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An Englishman In New York: Hurricane Irene - The Big Sneeze

"Yawn. Never, in the field of meteorological conflict, has a hurricane, even a downgraded Category 1 version, been more hyped than Irene. The news media and weather “experts”, capitalizing on a slow August news day, week, month, succeeded in whipping up a storm about the potentially damaging effects of this hurricane,'' writes David Thomasesson.

With more hype than even the Next Big Thing from Apple, or P.T. Barnum’s circus, Mayor Bloomberg, anxious not to repeat his bungling of last winter’s major snowstorm, spoke for hours on the city preparations, including the evacuation of downtown and other likely areas of serious flooding. History will show this to have been a massive overreaction.

Panic induced purchasing, allowing supermarket staff to clean those previously harder to reach surfaces, resembled the onset of a nuclear winter, or a full-scale assault on Mt. Everest with staples such as bread, water and beer taking a hammering. OK, so some were Budweisers and Bud Light, what we call canoe beer…damned close to water.

One chap in the checkout line appeared to strike the right balance; two six-packs, Cheezy Whatsits, some crisps and, presumably for the wife, some tins of soup.

Manhattan became a ghost town, with Broadway shows cancelled, all subway and bus service stopped from midday yesterday, and mainline service severely curtailed. Subway trains were stored in the tunnels, rather than open marshalling yards to prevent damage. On reflection, a good clean in the driving rain might have been more useful.

Local preparations saw one apartment owner taping up his large picture windows. On the 15th floor no less! He’ll probably explain it now as decorating tape. Stores closed one hour earlier than the transport shut down to allow the slaves to scurry back to the outer boroughs. Or should that be burrows?

“Hurricane” preparedness doesn’t mean stocking up on the fruit-juice, grenadine and rum to make the signature drink beloved of New Orleans’s Bourbon Street. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bourbon_Street No, it means listening to endless TV (meaning CNN, home of Crap News Nonstop) coverage of screaming, rain-soaked, wind-swept talking heads on the idiot box (or idiot heads on the talking box), taking every opportunity to don fluorescent raincoats, take it on the chin, in their hair and ears suffering for their craft and talk into the wind to show us what earnest, and at times stupid, reporters they really are. Hopefully one of them will be blown over for a little light relief, providing amusing fodder for “blooper” shows.

Of course, major weather systems provide easy news reporting, away from the dismal economy, and unrest in the world, but those of us who have lived in the Caribbean scoff at these over the top preparations. Anything over 100 miles away isn’t a threat as its track can change on a whim, so no need to secure the patio chairs. In fact hurricane preparedness generally means stocking up on beer and ice, calling friends and deciding the location of the “after” party.

So, will the news networks feel contrite about their over the top coverage? Probably not, after all there’s nothing like made for TV coverage with trees whipsawing in gale force winds, jetties and piers being swept by massive rollers, holiday homes being trashed, low lying parking lots flooding up to car windows and so on and so on. And let’s not forget shots of burly rescue squads boating down the high street in their Zodiac inflatables, hopefully rescuing a dog along the way.

The 2011 Big Sneeze - sudden gusts of wind followed by a massive spit shower.



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