Here’s a piece I wrote for Defense Media Network about Hurricane Irene and the criticism some are levying because the storm did not cause catastrophic destruction.
With Hurricane Irene now nothing but some sputtering winds and loosely formed rain showers, we are about to endure the aftermath of whining naysayers and professional complainers. Even as the storm was beginning to pass through North Carolina and Virginia, observers began to comment that the storm was not packing the punch that it had been forecast to hold. By the time it reached New Jersey and New York City, fears of a flooded subway system and other catastrophic destruction had largely ebbed.
While Hurricane Irene caused widespread power outages, downed trees, destroyed property and more than two dozen deaths, Manhattan and Trenton did not become a flooded New Orleans or a vaporized Pass Christian, Miss. Because of those fortunate facts, the second-guessing by pundits, the television crowd, and, for that matter, regular citizens over forced evacuations and closing various transit systems has begun, with such warnings and evacuations being branded as “hype.”
It’s almost as if there was a measure of disappointment from these complaining parties that there was not some type of large body count or more catastrophic destruction. Only then would the warnings of meteorologists, public officials and emergency managers have been applauded. But I’m convinced this same set of complainers would say in those dreadful circumstances, “The offered warnings were not enough.”
This is the classic “Catch 22/no win/damned if you do and damned if you don’t” scenario that plagues the emergency management community. If things turn out better than forecast, you are charged and convicted of instilling unnecessary fear or “over-hyping” the situation.