A perfect storm

Jim Cantore, an on-camera meteorologist for The Weather Channel, reports on Hurricane Irene Rain-soaked reporters were a recurring part of the torrential media coverage

We have, with no regrets, waved goodbye to Irene. Very sadly, lives were lost. Little matters more than that. But the feared devastation did not happen. Neither buildings nor reputations were toppled.

Here on the outskirts of Washington DC it is now a perfect day, with blue skies and cooling winds. But last night we hunkered down, head torches and bottled water at the ready, favourite films transferred to the laptop to watch when the power went out.

Inevitably it did, and it's not back 16 hours later. We're in the same boat as around four million others. But around here it goes out when two birds chirp at the same time so it is an irritation of everyday life rather than an extraordinary imposition.

Irene was a perfect storm. Not in any technical sense. But the media love an extreme weather story. And we know the audience does too.

If you are in the path of the monster this is news that affects you very directly.

A couple of colleagues and I, holed up at Guantanamo Bay (more on that story later in the week) were divided between sniffy professional boredom at the cable networks hackneyed coverage of people preparing for what might happen, and our own obsessive desire to watch the coverage for any clue about what actually might happen, and whether we would make it off Cuba, via Florida, and so home for the weekend.

No politician could miss the warnings contained in the torrential media coverage. But they would get the point even without the deluge of shots of people hammering up their windows or packing their cars, or rain-soaked reporters.

For the word "Katrina" is branded on their brains. In his autobiography, George W Bush admits the response to that hurricane was not just flawed, but unacceptable. He just doesn't believe the fault was his. No matter. The man-made response to an act of nature helped ruin a president's reputation.

So Obama broke off his holiday, made a series of addresses to the nation and toured the HQ of Fema as the storm hit, looking stern and in control, if not sounding particularly inspirational. Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Christie also made a point of stressing that they were firmly in charge and aware of the potential dangers.

Had Irene torn the heart out of the eastern seaboard, there would have been finger-pointing, but these three politicians made sure they were doing the right thing, and were seen to be doing it.

Their reputations may not be actually enhanced, but they have avoided storm damage.

Mark Mardell, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor


Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Hopefully a sobering reminder that there are forces at work in this world far more powerful than that of the United States. Perhaps the ironically named Irene has a kind of Shakespearean resonance foretelling of economic storms soon to unfold!

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Actaully Irene made the perfect points:

    1) Things are not always what they appear

    2) The shortest distance between two places is a (fairly) straight path and sheer determination

    Goodniight, Irenel goodnight Irene, I/we'll see you in my/out dreams!

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Mother Nature is awesome. No matter what she does, we always forgive her...what else can we do! Perhaps its because we cannot control her that our respect is always present.

    Now if I could feel that way about other aspects of life, I'd really be on to something.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Correct "did not happened" to "did not happen", please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    The failure of Katrina rested with Mayor Nagen and Gov. Blanco (validated by Gov Barbour and Mayor Holloway of MS/Biloxi), but Sen. Obama felt compelled to join the Bush-hater chorus in the storms aftermath, so now Pres. Obama is in the corner he painted himself into. Too bad he had to leave that popular working class getaway site - Martha's Vineyard.


Comments 5 of 91


This entry is now closed for comments


  • chocolate cake and strawberriesTrick your tongue

    Would this dessert taste different on a black plate?

  • Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George leaving New Zealand'Great ambassadors'

    How New Zealand reacted to William, Kate - and George

  • Major Power Failure ident on BBC2Going live

    Why BBC Two's launch was not all right on the night

  • Front display of radio Strange echoes

    What are the mysterious sequences of numbers read out on shortwave radio?

  • A letter from a Somali refugee to a Syrian child'Be a star'

    Children's uplifting letters of hope to homeless Syrians

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.