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The Ministry of Fear reports on the weather

[Welcome, Naked Capitalism readers! --lambert]

Does this look familiar?

The Department of Homeland Security only went up to "extreme," but weather.com turns the knobs all the way up to "catastrophic"!

This is really disgraceful (and I far prefer the fact-based coverage at Weather Underground). I think that MsExPat, now in Manhattan, has the right of it in comments, which I will now hoist:

I have a rather different take on all of this. I've lived on the eastern seaboard, near New York City, all my life, and we've had severe hurricanes before. But never has NY been evacuated by mayoral fiat, nor has the public transportation system ever been shut down completely, as it was fifteen minutes ago (with the storm now downgraded to a Cat 1, and hundreds of miles away, still, from NY).

Think about it: people are being forced into evacuation, yet the entire public transport system was shut down at least 8 hours before the storm arrives! Counter-intuitive, or what?

I don't think that what's going on has anything to do with my safety. I see it as "Natural Disaster Theater", very akin to "Security Theater." Fear is one of the tools that the powers that be use to distract us from the very real and present threats to our well being--like the unpunished theft of trillions of our dollars. Natural disasters are opportunities to manipulate and ratchet up the fear/control of the masses. And that's what were seeing now. Not a hurricane: a fear opportunity....

I do not think it is entirely a coincidence that this hysterical disaster theater event is taking place just as the 9/11 tenth anniversary media nostalgia juggernaut is beginning to ramp up...

Do you know what the city just did? They are shutting down all the elevators in public housing that's within the evacuation zone "for the tenants' safety". How the f!@^!%$ is it safe for them if they can't leave their homes? Also, Con Ed is "pre-emptively" shutting down power to buildings in Zone 1, the so-called storm surge zone.

Who lives in the storm surge zone? Well, interestingly, that's where a huge number of housing projects are located--Red Hook, the far lower east side. The elites of New York have always lived slightly inland (the coastal areas, until recently, were industrial--working ports, so only the humble lived around there).

It's one thing when the first class passengers crowd the steerage folks out of the lifeboats; that's just human nature. But disabling the lifeboats -- or, in this case, the subways and the elevators -- entirely? That's cold.

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goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

Yeah, they're probably overdoing it. But I have my portable battery, headlight flashlight and plenty of rum just in case.
If I were to gusss why the all of the extreme measures are being taken, it would be that the insurance industry is insisting on it. It's probably told bloomberg that it's going to cost the city in premiums if anything goes wrong. Or maybe there's a clause that says they're not going to pay out if the city didn't do absolutely everything to minimize the risks. Wanna take some bets?

Submitted by jawbone on

Meteorologist on WNYC said there were 30-40 foot waves when Irene hit land -- he said all that water is also being pushed north (as I understood what he said. Weather mavens?) and will arrive just east of NYC at the time of the new moon high tides. So, that will result in flooding in areas which have not in recorded memory had such flooding.

Right now, the winds in NJ are pushing the water away from the coast--due to winds from the north going almost due south. Around Long Island, the Long Island Sound, the East River, the winds are acting like a huge hand pushing water into the Battery area, the Rockaways, then also pushing the water to the east of end of Long Island Sound from where it will makes its way against the east side of Manhattan.

There is some science behind all the hype. Per this meteorologist, this is what had been feared the most. Hence the evac orders. Albeit, I do get the feeling this was a dress rehearsal for getting people to evacuate when told to do so.

BTW, ConEd will be shutting down power to part os the city which get flooded -- to save equipment in buildings and ConEd's own equipment. Is bcz it's salt water?

Stephanie's picture
Submitted by Stephanie on

...in 2005, New Orleans, La, before Katrina, they closed the airports, bus terminals, shut down the trains, and THEN told everyone to evacuate. So, if you had no car, as lots of poor folks don't, how on earth do you get out? (and then the people who couldn't get out, got Blamed for staying!! wtf)

I don't live (knocking on wood) in area prone to a disaster that might require evacuation (near city Chgo burbs). But since 2005, every time I hear that people are to evacuate, I wonder where are they able to go? Where could I go in such an event? Everyone I know is nearby -- probably in the same evacuation area -- no out of town friends or relatives (I guess I live a very sheltered life) to visit and and hole up with.

