First there was Irma — the hurricane / cyclone of this century or every century, churning the Atlantic, fed by warm water, devouring and spitting out in small pieces everything that stood on smaller islands like St. Martin and Barbuda.
Irma grew to Category 5 and some forecasters were predicting a category 6 might have to be created to fully give shape and form to Irma’s immensity and the coming catastrophe apocalypse.
Catastrophe. Catastrophe. Catastrophe.
Apocalypse. Apocalypse. Apocalypse.
“Has there ever been a storm so capable of catastrophe such as we are expecting?” asked Matt Lauer of the governor of Florida in the early morning hours during a three-hour catastrophe special on NBC.
“We’re praying for everyone,” the governor replied. “I’m not sparing any resources during Hurricane Irma,” he said.
“You have our prayers,” added the effervescent Savannah Guthrie, Lauer’s sidekick co-host.
Southern Floridians and everyone to be hit by the hurricane in other cities and states in its swath could also depend on the prayers and good wishes of Lester Holt and the sometimes outrageous but always entertaining weatherman Al Roker-who was wearing his serious face Sunday morning.
They were all talking storm surge this and storm surge that, flooding this and flooding that, winds this and winds that and on and on and on ad nauseum, ad infinitum.
Using NBC as the measure of equivalency and undifferentiated sameness in national broadcasting, American viewers riveted by the coming cataclysm were left to wonder if anything and anyone were going to survive Irma?
The extension of the thoughts being expressed by the news folks on all the media outlets was this?
Are more people going to die than ever before?
Are more homes going to be destroyed than ever before?
Is this catastrophe the catastrophe of catastrophes?
All of this remained to be actualized before the storm completed its path.
With winds of 185 miles per hour and swirling growing mass something like 300 miles from side to side and from north to south, this was to be the catastrophe of all catastrophes in the history of hurricanes in North America.
Forecasters, the National Weather Service, the Weather Channel, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC et al ramped up for what was likely to be the greatest loss of life and of material things in the history of the nation in Southern Florida.
Sunday morning as Irma went over the Florida Keys a funny thing happened.
The Keys weren’t washed away.
Then the storm did a slight turn and Miami was spared and West Palm Beach and even Orlando.
The westward lean the storm took now appeared to be preparing for the decimation of Florida’s West coast up to Fort Meyers, to Tampa and then to Tallahassee.
The storm weakened a bit and fell to category 3 over the Everglades. It came back a bit to category 4 over the open water heading for Florida’s West Coast.
The crime here is not reporting the possible end and a cataclysm, catastrophe, apocalypse.
The crime is that this didn’t happen.
A whole lot of time was spent broadcasting live the coming end and the coming end didn’t arrive.
There was damage. There was flooding from storm surge. There are homes that have to be rebuilt and beaches and hotels along the shore simply swept away.
The real story was the displacement of about 5 million people in Southern Florida and the fact many of these folks will live without electricity for a week or longer.
Editors can’t persuade themselves to tell this story until the storm has died and the possibility of broadcasting live a catastrophe has passed.