Friday, September 12, 2008

CERTAIN DEATH


So I almost wrote a post earlier when I first read the sentence
"PERSONS NOT HEEDING EVACUATION ORDERS IN SINGLE FAMILY ONE OR TWO STORY HOMES MAY FACE CERTAIN DEATH" from the National Weather Service.
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Because it seems silly to write "may face certain death," (is it certain, or not?) but also because that's some seriously inflammatory language from the NWS. Usually they tell you to be careful walking outside because you might slip. Or to check your drains. Suddenly they sound like religious fundamentalists. And really, why is the entire multi-page warning in all CAPS?
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And then I discover that 40% of Galveston residents are ignoring the mandatory evaculation. Wow. Can you imagine doing that? I admit that I started laughing when I read "certain death," but I definitely would have stopping laughing and started running if I thought they were talking about me.
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update: check this out:
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"police drove a dump truck through flooded streets, urging people to get out. Those who refused were told to write their names on their arms in black marker, so their bodies could be identified later."
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wtf is going on??
. and then a few hours later I was struck by the thought, "Magic marker can last on skin underwater for days??"

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

now there will be $6 gas prices...

Houston Resident said...

I suppose the bullhorn rhetoric should have specified permanent marker.

Vendors caught price gouging will be subject to stiff fines.

Yesterday, 2.1 million homes were without electricity.

"May face certain death", is typical nonsensical Houston hyperbole.

In Houston, there is a week long citywide curfew from 9pm to 6am, "for purposes of public safety".

Also, it is typical to announce that interstate 45 or interstate 59 is closed, when only one exit is affected.

Mariano Sana said...

Hmmm... I would cut the NWS some slack. The use of "may" and "certain" in the same sentence is definitely funny, but think of the context. In this part of the country, we all remember Katrina very well, and so do the folks at the NWS and the National Hurricane Center. Three years ago Katrina hit New Orleans really hard and left, according to Wikipedia, "at least 1,836" people dead. This time around we got Ike, a huge hurricane as powerful as Katrina was (maybe more), and this one was going straight to Galveston and Houston.

I would guess that the warning to mark their names on their arms to those who refused to leave were attempts at scaring them into leaving by desperate emergency workers who saw what was coming.

In view of an approaching monster like Ike (or Katrina), those who refuse to evacuate do so on two grounds: they are too optimistic and underestimate the hurricane, or they are afraid of looting and having their homes broken in. In almost all cases, it is difficult to reason with them. Many people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas are still angry at those who chose to stay in New Orleans before Katrina. In their view, those refusing evacuation end up not just raising the body count but costing taxpayers a lot of money once emergency services have to get mobilized to rescue them... as is the case now with Galveston.

BTW, the NWS always uses capitals in all its announcements... I guess this is some carryover from the times of the telegraph, who knows...

Rich in Brooklyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rich in Brooklyn said...

I believe that, in general, people who do something that looks stupid from a distance have reasons that make a bit more sense when viewed from close up.

Some folks may fail to heed evacuation orders because of prior experience with evacuations that themselves proved disastrous while the feared weather-event actually fizzled.

Perhaps other readers will remember the details of one such evacuation that I remember only vaguely. I believe it was in or around Texas and it was shortly after Katrina, when people fled from another approaching storm only to be caught in nightmarish traffic jams under conditions so bad that some people were sickened or actually died in their cars while fleeing.

A history of false alarms like that doesn't really justify ignoring evacuation orders, but it certainly makes it more understandable. Consider the fable about the boy who cried "Wolf!"
- - Rich Accetta-Evans

P.S. As for the "may face certain death" phrase: Try as I might, I can't defend the quality of thought that went into that.

September 17, 2008 4:23 PM