A hurricane, dangerous? Pish posh

Will the people who have million-dollar second homes on the East Coast beaches be able to get out of the path of Hurricane Irene in time? Will Hurricane Irene disrupt air travel to their third home in Aspen or their fourth home in Sedona? Will they lose an entire day of tanning on the beach?

People with only one home far from expensive beachfront property may not understand how inconvenient for rich people a hurricane can be. Is low-cost, subsidized federal flood insurance all we can do for the wealthy? Can’t we raise taxes to make sure they’ll be able to rebuild on the same flood-prone spot? Some millionaires may be trapped on their million-dollar yachts on the Intercoastal Waterway. Is there nothing that can be done for them? Can’t FEMA airlift their yachts to safety? And put them in five-star hotels until after the storm? With premium cable channels, of course.

Sure, not all of us can afford a 10-bedroom house on the beach, or even a vacation to a beach, or even a day on the beach, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help our millionaire brothers and sisters.

What can we do to help the people who live next to brooks and streams that flood every other year? How can we prevent them from being taken by surprise, over and over and over again? Who knew that heavy rain may cause flooding? Couldn’t we warn them by, say, putting warnings of an approaching storm on the news 24 hours a day for a solid week on every channel until their heads spin?

Maybe the warnings don’t work. After all, if weathermen can stand in knee-deep puddles of water doing Marcel Marceau against-the-wind impressions, why can’t everyone? If it’s OK for the guy from Channel 47 to go outside in a hurricane, why can’t you? Or do weathermen have some magical power against hurricanes that we don’t know about? What about their cameramen and lighting crews? Are they immune to bad weather, or are they ordinary humans like you and me?

Should TV stations show people surfing during a hurricane? Baseball games used to be interrupted regularly by clowns running across the outfield, until the broadcasters stopped showing them. People still do it, but it’s much more rare, because what’s the point of doing something stupid if no one’s going to see it? Not rewarding idiotic behavior by giving the showoffs exactly what they want – to be on television – is a good first step.

What do the words “mandatory evacuation” mean? If you watch TV, it means you can stay home if you want. News reporters go out of their way to find people on the beach who say they are going to “ride it out.” Often this is followed by the explanation that they are afraid of looters. These are the same people who voluntarily evacuate the beach every single winter. What is the thinking here, that looters don’t like cold weather but they love hurricanes?

Why do TV stations get away with calling something the “storm of the century” when there are 89 years of the century left? How would they know? In the last 11 years, there have been four “storms of the century.” The most logical answer is that they don’t know the meaning of the word “century.”

Maybe using the wind speed of hurricanes doesn’t get the “danger” message across well enough. We need something more graphic:

• Category 1: Not bad enough for Anderson Cooper to leave his house.

• Category 2: Anderson Cooper has more dangerous things to do.

• Category 3: Anderson Cooper flies in from an active war zone to stand on a roaring beach.

• Category 4: Anderson Cooper wets himself.

• Category 5: Anderson Cooper won’t go outside.

Jim Mullen’s new book “Now in Paperback” is now in paperback. You can reach him at jimmullenbooks.com.

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