Where can people go? (if they even have the means to get there?) I saw that NYC is using schools for shelters, but how many people can they hold and for how long? I recall the stadium in New Orleans, packed.

Anyhow, my heart goes out to people who have to go, with no where to go to.

Submitted by Lex on

Leaving aside the cynicism for the moment, there are rational reasons for cutting power before it's cut by nature.

It's not about lines to houses or pole transformers for small areas, they want switchyards and ground transformers cold, because if those go down in an uncontrolled fashion they're way harder to bring back on line. Plus they lose control of large portions of the grid.

If you've ever seen a residential line fall while hot, it makes a pretty good show. That's relatively low voltage. In a switchyard the minimum voltage is 138,000. Those kinds of lines and the breakers attached to them start crossing/arcing or falling and it's a pretty big mess. Not only does it take a lot to get them sorted and back up, but the work requires very specialized electricians.

And if they start arcing, nobody can go into the yard anyhow...at least not until it blows up other switchyards further up the grid and goes cold. Finally, replacing oil filled ground breakers is a heavy equipment job.

So the rational reasoning is that by shutting down, they can get the grid back up faster after the storm. Turn off areas with downed lines and power all the rest back up and concentrate on fixing residential delivery rather than having to fix the larger grid before they can even get to the residential.

...or they could just be helping The Man instill the fear that leads to obedience.

Submitted by lambert on

I understand the issue in the abstract, but the timing seems extremely odd to me.

MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on

It's true that they wanted to protect the system by shutting of the power hubs they thought would be flooded.

But originally, they announced they would be doing this 12 hours before the storm even got close to New York City.

After an hour or two, Con Ed walked it back and said they'd "monitor the situation" and that perhaps they might turn the power off pre-emptively in a limited part of Manhattan, later. (And they didn't do it--the storm surge here was way less than the fearmongers had predicted).

I haven't been able to confirm but I think that elevators in public housing complexes in the evacuation zone were indeed turned off. The city really wanted to move people out of their homes, and they had more tools to do that, obviously, with the people in public housing.

Submitted by Lex on

And i'm not making excuses for ConEd or Bloomberg, but these things don't just turn off and on exactly.

Unless they were shutting down power by taking sources off line, and even this takes quite a while in a coal plant (don't know about gas but i assume less time), a lot of those ground breakers in switchyards are manually connected. It's is quite literally a giant copper bar, hinged on one end and able to force fit into the other end.

You'd be surprised how often a power plant goes into code red and has to start running emergency procedures/preparations. Far less severe weather will initiate those protocols, especially if there's worry about major grid malfunctions. If plants are producing at capacity and then there's nowhere to put the electricity, you've got problems...like trying to put out a coal boiler fire before it blows up.

But, i still think that a large portion of this is generating fear to instill obedience.

Submitted by lambert on

... see RD here for a hard-hit area.

What I'm trying to get at is the super-addition of hysteria and weather porn and something approaching gaslighting. It was a bad tropical storm, and this was known since landfall in NC. I don't need the extra, artificially generated agita on top of what I've already got to worry about.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

it really looks like Bloomberg wants to kill poor people.

jumpjet's picture
Submitted by jumpjet on

I don't know about the rest of you, but I just shrug my shoulders. I don't think I'd be phased by a genuine terrorist attack at this point.

I can't be the only one who's become immune to terror theater.

Submitted by Lex on

I have to figure that my immunity is genetic, because i found the whole 9/11! 9/11! thing shoulder shrugging on 9/11.

Maybe i'm just not a good patriot because i don't have the tribalism and fear necessary for the right tone of nationalism.

Submitted by WRhouse on

but I've got two trees that could cause major damage to my house if they're blown over. As for the color coding - eh- they were used by meteorologist to explain danger and rainfall for years before 9/11. Oh and Tornados sighted in Northern Delaware and Southern New Jersey and they just announced tornado warnings for Phillys' Manayunk section moving north and that an inch of rain has just fallen in the last 15 min.

