Irene: A bad storm, but thankfully not a disaster -- this time

Regardless, the general parameters of this situation seem quite clear, and basically unchanged since yesterday. Wind damage will occur, particularly with trees and branches, but the winds will not be catastrophic by any means. In terms of wind, this may feel to a lot of folks like a strong Nor’easter. Power outages will likely be widespread. Inland flooding will be a big, big deal — if there are deaths in this hurricane, aside from the odd Darwin Award-winning surfer or beachgoer, that’s where they’re likely to come from. The severity of the storm surge is the big open question; we’ll see. (Watch the tidal gauges.) Residents in low-lying areas in evacuation zones should continue to assume the (realistic) worst, and should already be out or rapidly getting the Hell out. Bottom line, Irene is a big storm to be taken seriously, and it will cause a stormy weekend and plenty of damage, but this is by no means the worst-case scenario for NYC and the northeast — and to the extent the media or government is pretending otherwise, they need to ramp down the hype, for the sake of avoiding complacency about the next storm. Fear of a calamity was fully justified 24-36 hours ago, but we can now be quite confident this won’t be a world-historical disaster… even while being equally confident that it is a force to be reckoned with, and one residents should not blow off. Surely there must be some way to communicate both of these concepts simultaneously.