Rita Update- Friday 8:00 p.m.

It has started to rain, although not hard (yet). The wind comes in gusts, but nothing like we were expecting (so far). I don’t want to jinx us, but it seems like we may be spared the horrible storm we were expecting. I’m not ready to relax yet, but it is starting to feel a little better

The news indicates that the hurricane continues to move eastward towards Lousiana. In fact the weatherman on channel 13 just said that it’s possible the entire eye of the hurricane may land east of the Louisiana line. This is the same guy who usually tries to scare us to death, so if he’s saying that, it must be true.

We’re still expecting a severe storm, but with every passing hour, we become more hopeful that this will not be as bad as we expected.

Now, my take on the media and its “scare tactics.” First of all, most people will only hear the good news in a mixed news story. As a result, the media and the government leaders probably have to turn up the scare volume in order to get the message across. Having said that, I felt yesterday and last night that some of the newscasters and writers were going a bit overboard in their analysis.

In particular, I thought Eric Berger, who writes a blog for the Houston Chronicle that I generally enjoy, was at times a little over the top. Take this post, for example:

“Unless the storm turns south or north in the next 24 to 48 hours we are set up for a truly horrific event. I am not going to sugar-coast this, my friends. If the storm comes ashore as forecast, it would essentially be the worst-case scenario described here.”

Again, he has to tell it like he sees it, and as a blogger he has greater latitude to express his feelings and personal perspective (that’s what makes blogs an improved method of news delivery), but as someone who, at the time, was at home alone preparing to ride out a category 5 direct hit, I didn’t need any help being nervous.

Some folks are already being critical of the media, and I think a lot of the criticism is logically sound. But here’s my thing:

(a) There are never enough rules and models to plan for this sort of thing.

(b) As mentioned above, people need to be told very bad news to hear moderately bad news.

(c) People were, in general, doing the best they could. I especially thought Mayor White did a good job.

(d) In hindsight, everyone should have seen the evacuation traffic and gas problems as 100% inevitable. All of those people have to get back home via those same roads, so let’s not stop thinking about traffic and gas for a while.

(e) We have a culture of fear in this country that is propagated mainly by the media because the media believes, rightly or wrongly, that scary things bring higher ratings. Watch any newscast, even when there’s not a hurricane coming, and note how many scary stories there are. I believe this is a major problem in our country, but it has nothing to do with hurricanes.

We have been very lucky so far. That’s what matters the most, and we are thankful.

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