anything a 3 or higher: HOLYMUTHERF$&#INGSCHNEIKES WE HAVE TO HOARD ALL THE MILK AND BREAD OR WE WILL DIE – this lasts until the day of the storm, which is when they all go to the liquor store and buy ALL the rum they can fit in the car, so they are sufficiently shithammered when the winds start. Relieves anxiety, you know.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

^^That is what happens when we get a ¼ inch of show here lol.

LuckyGuy's avatar

When Irma hit Cuba it was a Category 5 with peak winds of 185 mph!!! At that point it was moving toward the Keys! It weakened to Cat 3 but then grew to Cat 4 as it moved northward. That is a big deal. People really did need to be prepared.
Although, I don’t know how you prepare for Cat 5 other than evacuating.

Muad_Dib's avatar

Evacuating is touch and go.

In 2004 people bailed out of Tampa ahead of Charley, and the storm ended up in Punta Gorda, which was completely unprepared.

Friends in Tallahassee during Irma were planning on taking in evacuees and ended up putting up boards in their windows at the last minute when she shifted West.

All you can do is pack your go-bag and get high.

JLeslie's avatar

@canidmajor I’m not talking about catering to every personality. I’m talking about the people outside of Florida only getting the hysterical parts of the information. In Florida we get tons of information, I’m sure the Carolinas do too when storms are barreling towards them. We are the ones doing the preparing and evacuating. We know that not all of Pinellas County evacuated, just zone A or B, or whatever it was this time. I know that I live in the place people evacuate to.

I was in NY when Irma was making her way here, and looked like it would be a direct hit. I had a lot of trouble finding out how far the hurricane winds extended out, and how fast the speeds were 30 miles from the eye wall, and 50 miles from the wall. The hurricane was likely to effect all of the peninsula of Florida, but I care what the winds are where I live regarding how I am going to react to the incoming storm. Like @Muad_Dib said, Hurricane 2 or less, not so worried, hurricane 3 or more holy shit. Living north of Orlando, pretty much I’m guaranteed cat 2 or less, especially once it bumped along Cuba. I think a lot of people were thinking all of Florida will get a cat 3 or 4, because to them it’s all of Florida covered in the “red” hurricane winds.

@LuckyGuy Definitely a big deal. My gripe is a lot of people seem to not have the full info. Like when I complained they hadn’t evacuated for Houston and people kept saying “3 million people.” You don’t have to evacuate all 3 million, just the most vulnerable areas, but that mayor, governor successfully protected themselves from ridicule selling that “3 million” number.

@Muad_Dib The wobble and bouncing around is definitely annoying. I said out loud to my friend, it came in east side of Naples, it looks like it’s coming right for us. Meaning Orlando area. The weather center was still predicting Tampa. It didn’t matter much either way for me, but certainly it did for Tampa Bay area.

Muad_Dib's avatar

There’s only so much prediction that can be done – sure it all boils down to math, but when the variables aren’t precisie they’re really limited.

I think in this case we were right to err on the side of caution. I just wish the power companies did more planning ahead. We were without power for 6 days because TECO insists on using wooden power poles in the termite capital of the United States.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Metal poles are the new standard across the country. Wooden poles are being phased out in most places. There is only so much power companies can do to prepare for such an onslaught. Termites are little match for the chemical soup in the wood treatment. Metal poles are more consistent, lighter and speed up the recovery process. They can also be recycled when a storm mangles them.

Muad_Dib's avatar

Someone should clue TECO into that. They replaced the old rotten wooden poles with new wooden poles.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I can’t imagine why, wood is actually more costly in the long run. Local utilities still do their own thing often though.

JLeslie's avatar

@Muad_Dib I don’t expect the forecasting to be precise, quite the opposite. The only reason I thought it didn’t matter for where I live was because if it stayed on the coastline it would continue to be faster winds, and I’m a good 50 miles from the coast, so my winds would be cat 1 or 2 most likely, or it comes straight for me over land, then it likely slows down because it’s over land. I was likely to get similar wind speeds no matter what, unless it had widely deviated from possible tracks. I know I couldn’t be sure what would happen, but that’s how I looked at it.

We should probably have more underground wiring. I don’t know the count in total, but I got my power back in one day, but friends 5 miles east of me got their power back yesterday. People just north of me were still out this morning.

flutherother's avatar

I don’t see the problem. If a cat 5 hurricane is bearing down on me I want to know about it. After one hurricane I saw a large section of twisted corrugated iron high up in the branches of a tree in Mobile Alabama and that was enough scaremongering for me.

I think it is always better to be prepared for the worst case scenario.

JLeslie's avatar

^^If a cat 5 is coming I want to know too. In fact, now I’m annoyed they aren’t talking enough about Maria hitting the Caribbean. I guess I just can’t be happy with the coverage.

You missed my point. We in Florida (and other places getting the actual hit) want all the information. We get all of the information. The people outside of Florida tend to only hear partial information, and focus on the scary hyperbole. Not that a cat 5 isn’t scary shit! My friend’s son lives in San Juan on the tenth floor on the beach! I assume he evacuated. I take cat 5 very seriously. Irma was never going to be cat 5 sustained winds where I live north of Orlando, but that big red swirling ball the news kept superimposing on the state of Florida before it got here made it appear like it would or could. Not that cat 3 winds aren’t a big deal, they are.

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