As Hurricane Gustav heads towards the Louisiana coast line, I feel a sense of dread in the pit of my stomach. My heart goes out to the people in the storm's path, and it seems so completely unfair and unjustified that New Orleans should bear the brunt of another huge storm, especially so soon after Hurricane Katrina. It's only been 3 years ago. New Orleans tried to hard to rebuild, to bring tourists back, to bring their city back to the former glory it once was. It seemed they were making progress. It seemed that life, though different, was returning to normal. For the rest of us, it's a sobering reminder of the scope of our own silly problems, and a call to a realization to be grateful for what we have.
And now, another monster storm heads that way. For people in the hurricane belt, we can't help but feel grateful that it's someone else's problem, but I think it affects us more knowing that same fate could be ours someday. It infuriates me to see reporters and ambulance chasers running into the storm while the real people, the ones whose lives are directly impacted, run the other way. All those "cool" video feeds and photographs and reporters blowing sideways in the wind have no respect for the people who don't get to turn the channel when it's all said and done. When it's old news and everyone's salivating over the Presidential election again, they're the ones who'll be picking up the pieces of the battered homes you see on t.v.
On that note, yesterday I emailed Mark Sudduth, founder of hurricanetrack.com. I was very upset by his blog and the fact he made no mention of how dangerous it is to go plowing into an oncoming storm. He was very responsive and professional in his return email, which gave me hope for the integrity of people. I get very upset when I see sensationalism and disrespect for these storms, and I'm glad at least one hurricane tracker seems to understand that.
Here's what I wrote to him:
I'm a regular reader of hurricanetrack.com and have even ordered several posters from you in the past. I enjoy your blog-- especially the emphasis you always place on hurricane awareness and how crucial it is that people in the danger areas pay attention to the forecasts and evacuate when they're told. That being said, I have to ask since your latest blog does not clarify-- are you going to New Orleans to set up your instruments and leave before Gustav arrives, or are you planning to stay for the duration of the storm? I realize you have a responsibility to your readers, especially now that you are offering these premium services and have corporate sponsorship, but with that I hope you realize how much of an influence you have on other people and their actions. How can you lecture people over and over again about the importance of heeding the evacuation order when every time a new storm threatens the United States, you go plowing towards it? I respect what you've built and accomplished as a fellow amateur storm tracker, but frankly, in particular with very dangerous Hurricane Gustav, it's irresponsible. Not because I don't think you know what you're doing, but because you're encouraging others to do the same thing even though that's not your intention. I'm sure you'll continue doing what you're doing, and will do it well, but I hope you will take the time to acknowledge in your blog for the thousands of people that listen to you and respect you that going towards a storm when emergency management is telling people to get out is not the best thing to do. Personally, I get pissed off anytime I see some reporter being blown sideways in the middle of hurricane force winds, but they do it for sensationalism and there's no way to get the point across to them. For you though, I hope you will remember why you started doing this in the first place, and that putting yourself or other people in danger isn't worth the photos and video clips that will come out of it. Respect these storms with your actions, not what your write in your blog, and remember this is real life to these poor people that are going to be affected by this storm, not just some really cool video feed.
And his response:
Your email makes very good sense. Believe me, the equipment we have developed with allow us to not be in harm's way during the worst part of the hurricane. Perhaps I should mention this more in my write ups, that we have an un-manned system of gathering data and video. I should also mention how we use the video to match up with the wind data recorded. Getting in to more technical details about our work is a good idea and should help to convey a message that it is dangerous, we do take it seriously but that our mission is to gather info, data and video of the event in a manner that is safe.
Thank you for taking the time to express your concerns- we appreciate that. We really appreciate the time folks like you take to help steer us in the right direction. I made a good statement on the update just put on about people that are refusing to leave. Some are quite stubborn- we won't be, as soon as we set up our gear, we will retreat to a hotel inland and remain much safer.