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Boating: Hurricane Irene coverage, hype or help?

August 31, 2011
by boatguy Ed , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The 'Dead End Canal Yacht Club' hurricane watch party concluded Sunday evening after the weather channel declared Irene just a tropical storm. It was an arduous duty that we felt had to be done even though we weren't directly involved. Like watching a slow motion car wreck, you want to turn away but ....

Instead of ignoring the storm we jumped in with both feet and set up round the clock viewership with the help of the insomniacs in our group. For five long days and nights we tracked every subtle change Irene made, every wobble of the eye and re-strengthening of the eye wall. The early life of the storm was easy to follow because the cone of uncertainty still included the West coast of Florida.

When it was obvious that, despite the cautious tone of our local weathermen, Irene was going up the East coast it became more and more difficult to stay glued to the progress. We amateur meteorologists laid out tropospheric maps and charts, pinned up large hurricane warning charts to the clubhouse walls and ate cold fried chicken right along with Jim Cantore and The Weather Channel gang.

The only real difference was that we drank beer and other spirits as we tracked the storm. I did mention that the storm wasn't going to impact us, right. We were interested observers who have a working knowledge of the NOAA hurricane tracking website and the Weather Underground website. So we were getting real time updates just like our more sober fellow trackers.

Along the way I think we made better predictions than some of the paid prognosticators. We saw the weakening occur after she went ashore in North Carolina and spotted the dry air coming in from the South after she approached the Jersey shore. Around that time we began suffering from the Stockholm syndrome. We were rooting for the storm like hostages root for people in Swedish bank heists, I guess.

That's enough self-congratulation. All in all it was a lot of fun until the pictures of the wrecked boats started coming in. "Oh my goodness," said the Reverend when the first pictures came on the screen. Some of us less-than-holy observers expressed ourselves in more profane ways. We are boaters and most of us suffered through Charlie or Wilma. If you don't know who they were, turn to the sports page.

"That's the reason we've pulled this marathon," said past Commodore, Tortugas Neil. "Stop your moaning and groaning and rejoice because it is them and not us." His comments were made during the breakfast meeting Monday morning. The scenes of destruction were coming in as fast as the morning news anchors were stirring up the 'overreaction' debate.

I believe 'Twitter' is very aptly named because any TWIT can say anything as long as he can abbreviate. Matt Lauer and Diane Sawyer were defending the expansive coverage, maybe hype, given to Irene. These twits were complaining about the evacuations and the halt to mass transit as soon as just after the eye passed Manhattan without killing thousands.

"New Yorkers are idiots," said Erie Earl overreacting to the hype about the hype. The club members didn't condemn him because we don't have many New Yorkers attending the summer meetings. Now if he'd said 'Ohioans' are idiots, there would have been a lynching. Even though he would have been within his constitutional rights.

"How can they question the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people from lower Manhattan when lower Manhattan is only a few feet above sea level," I asked rhetorically.

"What would they be saying if the eye had moved to the right, over warmer waters, huh," asked Pirate Pete. He made a gesture with his hands that resembled his imitation of rising water and then pretended to drown. He's Italian by heritage and is known to carry the gesture thing as far as having his Pittsburgh Pirates' baseball cap fall off.

"Quiet, quiet," shouted Boston Bob. "Look at those boats on the road! Geez, that's a Morgan sailboat tangled up with that stink pot (powerboat)."

The room went silent as The Weather Channel hottie tried to find something profound to say about the destruction behind her. "This scene is being played out all up and down the coast as boat owners failed to prepare their boats properly!"

I wish we had two-way communication with Miss Hottie, so she could feel the wrath shouted at her. But, we didn't. Just then the cameraman, who must have been a boater, panned the rest of the marina and the majority of the boats were riding out the wind safe and sound.

"Now that was hype," exploded Boston Bob. "Three or four boats tossed up onshore should be expected. They were probably on moorings and drifted into the marina!"

"I think they'd give you a deal on that Morgan," said 'Run-aground Ralph to Boston Bob, who had to sell his boat to keep his son living in Manhattan. Unfortunately, that is the end of the recorded session because, well .... just because.

Boatguy Ed is a retired marine products manufacturer, He is a volunteer extra on his son's local Boater's Treasures TV show and is seeking a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize. He can be found hanging around the new 'U Sell It & Storage' lot managed by his wife. Send comments to



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