EDITIORIAL

Henri was a dud, but preparation isn't pointless

Posted 8/25/21

There's something odd about Rhode Islanders being seemingly disappointed by the failure of a storm to properly devastate the region to their expectations. We're sure you've heard some variation of this reaction. You can see it in the various sarcastic

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EDITIORIAL

Henri was a dud, but preparation isn't pointless

Posted

There’s something odd about Rhode Islanders being seemingly disappointed by the failure of a storm to properly devastate the region to their expectations.

We’re sure you’ve heard some variation of this reaction. You can see it in the various sarcastic memes mocking the relative weakness of the storm on Facebook, and the talk around the water cooler this week is likely to involve lots of jokes regarding how difficult it will be to rebuild after Henri’s wrath – it may require a broom in addition to a rake. Oh, the horror!

Certainly, there is an element of anti-media contrarianism rooted in this reaction. After all, the only thing that cable and local television news loves more than a compelling murder trial is a big storm. They can follow it from the Gulf of Mexico all the way up the coast and then cover every raindrop and wind gust it brings our way. They can send reporters to stand on the edge of the swirling sea and shout pointlessly over the tumult. It’s great for filling the news hole, and it’s compelling television, provided you haven’t figured out how to use Hulu or Netflix yet. So, when a storm fails to live up to the endless hype generated by the media, certainly there are those who delight in reveling in the fact that, even in 2021 with millions of dollars of weather equipment feeding them information, the actual strength of a storm once it makes landfall will never be readily predictable. Making fun of the storm, therefore, becomes a wholly human expression of recognizing the hubris nature of trying to predict the weather at all.

At the same time, we feel it necessary to remind all the smug-talking citizens out there that it’s actually a very good thing that Henri turned out to be such a dud (at least in this part of the state). We have been lucky to only have been hit by a handful of seriously dangerous storms in the past few decades, and we should not lose sight of the fact that that is a good thing. Rhode Island is particularly susceptible to a large storm event, with so much property on the edge of the ocean and so much land lying just above or at sea level, the devastation that could be wrought here by a storm that doesn’t turn out to be a disappointment could lead to widespread suffering and economic devastation. Then all the silly memes wouldn’t be so funny anymore.

One of the primary reasons Henri didn’t cause much damage is because of the state’s keen preparedness – from the municipal level all the way down to individual citizens taking the time and care to tend to their boats and property as a precaution. We must continue to plan for the worst and hope for the best, because in the case of large storm events, being disappointed is a very good thing.

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