The Nation's Pulse

Stormy Weather

Sandy must be real, if our president is hunkered down at the White House, watching the Weather Channel.

By 10.30.12

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Even after deducting 30 percent for media exaggeration, Sandy will be a horrendous event with human suffering and financial costs of near Biblical proportions. So we can take this seriously, and extend our prayers to those in harm's way, while still questioning why we must endure the additional storm of clichés without number from the media and the stylized form of storm coverage.

Viewers visiting The Weather Channel, or just about any other TV news program, will surely encounter the young correspondent strapped to a utility pole, or staggering down a beach, while being lashed by wind and rain. He will tell us in the most serious tone that the wind is rising and the rain is coming down, which any fool could see without Jasper saying a word, or even being there, where he will surely be under the feet of first responders who have a legitimate reason for being there. We'll see the usual fools surfing in dangerous waves, or rubber-necking at unsafe beaches and sea walls. (If there is power next Tuesday where these people live, some of them will vote, which should give us all pause.)

Sandy, as all previous storms, will invoke the standard storm of TV news clichés: People will "brace" for Sandy, though it's not clear how one does this. Some will even "batten down the hatches" while bracing and "hunkering down." We have learned that Sandy "packs dangerous winds" and that "authorities are urging extreme caution." We will learn that "some people are not heeding the warnings." I guess Republicans can take some tiny comfort in hearing something other than themselves described as "extreme." 

As I write this early Monday afternoon I have just heard President Obama in the White House press room telling us that Sandy is a "large and dangerous storm." Those just in from Mars or who had not watched television for three minutes over the past week would not have known this.

Speaking of our rookie president, he will certainly use this storm shamelessly to try to look presidential. This story would have shoved Benghazi off the front pages, even if the mainstream media considered Benghazi and associated abominations news, which they don't. Whatever good work any government agency at any level does over the next week, Obama will attempt to take credit for it. Stand by for a storm of law suits by lefties in any state that Mitt Romney wins where the power is off for any time at all.

In our current 24-hour news cycle, time always exceeds the amount of news needed to fill the time, so speculation is rife. We hear all manner of "worst case scenarios." We are also treated to endless film of people stripping food, water and batteries from stores in the storm's path and people boarding up their homes. This helps fill out the available time in a way clear answers to the important questions never can: Where is the storm? How bad is it? Where is it going? When will it get there? How long will it stay?

Of course the worst of Sandy will be the death and human suffering it causes, and this is the most important story and has the first claim on our attention and sympathy. But for some reason the speculators have hardly mentioned what the possible financial cost of Sandy could be. I shudder to think how much it will cost to repair the damage. Do the Chinese even have enough money to loan a broke America to cover the nut on this one? How many Army divisions will Obama have to de-activate, and how many Navy ships de-commissioned, in order to send FEMA trailers to Mystic, Connecticut, and other affected precincts? The cost of Sandy could well be a multiple of that of Katrina because of the densely populated area Sandy is aimed at (this is without all those doublewides sitting unoccupied in Mystic).

No matter how you measure it, this will be a tragic week for Americans in or out of Sandy's dangerous path, my aesthetic nit-picks about storm coverage aside. For those who believe in and have the habit of prayer, this is the time for it.

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About the Author

Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.