Sunday, October 9, 2016

Looking Back at Matthew

Matthew was a dangerous killer Hurricane.   It was very well documented & forecasted yet he still was a killer in this modern age of digital/social media.  Why?  In Haiti it’s a matter of poor construction and lack of government emergency management.   Fortunately, we live in a country that has excellent emergency management, that has excellent emergency response plus a media, for the most part, that shows what is happening from where the storm is to where it is going.    The loss of life in the U.S was kept down to single digits despite a storm surge that was the highest in many locations.  NHC, the media & emergency management did get folks in harm’s way inland away from the surge.     However, I think where the media was less than perfect, was not highlighting the UNCERTAINTY of the NHC/computer model forecasts.   I always used the centerline NHC forecast as a guide to see which way the storm was shifting/trending in direction.  Somehow social scientists have swayed NHC to abandon using that tool replacing it with the “cone of error/uncertainty”.   It becomes hard for untrained folks to determine just what are their risks.  In Matthew, that cone covered much of Florida early on.  IF you didn’t understand the cone, you didn’t realize the risks were far higher on the east side of the cone as opposed to the west side.  I said early on that Matthew was being overhyped, broad brushing way too much area.  If you live on or near the coast or like us in SE LA, below sea level, you know that for every 5 storms that require mandatory evacuation, 4 of them will be false alarms.   However, not everyone needs to evacuate as it is expensive and stressful.   We cannot scare the people every time there is a “monster” storm out there.    We cannot use “better safe than sorry” line over and over.  I hope that the thousands who fled Matthew & returned home to find little or no damage, won’t get the attitude I’m not going next time.   I have always taken the evacuation process seriously.   I’m not sure how to correct the overhyping of weather events as we all know they attract higher ratings.    What I do know is when you cry wolf over and over but the wolf never comes, folks won’t react when they need to the most.   Hopefully EM, NHC & the media will look back at Matthew and try to determine what lessons did we learn?   I realize government MUST error on the side of safety, however, we cannot continue to scare people.  I once presented a paper at the National Hurricane Conference titled, “How can we be responsible for the ir-responsible?”.  I didn’t have the answer then, and I still don’t know now.       To be continued…


P.S.  What a great feel weekend!

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