I’m not in any way agreeing that this is what happened in the lead-up to Irene, because I actually think the coverage was appropriate, but it’s an interesting piece of psychology at work. People have a hard time reconciling the present with the past, and how they view disaster prep is no different:
So if you’re an elected public official, should you focus on truck bombs, which are more likely, or airline security, which makes the public more scared? Policymakers face a dilemma: They can keep people safe but risk making them angry, or keep them happy and risk making them unsafe.
Princeton University psychologist Alexander Todorov said the disconnect between how we say we want policymakers to behave and how we judge them stems from a psychological bias.
“We have known in psychology for many years something that is called hindsight bias,” Todorov said. “That looking back at the events that happened in the past, they look way more predictable than they actually were.”
Kunreuther said the hindsight bias allowed people to blame others for their own actions and inactions.
“The disconnect is that often before the event, people will say, ‘It’s not going to happen to me,’ ” said Kunreuther. “So they don’t pay attention themselves, by taking measures like purchasing insurance or making their house safer, but after the event there’s a feeling that someone should have helped us here, we have a reason to blame them.”
In the summer of 2004, after Tropical Storm Gaston slammed into Richmond, (Republican Eric) Cantor was on the front lines of efforts to secure millions of dollars in federal assistance to clean the wreckage and repair damaged infrastructure. Although the funding was not offset, Cantor cheered its arrival.
“The magnitude of the damage suffered by the Richmond area is beyond what the Commonwealth can handle,” Cantor said in a news release at the time, “and that is why I asked the president to make federal funds available for the citizens affected by Gaston.”
That episode is raising eyebrows this week, after Cantor told Fox News that disaster aid in the wake of Hurricane Irene should not be funded with borrowed money. Instead, Cantor said Monday, all federal assistance should be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget.
“Yes, we are going to find the money. We are just going to have to make sure there are savings elsewhere to continue to do so,” Cantor told Fox. “Just like any family would operate when it’s struck with disaster, it finds the money to take care of a sick loved one or what have you, and then goes without trying to buy a new car or [putting] an addition onto the house.”
Cantor is in an awkward position when it comes to disaster aid. Twice in the last week his district was struck by natural disasters — once by the hurricane and once by an earthquake — and his state’s Republican governor has said deficit concerns should not be a factor in the response to the disaster.
I think they meant “dicky.” As in “dickshit fucker.”
The total damages from Hurricane Irene have yet to be assessed, but already the White House and congressional Republicans are fighting over the bill.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor started the dialogue by insisting that federal disaster aid to affected states and communities be balanced with spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.
That’s the same stance Cantor earlier in the week when it came to aid for his own Virginia House district, which was the epicenter of the East Coast’s unlikely earthquake.
Asked Tuesday about offsetting hurricane aid, White House press secretary Jay Carney went out of his way to note that Republicans, Cantor included, didn’t object when the Bush administration spent money it didn’t have on tax cuts, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Medicare prescription drug coverage.
“I guess I can’t help but say that I wish that commitment to looking for offsets had been held by the House majority leader and others, say, during the previous administration when they ran up unprecedented bills … and never paid for them,” Carney said.
You’re telling me there’s no metaphorical hostage-taking here? Fuck that.
For shame, Republican party. This is a new low.
(hint: it’s about “hurricane hype” … you’re gonna hear a lot about it this week)
Nevertheless, somehow Irene still wasn’t damaging enough, and so we’re going to hear about how politicians were covering their $#^@, scaring people when they didn’t have to.
Not only is this idiotic—it’s downright dangerous.
Nobody can perfectly forecast how a storm is going to turn out or where it is going to go—not even the experts. This storm clearly posed a very serious threat to New York, and while it certainly could have been worse, that’s precisely the point. We err on the side of caution. We warn people strenuously because to under-warn them would be unforgivable.
Even worse, if this narrative about hurricane “overhyping” takes hold, it could utterly distract from the real take-away from this storm experience. Namely: This was a test run for a much worse storm that will someday come and threaten New York. And the test run proved that we’re not remotely ready.
The image I’ve posted above shows the cumulative tracks of all Atlantic hurricanes on record. As you can see, there is virtually no part of the East Coast that has not gotten hit at some time or other.
New York will be hit again, and it will be hit worse. It is only a matter of time.
And while the city may have withstood Irene relatively well, it will not, with its current defenses, withstand a direct hit from a stronger storm with a bigger storm surge. And if that storm comes and New York isn’t ready, we could have a scenario even worse than Katrina.
So while the journalists are talking about “hype,” here’s what we should actually be discussing:
(via DeSmog Blog)
Vermont is underwater. Loads of people lost their homes along the coast. I’m sorry, that’s not bad? You coulda fooled me.
Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann told Floridians Sunday that Hurricane Irene and the earthquake felt along much of the East Coast last week were messages from God to warn “politicians” to start heeding divine guidance, which she suggested is being channeled through small government conservatives.
“I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’” Bachmann, a third-term Minnesota congresswoman, told a crowd in Sarasota that the St. Petersburg Times estimated contained around 1,000 people
Billy Stinson comforts his daughter, Erin, as they sit on the steps where their cottage once stood in Nags Head, North Carolina. The home, built in 1903 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was destroyed by Hurricane Irene. (Photo: Getty Images via the New York Post)
From tragedy, an amazing work of photojournalism.
The U.S. Electric Grid vs Extreme Weather: Hurricane Irene has shown us how well disaster prep can work in densely populated areas like the East Coast. There were a minimal number of deaths from the storm directly, but 4 million are/were without power.
That’s because of the way our power grid is interconnected, with hundreds of thousands of miles of high-voltage wires, and millions of miles of distribution lines.
Because of today’s connected grid, utilities are able to supply electricity to large areas with fewer power plants. Further, these connections make it easier for operators to balance supply and demand in the case of unexpected outages. But, this grid has also created a lot of expensive infrastructure that is susceptible to damage in extreme weather events.
In 2008, between $500 and $600 million was spent in region surrounding New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Gustav damaged local electrical facilities. Four years earlier, Hurricane Ivan caused power outages from Venezuela to Canada – resulting in another huge price tag. It is reasonable to expect that, out of the $7 billion in estimated damages from Irene, a significant percentage of this total will be spent on bringing power back to the communities hit by the storm.
THE ROADLESS TRAVEL The road literally peeled away in Lake Placid, upstate New York, thanks to the effects of tropical storm Irene. Essex County declared a state of emergency with more than 100 roads closed due to flooding and more than 9,100 residents without power. (Photo: Mike Lynch / Adirondack Daily Enterprise via the AP / MSNBC.com)