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Sunday, September 10, 2017


Into the eye

by Tom Sullivan

The live cams in the Florida Keys were offline this morning. But even until dark, an occasional pedestrian wandered into Mallory Square in Key West to test the weather by the ship docks. Two men in a pickup truck pulled away late in the day. To go where is anyone's guess.

By the time this post goes live, Hurricane Irma will have come ashore on the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm. The storm surge could overtop many of the islands. The New York Times reported just before 7 a.m. EDT:

The storm’s eye was on track to hit the Lower Keys between 7 and 8 a.m., the National Hurricane Center said in its 5 a.m. Eastern advisory.

The storm, which was about 30 miles offshore around 6 a.m., was expected to rake the state’s west coast — a change from earlier predictions — leaving some residents and officials scrambling to find shelter. The new track could expose St. Petersburg — not Miami or even Tampa — to a direct hit.

St. Petersburg, like Tampa, has not taken a head-on blow from a major hurricane in nearly a century, according to The Associated Press.
When Andrew hit Florida as a Category 5 storm in 1992, it traversed the peninsula from east to west. Irma at 400 miles wide is broader than the Florida peninsula. Traveling south to north, Irma will staying a while.

In Naples, Florida, Don Wingard eyed the surf as he waited (Tampa Bay Times):
"Everybody thinks it's going to hit everywhere," he said. "Just think how many millions of people have been scared in the last week."

The owner of three homes, Wingard said he has been through hurricanes before, but Irma is huge and projections say it could linger for a frightening amount of time. "I've never been through a hurricane for 24 hours," he said.
Fear has become a defining characteristic of life in America since September 11, interrupted by the brief glimmers of hope declared by Shepard Fairey's posters and Barack Obama's inauguration. But there are more people peddling fear. Marc Fisher and Perry Stein explain for the Washington Post:
Fear is in the water these days, spread with a new and viral efficiency on social media into everyone’s homes and everyone’s pockets at all hours, every day. There are so many fears and faux fears making people jittery that it has taken a special effort to get some Americans to pay proper attention to Irma, a storm whose danger is obvious to the naked eye.
The trick, they write, is to use it to motivate people just enough to get them to act, but not enough to induce panic.
But in the cacophony of the final hours before landfall, not every voice was calming or clear. On the radio, Rush Limbaugh earlier in the week argued that the storm was being hyped for mercenary reasons — megastorms win huge audiences for the news media, pumping up profits: “These storms, once they actually hit, are never as strong as they’re reported,” Limbaugh said, describing TV graphics that “have been created to make it look like the ocean’s having an exorcism, just getting rid of the devil here in the form of this hurricane, this bright red stuff.”

On the Internet, Alex Jones gave his Infowars audience one more conspiracy theory to consider: the notion that “globalists” and scientists eager to prove that climate change is wreaking havoc with the world might somehow be manipulating the weather. After all, he said, wasn’t it strange that Irma and Harvey arrived just as a Hollywood movie, “Geostorm,” about the government altering the weather, is about to premiere?
"Back on planet Earth," they continue, people prepare and strap in. It's just sad that it takes a natural disaster to bring out the community in communities.

Sasha Abramsky, author of “Jumping at Shadows: The Triumph of Fear and the End of the American Dream,” tells the Post that for many politicians, "it’s easier to bring people together with fear." Abramsky continues, “[F]ear provides a sense of community. If I have a bunch of fears myself, I have an anxiety disorder. But if my wife and friends and neighbors share those fears, suddenly we have a community of fear.”

Across the Net this morning, that is evident. It's just nice to know some people don't lose their heads over a little wind, flooding, and life-threatening conditions (from yesterday):

The question is whether the federal government has the capacity left to respond to Irma on the heels of Harvey. From Politico:
“After years of austerity politics, it’s not clear that the government is adequately staffed or prepared to address the catastrophe on the Gulf Coast and whatever happens in Florida,” said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at McGladrey, a consultancy. “Priorities need to be set.”
But not to worry. The administration has its top people are working on it. The best people:
“The federal government should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert told reporters. “I’m pretty comfortable in our ability and capacity as leaders and also as institutions.”
That's comforting.

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