Submitted by lambert on

I have an identical concern, worry, fear about my own trees.

What I object to is the manipulation and fear mongering. It's disgusting.

Submitted by WRhouse on

Well lucked out again, just a few branches/limbs from the dying maple near the driveway on the left side of the house plus car tail light debris and a badly bent chain-link fence pole that some moron hit while out driving early this morning (3am) while it was still raining. I still haven't heard from my sister - no answer on phone - who may have flooding problems.

I guess what is bothering me about some of the posts here is that because NYC took precautions based on what they had to work with, and then the worst case didn't happen they were TOTALLY fear mongering. Well Mayor Nutter in Philly (and some of the mayors in the surrounding areas) took some of the same precautions, (you know another MAJOR city on the east coast) and it's a good thing he did. Look I'm sorry NYC didn't get slammed but a lot of other places did, and if NYC had gotten pounded and the power grid fried would you be as upset with the moves taken.

Submitted by lambert on

... to take precautions.

And I still want an answer on Bloomberg's timing. If somebody's talking about Nutter here, I missed it; Nutter isn't thinking of running for Preznit, after all, so he makes different moves and may even be a good mayor, who knows?

Fear is the mindkiller...

Submitted by WRhouse on

and perhaps I am, but even if you don't care for Bloomberg or his timing he couldn't order up a Hurricane. As for Nutter, well he ordered much of the same thing for Philly that Bloomie ordered for NYC, it's just in his case the water problems, power outages, and downed trees happened, so for our area the weather porn actually came true.

Still, you're right Nutter isn't running for governor or president, so he wouldn't get any bonus super fund raising point for letting his prison population drown.

p.s. didn't Weather Underground have widgets for AC or Philadelphia during the height of the storm? (Poughkeepsie - really)

Submitted by lambert on

Keeps me on my toes. I added widgets for cities in the track and when it was over Philly I was elsewhere in RL. Poughkeepsie because that was the nearest spot at the time -- and rather a statement, really.

I don't deny the seriousness -- I'm chewing my hands over my own trees. I just don't need the additional angst around the whole story, which IMNSHO has a very different agenda from our safety.

MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on

The NYT City Blog, interestingly, is reporting that only 9,600 people are in the shelters, most of them from Rockaway Beach.

They also report a city spokesperson saying that between 20 and 50 percent of public housing tenants in the "Zone A" evacuation area refused to move. I'm thinking the figure has to be higher than that. According to the NYT, 370,000 people live in the evacuation areas. Only 9,600 are in the city shelters.

New Yorkers are not stupid. They could see through this one.

MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on

When I went out to get coffee earlier (yes, the rain and wind have pretty much stopped and the coffeeshops and Korean delis are open), I got a bad shock: the lovely old Linden tree in front of my building went down. The roots were soaked from all the rain we had last week plus this storm, and to be sure, it was not in very healthy shape anyway. When my coop replaced the sidewalk a few months ago, the roots probably got jostled around.

I'm very sad--the tree was so fragrant when it bloomed in June, and it really was pretty. It feels like an old friend died.

I'm trying not to gloat about the fact it went down on somebody's Prius. Yes, I'm a terrible person.

Mr. Kim, the owner of the neighborhood Korean grocery, just finished cutting it into smaller pieces with his chainsaw. The big neighborhood myster now is why in the world Mr. Kim keeps a chainsaw in his Korean deli.

Submitted by Lex on

Quick work of veggie prepping for kimchi?

That is sad about the Linden and funny about the Prius. After nearly two years in Korea, i stopped questioning why Koreans do the things they do...as far as i'm concerned, the invention of kimchi gives them pretty much carte blanche for the rest of human history.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

For years now, a local sports talker (Dan Barriero) has been railing against what he calls "Weather Terrorists" and admonishing people to "not let the terrorists win". It's all been in good fun, but sometimes, they really can go too far.

So maybe this is a weather terrorism truther scenario, the government is behind the weather terrorists, working with them to take away more of our freedoms, and as an excuse to wreck our economy.

