Sunday, August 28, 2011

Anything But Hype

I find it curious that there are people out there who are claiming that Hurricane Irene was somehow hyped and that the damage wasn't as bad as had been predicted.

Well, there's a couple of ways to approach this.

If you live in NJ, there's nothing moderate about this storm. It's a huge flooding event, and record flood levels are already occurring or likely along major rivers around the state, including the Raritan, Passaic, Ramapo, Millstone, and Saddle River/Brook. Some of those rivers wont even crest until midweek, and remain above flood stage until the end of the week.

If you live along the Atlantic Ocean in New Jersey or New York, you had to deal with major flooding, and urban areas had areas of significant flooding. If you live along the NY barrier islands, you've got a similar story, such as in Long Branch, where the ocean met the inshore bay during high tide.

And then, upstate New York saw record rainfall and major flooding, causing disruptions throughout New York along the Hudson Valley up through the Capital District.

It most certainly is a wakeup call for folks around here who haven't experienced a hurricane in more than a decade. Storm preparations did their job - reducing the amount of damage and loss of life. The very metric that that some critics claims suggests hype (the body count) is also an indicator that the warnings and preparations by emergency services did their job.

But did the storm really not live up to the hype?

The storm ended up tracking pretty much as the models predicted. They had predicted a storm that would hit the NYC metro area, and they were right on the money.

The models had predicted a significant storm surge, with a range of 3-8 feet at the Battery in Lower Manhattan. The surge did hit 4.5 feet, which wasn't the catastrophic damaging event, but still ranked as sixth highest all time.

A bullet was dodged, it could have been worse, and scientists will learn from the data collected here to adjust their models for East Coast storms to account for interactions between land and sea, coastal topography, front interactions, and future models will be improved as a result.

The one area in which the models fell short was the predicted wind speeds - and we have to be thankful for that. The storm was pretty nasty even with winds that didn't reach category 2 or 3 levels as early models had indicated. Yet, it was sufficient to take down trees all over the region and cause widespread flooding.

So, to anyone trying to claim that the models are somehow prove that this natural disaster was hyped, try again. If you're trying to claim the models disprove other models? Try again. The facts simply don't support your claims.

And the total economic damages will bear this out - it's expected to run above $7 billion for all damage along the East Coast and with particular emphasis in North Carolina, New Jersey, and New York.

No comments: