Local weather forecasters deny it, national weather forecasters deny it and news media outlets deny it. They deny hyping Irene saying that this storm showed early potential to be a dangerous storm and wanted to get the word out early. We watched as Irene churned across the Atlantic taking aim on the Bahama Islands and then turning her sights on the U.S. East Coast. As Irene neared the North Carolina coast there were still questions as to where she was heading. Would she make a direct hit on North Carolina, graze the outer banks, go out to sea south of New England, or make her way up the Mid-Atlantic and into New England.
Although only a Category 1 hurricane, when Irene lashed the coastline from the Carolina’s to New Jersey she packed plenty of punch with destructive winds, ocean surge and pounding rainfall that caused rivers and streams to run over their banks. We saw the usual low lying ocean inundation along North Carolina and Virginia, extending into Maryland and New Jersey as well. There was tremendous amounts of flooding, caused by ocean surge and flooding rains. Millions lost power.
Here in Massachusetts we had plenty of time to see what was happening to the areas south of us. We saw the coastal flooding, wind damage and heavy rains that caused serious property damage as rivers and streams overflowed their banks. We saw the concerns everyone had for a direct impact to New York City. But, what would happen in Massachusetts? What would be the extent of the impacts from Irene? Would we get the coastal flooding, heavy rains and winds that folks along the Eastern Seaboard experienced? Local weather forecasters were telling us to get ready for coastal flooding along the south coast, extremely heavy rainfall in the central and western part of the state, near hurricane force winds, which in turn would down many trees and cause power outages. It was the lead story on any news channel, as well it should have been. Time and again we were being advised of what this storm could bring to us on Sunday.
Locally, weatherman Matt Noyes of NECN was stating Sunday evening that he and others were not hyping this storm, but getting the public ready for what might be delivered by Irene. And as we found out here in Massachusetts, she delivered a lot. As of this writing there is only one confirmed death in the Commonwealth, but if the media did not forewarn the public how many more injuries and fatalities would there be? People need to be informed about the weather, good or bad, but especially when it is going to be ferocious with life threatening possibilities. Some areas were hit harder than others. My guess is the folks who experienced the coastal flooding, tree damage and flooding rains, are not questioning the ferocity of this storm or stating this storm was hyped by local media.
We were told about emergency storm kits, how to be ready if your neighborhood was evacuated, what to do if power was lost, how to protect important documents from water damage, filing insurance claims and so on. The reality was this: We got near hurricane force winds, countless trees were downed, power was lost to thousands in Massachusetts, flooding rains did occur in most areas of the state and there was coastal flooding. Nobody ever said this was going to be an “Andrew” or “Katrina”. What the media did was warn the public days in advance that we might be in for a storm that could bring many threats. And, this is exactly what happened. Frankly, if the media is guilty of anything, it might be they under estimated this storm.
Take a good look at what is happening in the aftermath throughout Massachusetts. We all see the news stories, pictures and video of destruction. Homes and businesses destroyed by flooding. Homes damaged so badly they have been condemned. Look at the devastation in Vermont! For that matter throughout the Northeast. This was not south Florida after Andrew’s blow to that area and not New Orleans after Katrina’s devastation. It is Massachusetts and our surrounding neighbors after Irene’s visit and the serious damage she delivered. We all should have been prepared for this storm, because we had plenty of warning, not plenty of hype.