Either that, or it's just a ratings push and over-reacting bureaucrats....

MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on

I was thinking this morning about Hurricane Donna, a Category 3 hurricane which passed through New York when I was very small. I still remember it--the scary howling of the wind, the way the windows of our just-built suburban tract house shook in their frames. It set the benchmark for me for a hurricane.

Well, I just looked up the archives on Donna in New York City. It had SUSTAINED winds of 90mph (Irene barely broke 50mph in gusts), 5-6 inches of rain and a storm surge in NYC of 11 feet, twice that of Irene.

Did NYC shut down all its transit 12 hours in advance of Donna? No. Did it force people to evacuate? No. Was there damage, Yeah, a lot, and lower Manhattan streets were flooded. But the damage was cleared, insurance claims made, and people got on with it.

What are the differences between then and now? Well, in 1960 of course we didn't have a hysterical hyped up media that depends on a 15 second news cycle. But there are other fundamental things that are different in the cultures, and the New York City of now and 50 years ago.

We didn't have a culture of internal, domestic fear then--the big scary items all had to do with threats from far away, from nuclear war and the Soviets. We also had a more reliable infrastructure.

Looking at the latest sad tree (this is the third) fallen on my Brooklyn street, I realized that the trees aren't just falling because of the weather. They're falling because our city's trees are yet another part of the public culture, the infrastructure, that has been neglected. I'm sure that part of the reason why the city was so quick to shut down the subways, as well, is because of 1. the fact that they are running on duct tape and WD40 these days due to budget constraints and 2. They figured it would be more cost-effective to pull out all the trains, rather than risk the cost of repairing them in case they did get damaged by flooding.

The subways shut down early because in 2011 (unlike 1960) New York City couldn't afford NOT to shut them down.

Submitted by jawbone on

Guy evacuated his family from Long Beach, Long Island (iirc), to a hotel in Green County, NY. Instead of respite, he is now trapped on the top floor of the hotel with a total of 21 other people due to flooding from the heavy rains and a breach of a nearby reservoir. They had no electricity, no radio or TV (obviously), and were calling in to a NYC TV station asking them to contact local authorities to assist them in getting out of the hotel.

The man had brought some food and beverages, but was alarmed that there had been no contact by local authorities. And his cell phone was losing its charge....

The TV station called the local authorities and asked them to assist these trapped people.

Out of the storm surge and into the inland flood. Poor guy.

Here in northern NJ suboonia, I was beginning to replace some things on the front porch as the sun came out, let the cat outside, and figured we'd made it through OK. Then a huge gust of wind really stirred up the trees, but did not continue to blow strongly.

I was on the street talking to a neighbor, discussing how glad we were the electricity was not affected, when we got another huge gust of wind, heard a loud cracking noise, and, before our eyes, a huge branch from a very tall, mature tree came crashing down in another neighbor's yard. It hit a garden shed, but missed the house.

My neighbor and I looked at each other, and almost simultaneously said, "Maybe we should go back indoors...." The poor boy cat was hiding under the furniture cover I'd put over the outdoor table and chairs, but came out in a flash (he doesn't move all that fast as he's very ill, but he did this time) to get back inside.

That was about 2PM -- and the winds haven't let up since then -- steady strong winds with big gusts. Electricity has flickered many times, but staying on.

It's the tail end of the storm, but, dang, it is more than I'd imagined it would be. Especially as the reports were that the northern half was unusually stronger than souther half. The storm did pretty much disintegrate, but, wow it sure still has a kick.

Maybe the earlier predictions the storm would be here until 6PM were spot on.

Right now a woman is calling in to WNYC to say there's very little reporting about the ongoing ill effects of the storm on upstate NY. Massive flooding in the lower Hudson Valley, apparently.

May those in the reach of this thing be safe.

BTW, my insurance agent told me there was an extra deductible for hurricane related losses (I think it was $1000) on top of the regular deductible. I forgot to ask if that applied to tropical storm damages. This could mean some interesting discussions between insurers and the insured about just when Irene went from hurricane to tropical storm....