Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Journalism

Fake Hurricane Posts Cause Unnecessary Fears

A series of fake hurricane posts on social media are getting lots of attention because of scare tactics and conspiracy theories.

One of the best things about social media and the web is that it allows more people to get their message directly to their audience.

One of the worst things about social media and the web is that it allows more people to get their message directly to their audience.

In an example of the latter, a series of hurricane posts across social media warned about Irma, which the posts predicted would be a “Category 6” storm by the time it makes landfall.

Nice try. The Saffir-Simpson Scale only goes up to Category 5. When the maximum sustained winds of a hurricane reach speeds of 157 miles per hour, the storm is classified as a Category 5, and that’s as far as it goes.

On Tuesday, Hurricane Irma became the strongest hurricane ever recorded before reaching the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico with maximum sustained winds at 185 miles per hour.

It’s the strongest Category 5 hurricane on record for the Atlantic.

There’s no such thing as a Category 6 hurricane.

The trouble is that a large number of people apparently aren’t aware of that. And the people posting such fake news are thriving because of that ignorance.

What’s worse is that many fake story providers are making conspiracy theory-style comments that the “news media” won’t tell you the information they claim they have about the hurricane as an attempt to make people trust them over local television stations.

For the most part, when the media “won’t report” something, there’s a good reason: it isn’t true.

Some of these posts showed the storm coming in from the Atlantic in a straight line towards South Carolina, the way Hurricane Hugo did in 1989. Those posts, made apparently some time before Monday, “pinpointed” the path of the storm for this coming Monday.

The trouble is, technology doesn’t allow us to pinpoint a hurricane’s exact position that far out. It’d be great if we could, but there are far too many variables involved. Even the most trusted computer models have readjusted their predictions about every six hours or so based on new atmospheric readings.

Confidence in the path over the next two to three days of any official hurricane path is relatively high, meaning the storm is likely to go where the track says it will. But once you reach the fourth and fifth days of a track, a lot can change, so the confidence drops rather quickly.

In Tampa, ABC Action News Meteorologist Greg Dee put it this way: if the map you’re seeing shows a forecast more than five days out, it’s not legitimate.

For anyone to claim they have the definite location of a storm six, seven or eight days ahead of time is a sure sign it’s a bogus report. Sure, they might get “lucky” and guess well. But that’s all it is: a guess.

And what’s particularly disturbing is that these people would try to discourage people from tuning in to local TV stations that are continually upgrading their weather technology to be able to protect their neighborhoods.

There’s absolutely no logical explanation that would justify local stations intentionally not reporting the potential dangers of a hurricane; if they under-report what’s happening and it costs lives, it’s also costing them viewers. And if they’re wrong, that could cost them even more viewers.

Oddly enough, these fake hurricane posts don’t mention that.

Go figure.

If you’re in the possible path of Hurricane Irma, or if you live in a hurricane-prone area, buy your supplies. Stock up on what you need.

Prepare your family so they’re ready to either evacuate or hunker down if a storm heads your way.

And trust legitimate sources when it comes to tracking the path of the storm.

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Patrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 26 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.