What Hath AccuWeather Wrought

I was scrutinizing Drudge last night when I saw the headline.

I began to get upset. Then, I read AccuWeather’s release, which was headlined:

Threat of Major Hurricane Strike Grows for Northeast

AccuWeather.com Warns That “Weather Disaster of Historic Proportions” Could Strike as Early as This Year

The release went on to quote Joe Bastardi, one of AccuWeather’s meteorologists as saying:

“The Northeast coast is long overdue for a powerful hurricane.

That’s like saying a slot machine is overdue because it hasn’t paid out in a while. In statistics, the likelihood of a 100 year event doesn’t increase just because you’ve gone 99 years without seeing one.

I went to the weather bulletin board where I sometimes post and left this:

I read the AccuWeather release and my blood boiled. As far as I know, there’s no such thing as “overdue” in statistics. I’m assuming all their meteorologists, including Joe Bastardi, took statistics courses.

When people come up to me in the supermarket and say we hype the weather – they’re talking about stuff like this.

What AccuWeather missed – the real story – is, a Hurricane of ’38 scenario would create a civil catastrophe before it struck! Though they mention Providence as the storm’s focal point, the center actually struck nearly 100 miles west, in Milford, Connecticut.

The biggest damage was that far east because it was no longer a classic tropical system. First, it was moving at better than 60 mph (I’m doing this off the top of my head – allow a little leeway). It had also been over colder water and was probably transitioning to extratropical.

How would we warn for a storm which went from the Bahamas to New England in about a day, and whose damage would be so far east of the center? Hurricane Warnings from Atlantic City, NJ to Portland, ME? It boggles the mind.

Would we evacuate all of New England? Could we? Where would they go?

As it is, on a Sunday evening the Mass Pike backs up for miles at the I-84 exit. I-95 through most of Eastern Connecticut is 2-lanes in each direction, and the area just east of New Haven will be under construction for much of the next decade. That’s without all of Boston and Providence heading west.

But, back to AccuWeather. Is this like yelling fire in a crowded theater? I don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t have put out the statement they put out, but that’s their choice to make.

I believe they’re honorable people. Joel Meyers certainly has a long and storied reputation and has been honored for his contributions to the public’s well being and safety.

I know folks at AccuWeather read this. I would like to see Joel personally revisit this particular statement. If this is how he really feels, fine.

My hope is, he’ll provide more specifics and less hyperbole.

So, there you have it. Yes – New England is vulnerable, but no more vulnerable today than it was last year at this time.

We need solid action to prepare, not hyperbole and scare tactics.

4 thoughts on “What Hath AccuWeather Wrought”

  1. I saw this report yesterday too. My initial reaction was “how do they justify saying something like this?” and then “hmmm, wonder how Geoff would comment?”. Glad you saw and blogged about it!

  2. Heard this report on the radio – initial reaction was typical scare tactics for ratings. Like the bird flu – if I hear one more person ask me why I’m not scared to eat chicken, I might just scream (that will be the scary noise you hear in the middle of the night). The media seems to downplay the intelligence of the public and provides only enough info to scare instead of truly inform.

  3. Actually, you may be suprised. I’m a meteo student myself and we aren’t required to take any stats courses. Just calculus, calculus, and more calculus. The only reason I’m taking a statistics course myself is because I thought it might be fun. It’s not required for us in the slightest.

  4. I’m waiting for the “perfect storm” to hit: a week where a catastrophic hurricane lands in New England, sweeping rafts of infected birds with them into Connecticut, leaving behind mosquito-attracting puddles to generate a super West Nile outbreak, with killer bees from Mexico hindering cleanup efforts.

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