Saturday, August 27, 2011

Waiting for Irene

In a completely unsurprising development, it looks like (fortunately) Irene won't be nearly as bad as it could have been-- and as many made it out to be.  I guess we could cut the media some slack and say that it's best to be prepared for the worst and "avoid another Katrina"... Or we could give a knowing shake of the head and say something about how they'd probably still blow these things out of proportion even if they magically knew in advance that a particular hurricane wasn't "the Perfect Storm", after all.  (They can't help themselves!)  Or we can just try to simply be thankful that it doesn't look like it's going to be as bad as feared... and leave it at that (keeping lessons learned in mind for future predicted "Storms of the Century"). 

Cue extended Tropical Weather Rant (mostly composed yesterday, but left in draft mode because I couldn't decide if it was worth clicking "Publish" for...):

Friday morning, I saw someone basically complaining that New Yorkers (meaning those from New York City, I think) weren't taking Hurricane Irene seriously enough.

. . . Honestly, I think they'll be fine.  I mean, go ahead and make emergency preparations, of course, and if you live in a flood-prone area or somewhere that may get storm surge, your safety is more threatened-- but in general, it feels like the media is just going nuts over Irene.  More nuts than it probably deserves.

Earlier in the week, I listened while a talk radio host encouraged "veterans" of hurricanes to call in with advice for those who haven't faced tropical weather before.  Almost every person I heard (didn't listen to the whole thing) either told a horror story or suggested ominously and peremptorily that anyone in the potential path of a hurricane should "GET OUT NOW!!" (Grab your photos, jump in the car, and drive. More or less.)

Obviously, some people should get out-- or have already gotten out, at this point.  Again, do you live in an area where flash flooding is at all likely?  Right on the water / in an area that might get storm surge?  If so, I'd leave.  Even if you can't or don't want to go far away, find a local hurricane shelter.  Most of the deaths caused by hurricanes are from flooding.  It's a serious threat.

However, what most people don't explain is that (depending on the storm's path once it goes inland) you may have to travel very far from the coast to avoid it entirely.  Sometimes, the inland areas get violent weather, too-- high winds, tornadoes and flash flooding-- and then you're stuck waiting out some nasty weather in a hotel room, in an unfamiliar place. 

If you have pets, they add another layer to the decision, because it can sometimes be difficult to evacuate with animals.  (If you truly feel the need to evacuate, though, don't let the difficulty stand in your way. Some storm shelters accept animals, just as some hotels allow small pets inside rooms.)

Also, how long can you (or are you willing to) wait before coming back home, after the storm?  Most people want to come back as soon as possible to evaluate damage and just try to get back to a normal routine.  Well, everyone else who evacuated will be trying to do the same thing.  The roads are going to be busy (again, because unless you left very early, they were probably jammed on the way out, too)-- and this time, there may be delays due to fallen trees, downed power lines, and other debris littering the roads.  If you're very unlucky and your neighborhood was hit hard, the authorities may be reluctant to let you back in until things are deemed safe enough. 

If no-one in your family has special medical needs/issues-- if your home is out of known flood zones (and especially if there's no mandatory evacuation for your area)-- if you have a sturdy house with no large trees likely to crash through the roof--  if you have a supply of water, non-perishables, batteries, and other emergency supplies... you should be fine.  There may be some scary moments, though.  (As long as I have my memory, I know I'll never forget those worst minutes of Ivan, huddled with Donald, my parents, and Kimberly in the hall bath and hallway, listening to the rain and wind crashing into the house from what seemed like every angle at once, feeling my ears pop with the dropping pressure, and praying that we'd make it through the night unharmed.  I think I owe a few grey hairs to that experience...)  Don't be a fool, but don't feel you have no options, either.

Basically, if a hurricane's headed toward your home, there are no perfect answers.  To act as though everyone in the storm's predicted path should high-tail it three-states-deep inland is oversimplifying.  

So... good luck to those waiting for Irene.  The rest of the country is thinking of you.  (The media has seen to that. (g))