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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 09:00 AM ET, 08/26/2011

Hurricane Irene: Path to urgency

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley yesterday afternoon described Hurricane Irene to reporters: “This is a large, this is a deadly, this is a slow-moving hurricane that is bearing down on the state of Maryland,” said O’Malley, who has declared a state of emergency. “There will no doubt be a lot of flooding. Citizens should anticipate long periods of electrical outages.”

The italics are thrown in there to highlight O’Malley’s gift for emphasis. There’s plenty of data to justify the alarm in his words: According to all the weather models, Irene is a beast, even though it recently lost a bit of steam.

A survey of media storm coverage reveals a reluctance to embrace the O’Malley standard. Herewith a roundup showing how media organizations are describing the storm, complete with an O’Malley Category ruling.

Washington Post: “If the hurricane stays on track, the worst of Irene will arrive in Virginia, Maryland and the District later Saturday and into Sunday morning. Late-summer vacationers evacuated Atlantic coast beaches, which are expected to be hit hardest before the storm wallops New England.”

Ruling: O’Malley Category 1. “Wallops” is a good, strong word but doesn’t come near the governor’s apocalyptic language.

New York Times: “The hurricane center has placed veritable bull’s-eyes on Wilmington, N.C.; Virginia Beach; Atlantic City; and New York City, jolting beachgoers and old-timers alike.”

Ruling: O’Malley Category 2. “veritable bull’s-eye” is some loaded language, as this country’s ideologues know all too well.

Washington Examiner: “‘It will be some of the worst weather that I can remember,’ Accuweather’s Brian Edwards told the Examiner. ‘We’re anticipating high winds, widespread power outages, trees coming down and rapidly rising streams and creeks.’”

Ruling: O’Malley Category 3. Whenever you can get some weather guy to play games with past, present, and future tenses a la Gabriel Garcia Marquez, you’re doing your job.

WUSA-Channel 9: “OCEAN CITY, Md. (WUSA) - 9NEWS NOW reporter Scott Broom said Ocean City’s mayor and city council are calling for a mandatory evacuation of Ocean City beginning at midnight.”

Ruling: O’Malley Category 4. Key words here are “9NEWS NOW.” All-caps presenation infuses all subsequent writing with edge and urgency. Governor would be proud.

WJLA-Channel 7: “Weather Channel anchor says this has the possibililty to become ‘the hurricane of our lifetime.’”

Ruling: O’Malley Category 3. Aggregating hysteria from another outlet — fancy footwork there. If it peters out on the Outer Banks, let the Weather Channel take the heat.

Wall Street Journal: “Tourists steadily departed the Outer Banks on Thursday, posting parting shots of the sunny beach on their Facebook pages. At Hatteras Island Pet Resort, owner Andrea Brothers said goodbye to the 12 animals she had been caring for this week as their tourist owners left, and she began prepping the kennels to shelter animals after the storm, in case the county shelter needs space on the island.”

Ruling: O’Malley Category 1. Well-managed doggie daycare anecdote doesn’t move you to run for sandbags.

Miami Herald: “Experts warned of an ‘extremely dangerous’ storm surge that could raise water levels as much as 11 feet above ground level in North Carolina, 8 feet above ground level in the Chesapeake Bay and 6 feet above ground level along the Jersey Shore. The waves, they said, would be ‘large, destructive and life threatening.’”

Ruling: O’Malley Category 5. Anonymous “experts” touting mayhem? Can’t beat that.

ABC News: “Erica Jackson, a guest at the [Dayton House Resort in Myrtle Beach, S.C.] from Bristol, Tenn., planned to have her dream beach wedding through the Myrtle Beach Wedding Chapel on Friday and stay in town until Sunday. Instead, her family decided to push the wedding to Wednesday evening and drove back to Tennessee on Thursday. ‘It has always been my dream since I was a little girl to get married on the beach,’ she said.”

Ruling: O’Malley Category 3. Storm must be pretty strong to temporarily dash such dreams.

More PostLocal Hurricane Irene resources:

Full Hurricane Irene coverage with tracker, maps, and projections.

Live updates throughout the day.

A live chat with the Capital Weather Gang on Hurricane Irene.

By  |  09:00 AM ET, 08/26/2011

 
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