Monday, August 20, 2007

Hurricane Dean Overhyped?

In short: Not on the web. I don't watch TV, so I can't answer that.

What I do know is that I've had relatives and even other Houstonians ask if I'm going to evacuate. To which I reply with an incredulous, "Um, nooooo. The hurricane is hitting south of Cozumel. I don't think we have much to worry about."

So what are the news people saying?

Brian Neurdorff points to Houston's own SciGuy Eric Berger (who I've linked to aplenty over the last few days) who is wondering at the hype as he links to this FoxNews article titled: As Hurricane Dean Heads Toward Mexico, Texas Mobilizes Massive Response.

Officials have mobilized a massive response to the storm's landfall, and are particularly concerned about the south Texas areas of Galveston and Brownsville, where 44 lives were lost the last time a storm of Dean's magnitude hit the area in 1967, Steve McCraw, state director of homeland security, said.
Whaaat?

OK. I get being prepared, but come on. The risk of any part of Texas being hit is nearly zero. Dean would have to hang a hard right. The same article says:

The level of preparation for Dean was influenced by memories of two destructive hurricanes that hammered the Gulf Coast region in 2005.

"In part, it is because of the unfortunate events from Rita and Katrina," Cavazos said.

During Rita, the evacuation quickly turned into a nightmare of clogged highways, stalled traffic and sweltering heat, as motorists from the coast ran into residents fleeing Houston. Gas stations ran out of fuel and supplies, and drivers sat for hours on gridlocked evacuation routes.

Dean was a Category Four storm Monday, heading rapidly toward Mexico after crashing through Jamaica. The National Hurricane Center in Miami said it was projected to reach the most dangerous hurricane classification, Category 5, with wind of 160 mph before crashing into the Mexican coastline near Cancun on Monday night or Tuesday.
For the love of Pete. Just to be clear: I was an eye-witness to the mess on I-45. It was stuck for hours because of poor planning--by the state and by people leaving. The state didn't manage the flow very well, nor did they consider the bottleneck that existed right out of The Woodlands where I live. People here helped stranded travelers with food and drink and fuel. Which leads to the people stuck on the freeway. Who doesn't bring water and food with them? Sheesh! You know it will be slow going for a while. Plan for it.

And unless the state has a super-special secret plan up their sleeves, the bottleneck in Texas will be in Conroe should we be hit again, which is a forsaken mess on an average day at an average time, forget rush hour. And it would be tragic then, because there are no residential areas right adjacent to that spot of road and so people would be on their own should they run out of provisions or fuel.

Even given all that, I-45 was a absolutely deserted for hours before Hurricane Rita hit. EVERYONE who wanted to got out and got out safely. By that measure, the evacuation was a success. No one died stuck on the freeway, starving, thirsty and terrified in a car while the winds whipped up.

The big concern for Texas, at least on this side of the state, is that we're soaked. We've had such consistent rain, that flooding is a worry. Everyone is very grateful to have the Hurricane hitting far South. A direct hit would be very bad because of the weather this summer.

I can't say whether the MSM overhyped Hurricane Dean. But I think the web has been the best source of fair, balanced, intelligent, scientific, and dare I say, sensitive, coverage of a potentially devastating storm.