Sunday morning Meet the Press — and most broadcast media — gave ongoing attention to Hurricane Irene… even as New York was mostly spared and Philadelphia and (later) Vermont were more than a bit surprised.
The panel, gathered around a studio table in Washington DC, discussed “the political aspect of this storm.” You can see this element of the show in it’s entirety here (after a 14 second ad). I want to highlight two issues raised during the rather brief discussion.
First from David Brooks:
Obviously, since Katrina, the, the message for politicians is go all out, maximize the warning. And I suppose that’s fair. In some parts of the country, that’s fair. But in places like Washington where it really wasn’t that big a storm, what’s going to happen over time, if they do this every time there’s a storm, is people are going to begin tuning them out. Obviously, there’s an incentive to play it safe, but there are the kind of things you have to balance out. And if you go hyper every time, people are going to tune it out.
It’s hard to disagree. But what I also heard weather forecasters and politicians and emergency managers saying clearly and often is: If we wait until we are sure, it will be too late to evacuate out of harms way. When a hurricane aims for the most densely populated region of the nation you have to take some risks to mitigate a greater risk. I heard plenty of (wo)man-in-the-street interviews saying the same thing.
Emphasizing that some risks are beyond precise prediction or effective control is a good message to send and explain and re-send and re-explain. Informed and educated people will make choices that best fit their situation.
Next from Katty Kay in conversation with the host David Gregory:
MS. KAY: …the watchword is overpreparedness and not underpreparedness. But it’s very different, when you’ve had three days warning to something like what happened in Japan, for example.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MS. KAY: Imagine that. How is the country prepared for that? If you have a seismic earthquake off probably the West Coast followed by a tsunami, you don’t have that time to prepare.
MR. GREGORY: Well…
MS. KAY: Is any country really up to handling something like that?
MR. GREGORY: And before–I want to get to that point, but before we leave the activism and the preparation, we talked to Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark. This was a tweet that he sent out last night, yes, on Saturday. “Heading on a pizza run. I’m going to deliver 10 pizzas to those standing in our shelter at JFK…”
The panel never got back to “that point” and I’m concerned our national answer is just about as substantive as was Mr. Gregory’s. Like it says in the song, in terms of catastrophe preparedness I wish we would, “Quit your ramblin quit your gamblin.”
By the way, if you love the old Leadbelly Ledbetter ballad you can listen to it here. Someday, but evidently not this day, I will learn how to embed video.