By Kendra Mercer
A tidal wave of hype preceded Hurricane Earl’s predicted arrival on Friday, September 3, 2010. That particular Friday marked the unofficial start to the Labor Day weekend that so many people celebrate to mark the end of the summer season. During the entire week leading up to Earl’s impact with Long Island, news channels, both cable and local, radio stations and the internet were inundated with possible worst case scenarios and “cones of uncertainty”. Unless you were living under a rock, it was next to impossible to be unaware of the impending doom the storm presented. Or not.
Much to my surprise (sarcasm), the majority of the students in my classes had absolutely no idea the storm existed. They also had no idea what to do in the event this storm or any other actually made landfall on Long Island. Really? Really. I am willing to cut my fellow students some slack since many of them were toddlers or not even born the last time a major hurricane made landfall on the island. They certainly don’t remember our old friend Gloria from 1985, or even Bob from 1991. What did surprise me was the lack of hurricane preparedness information, specifically the fact that not one piece of information was distributed by the college. Nothing noted on the main college website, nothing mentioned on MySCCC, no emails sent out listing tips on how to stay safe, not even a memo to be read out loud by the professors at the beginning of class. I seem to recall at least once last semester, a lock down drill college wide as a precautionary measure to help educate the students in the case of a campus shooting or similar threat.
Every news organization I tuned into, as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association called for a strong probability that Earl was going to make landfall in the North East. The only area of uncertainty was how close it would come to Long Island. Some of the early prediction models showed the possibility of Earl actually making landfall here on the island. Either way, we were going to feel the effects of Earl, at the very least, tropical storm conditions. Was the college remiss in notifying students on contingency plans and tip sheets related to preparation? I think so. I actually posted a few comments on the SCCC Facebook page, asking why they hadn’t posted information for the students with regards to storm preparation. My questions were met with a link taking me to a Facebook page for SCCC’s own Professor Mandia, a meteorologist, and another response included a link to his blog and weather page. I had never heard of Professor Mandia and wondered how many other students were in my boat. Casually asking my classmates through out the week, I discovered that a large majority of them, both new and continuing, had not heard of him either. I was annoyed by the response given to me, and felt the college, at least on the Facebook page, was being very flippant about a potentially serious situation. (Don’t worry; I made a point to share that opinion with the College on their Facebook page.) What’s my point? My point is this. If the College has time to send out emails in error to students telling them they are losing their schedule, and has the time to keep up a Facebook account, and has the time to practice lock downs in case of other emergencies, then shouldn’t the College make the time to inform and educate students on what to do in case of severe weather, such as a hurricane or tropical storm? YES, they should. I’m no Chicken Little and the sky is not falling. I understand, especially being a journalism student, that T.V. sensationalism and media hype is overwhelming common sense and responsible reporting. I also understand that you can’t believe everything you see and hear, and need to maintain a reasonable and logical sense of perspective when it comes to any type of natural disaster or weather event.
Now we find ourselves half-way through September, which by the way is considered by many weather experts to be the peak time of the hurricane season. Two major hurricanes (a category 3 and 4 at the time of this writing) are churning in the Atlantic and a third has already made landfall in Mexico. It would be prudent to make sure you and your family know what to do in case of an evacuation, or if you choose to ride out the storm, how to prepare your house and protect your loved ones. If the College won’t fill you in on that information, then we will. Please see the links provided below for information on Hurricane preparation, safety precautions and other information about hurricanes and Long Island. Are you ready?