Commentary: The Need to Cry Wolf

As Hurricane Ignacio edges northward, Civil Defense has decided, on the eve of its passing, to leave county shelters closed and conduct county business as usual tomorrow. Barring an unforeseen turn of events, buses will run tomorrow, the county offices will stay open, and this reporter will be showing up at 9 a.m. for jury duty in Hilo. The National Weather Service has announced, Hurricane Ignacio is now forecast to move further north and east of the islands. The National Weather Services’ most recent announcement: “Due to the much reduced threat of tropical storm force winds for Maui county and the Big Island, all tropical storm watches have been discontinued.”

I’m glad, of course–but getting a bit professionally concerned. How many times can we in the press–and the National Weather Service, for that matter–play the boy who cried wolf? The Weather Service keeps posting these scary maps a week in advance, with the storm’s Cone of Probability pointed straight at our island, and then, once everybody’s in a lather, we get a new forecast that shows the storm veering north (this year; in the past, it’s often been south). If we downplay those initial reports and the storm hits, somebody could die. If we keep reporting them and they keep not happening, though, people could get blase, and when one actually hits–again, somebody could die …. It’s a delicate balancing act, trying to cry just the right amount of  wolf.

To make things even more complicated, there’s the Iselle experience, which proved just how vulnerable we can be to even a relatively weak storm. This island simply doesn’t have the robust infrastructure that the mainland does; there’s no nationwide power grid to tap into, and few alternate routes, and we can’t just pack up the kids and pets and drive out to the relatives in another state for the weekend. The only way we can compensate for those inherent weaknesses is to be thoroughly, personally aware and prepared.

So storm reporting remains a serious business. We’ve been very fortunate that so few have actually hit, but when one does–and we will run out of luck, eventually–we have to be ready.

And yes, there’s another powerful hurricane coming on in Ignacio’s wake.  My boss is going through some minor surgery this week, and I’ve got the aforementioned jury duty. But as those other commitments allow, we’ll try to keep you apprised of Jimena’s progress.

Let’s hope that it, too, will turn aside in the last hours.

–Alan McNarie

8 replies
  1. Handyman
    Handyman says:

    Thank you for all that you do Alan McNarie. It is vital for those of us in Puna to have as much venues as possible when it comes to not having a TV, radio or a subscription to the local news paper.

    Natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, fires and hurricanes can be life threatening and fatal when uninformed.


  2. puna dude
    puna dude says:

    Perhaps had the writer abandoned the NOAA site for a through examination of the marvelous tools available on there would be no need for complaint.

    From studying it was pretty obvious last week Ignacio would miss us and that Kilo would miss us as well the week before.

  3. James Weatherford
    James Weatherford says:

    Really, Alan, “crying wolf” would seem to be the call when the crier knows there is no wolf and has not helpful purpose in mind.
    When you provide updates on the most recent hurricane or the next hurricane or whatever else, it is because there indeed is a ‘wolf’ and we need to know about it.


  4. Puna Ohana
    Puna Ohana says:

    Do we need to know about it? Years ago we didn’t have the web, and local news was as it is now, if you watch TV. News papers are only good for puppy poop as whatever is written is already known, IF you have a computer, which everyone reading this does.
    LOL it’s the same as any other news on TV, sensationalized for story content. Malika interviewed me after Iselle and so what? Trees fell down, like they always do, just in a lot more places besides my line, which happens all the time because there a thousands of albizias throughout the area.
    No one from the county came out to clean up around here, no one is cutting the albizias hanging over lines and homes NOW. So what’s new in Puna. lol
    When the thunder and lightening came a few days ago, a forecast would not have made any difference.
    SOS, just a different day.

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *