Last Friday, @joepawl had a thought about pre-Irene hype. He threw it out there on Twitter:
If this storm doesn't flip cars, I'm boycotting The Weather Channel.
After the storm had ripped through @joepawl’s New Jersey turf, I asked him whether he was ready to make good on that threat. His response:
@ErikWemple "A storm the likes of which we have never seen." Yeah, I think I can stand to find my weather info elsewhere.
Irene led to more than 20 deaths and cut off electricity for millions. It’s now flooding New England and upstate New York. Yet a consensus has formed that the coverage was overheated. A common theme of the Sunday stories on Irene’s impact was that few of the pre-landfall fears had materialized.
What does the Weather Channel have to say about all this? Was it one of the outlets guilty of over-selling Irene? The Erik Wemple Blog yesterday put a few questions to the extremely responsive folks down in Atlanta. Here’s a transcript of the exchange:
Question: Given what you’ve seen of Irene’s impact on the East coast, what’s your assessment of how on-target your pre-landfall coverage was?
The Weather Channel: Irene was one of the largest (size-wise) hurricanes ever, which, when combined with its long and slow track through the heavily populated Northeast U.S., put an extraordinarily large number of people at risk from its effects. One of our primary missions is to keep people informed of severe weather and all its potential threats. We did that with this storm and based all of our decisions on the facts available to us from our team of over 200 meterologists and scientists.
Question: Are there any things you would have tweaked?
The Weather Channel: We always eveaulate how we can do our jobs better and will do so with this storm as well, but we are proud of our coverage and confident we helped keep the public informed and save some lives.
Question: Did the storm do anything that surprised you folks?
The Weather Channel: According to our scientists and meteorologists, the unusal characteristics of Irene in terms of size, central pressure and duration, combined with how rare it is to have hurricanes impact this particular part of the country (particularly NYC), limited our ability to call upon anecdotes and other past history to determine what specific impacts to expect from this storm.