Rush Limbaugh took a lot of heat this week for calling out the media on how much they hype extreme weather like Hurricane Irma. He called it part of the Liberal agenda on climate change.
Then he looked at the radar from the National Weather Service and promptly evacuated his Florida compound.
So who was right? At least at the eye of the hurricane?
As many of you know, my parents live in Naples, Florida. This is their 20th hurricane season down there, and they rarely evacuate. For Irma, it initially looked like it was going to hit Miami, so their plan was to stay put. By the time its path shifted west, all the shelters were packed, and it was too late for a couple in their 70s to risk the drive north.
I obsessed in front of the Weather Channel all weekend doing the mental calculations of what a 12-15 foot storm surge would look like in their neighborhood. I had lived through a 22-foot surge during Katrina, and it wiped the town of Bay St. Louis off the map.
But the surge from Irma never came. It wasn’t even close to 15 feet.
Was Rush Limbaugh right? Is there a weather conspiracy that caused hundreds of thousands of Floridians to buy gas and food and water and hotel rooms? Did the shadowy left wing elites win again?
Would it have been better if the media was like, “We usually get these wrong, so Florida, don’t worry about it. You’ll probably be OK.”
Weather professionals are really in a tough spot. They are speaking in probabilities and computer models. Do they hype up the possible catastrophic outcomes? Of course. That’s human nature looking at a computer telling you the worst thing possible. Would it be better if they painted a rosier picture? For me, there are several occupations that I want to have a dash of pessimism. Airplane pilots, surgeons, and weathermen. I don’t want to hear any of them say, “Seems like it’ll be OK.”
All you have to do is go 90 miles to the south of Florida to see the full wrath of Irma in Cuba and then continue to follow her wake through the Caribbean to see that this storm was a monster. Yes, the hurricane wasn’t as bad as predicted — in the US. But it killed and destroyed on the way here.
Does this mean there’s a bunch of climate change radicals sitting in a conference room somewhere eating bagels and high-fiving right now. I think not. This is one instance where they are glad to be wrong.
As my 70-something mother would say, “Better to be safe than sorry.”