The Weather Channel owes me a refund.
I know, Hurricane Irene was still a bad storm that killed more than 40 people, cost around $7 billion in damage and cut Vermont a new terrain. But still. I live in Camden. I had a twig in the Cobb Manor driveway when the sun came up Monday morning.
After listening, huddled, to The Weather Channel for three days, I doubted whether the sun would come up at all or whether there would be a sun. Well, I might have changed to the Hitler Channel a time or two to see how World War II was going (we won), but I came right back. Every meal was consumed in front of The Weather Channel. It was the end of the world, after all.
I have been leery of hurricanes ever since I was fired for refusing to deliver my Boston Globe paper route during a storm. (Mother’s orders).
When Greg Forbes and Rick Knabb, the two somber meteorologists (whatever happened to “weathermen”?), peered into their radar-operated crystal ball and pronounced Irene as “the worst storm in decades” “the worst storm in your lifetime” or “a hundred-year storm,” I listened, baby.
New York City was clearly doomed. Jefferson Phil was saving his last few bullets to execute his family to save them from the imminent disaster.
The coverage was just south of a Martian invasion.
Since I have always been leery of hurricanes, I learned early that they lose a lot of their strength when they hit land, kind of like the Red Sox when they play the Yankees. Forbes and Knabb never mentioned this obvious fact, suggesting instead that Irene could actually pick up strength after leaving the Carolinas and hitting the Atlantic Ocean again.
Now, the worse the prediction the more idiots like me cling to The Weather Channel. The experts were not about to downgrade the storm. When winds were over 100 mph, they had that graphic on the screen. When winds went below 100 mph it disappeared.
The experts could hardly hide their disappointment. They looked a little guilty, I thought. The camera crews did their best to dramatize fading Irene.
One close-up showed a marina flag. “That flag is ripped,” said the excited announcer. Another informed us that a culvert was lost in Vermont. A single loose sailboat in New Bedford Harbor was covered like the sinking of the Titanic.
And still I watched.
Weather babe Stephanie Abrams stumbled into a shot with rival Al Roker. The viewers liked the weather babe. One man painted “Irene, go away” on a shuttered window. On the next he painted, “Stephanie Abrams, you can stay.”
Weather Channel hero Jim Cantore (he lifts 280 pounds, he told sports show host Dan Patrick) looked guilty when he broadcast live from evacuated Times Square and there was no wind, no rain, no Irene. But there was a lot of flooding, he told us.
On NBC the next day, Cantore stopped short of saying The Weather Channel went overboard. He said the channel pinpointed the landfall site “incredibly well,” but the hurricane intensity “is still a tough call. “
I believe Belfast’s John Worth had the line of the storm when he said, “I am not going to be worried until I see Jim Cantore on the Belfast waterfront.”
My daughter Bridget lost a clothesline. She was disappointed there was no television coverage.
The overreaction on the East Coast was a reflection of Hurricane Katrina and the disaster in New Orleans. One observer suggested that no politician wanted to become a member of the “B-team” that ignored Katrina. The B team would be Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, former President George W. Bush and FEMA boss Michael D. “Brownie” Brown.
There was a silver lining for The Big Apple. The mayor noted that even criminals bought into the hype. The NYPD reported just 45 arrests overnight from Saturday compared to a typical Saturday night in August which sees 345 arrests.
“If that doesn’t tell you about New Yorkers, I don’t know what does,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
In the staid New Yorker magazine, Adam Gopnik said the hurricane warnings are “the soundtrack of our time: the amplification of the self-evident and the creation of paralyzing, preemptive paranoia.”
I rest my case.
I am not asking that the Weather Channel should blow out to sea. But I am asking that the “cry wolf” predictions are toned down the next time (next week) and the “storm of a lifetime” nonsense is withheld until it‘s actually true.
And, oh yes. More Stephanie Abrams.
Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at firstname.lastname@example.org.