Irene forced my six year old and me to sleep in our basement on Saturday night. Actually, it wasn't Irene, but some possibly overzealous weather forcasting that persuaded me to get off the second floor (where a tree falling on my house could have killed us).
I brought a few radio companions to keep us company through the night: A Radio Shack weather radio, "Freeplay" solar/crank AM-FM-Shortwave and my trusty vintage 1970s General Electric pocket transistor radio.
I used the Radio Shack Weather Radio to notify us of NOAA alerts for our area----when the worst of the storm was expected, flash flood warnings and the like. The "Made In South Africa" Freeplay radio is a favorite of mine: Crank it for a minute and get 20 minutes or more of radio from a built-in generator. It also has a solar panel on it----if you put it in the sun for a few hours, it holds a nice charge. An added bonus is a flashlight feature-----also rechargeable by the crank. If you could find one in good condition on E-Bay, I recommend making the purchase. I gave up my Eton rechargeable because this one is so much better.
And my little GE runs strong on a 9 Volt battery----lots of hours of listening in bed without disturbing my kid's sleep.
I found it interesting that most stores were out of C and D batteries last Saturday----it was reported that Home Depot sold out at several local locations. People were scooping them up for their flashlights and radios. In my case, I had plenty of C and D batteries at home----but didn't need to use any of them with this trio of radios (The Radio Shack model uses AAs.).
Getting back to the "overzealous" forecasting: There's no doubt that the rain caused by this tropical storm has caused heartbreaking flooding in some areas---and many thousands without power----my house for ten minutes, some for hours, some for days. But in the days leading up to last weekend, the "Storm Center" reporting really was over the top. The talking heads on TV as well as local Washington DC area radio jocks were giving warnings about hurricane force winds. New York City stopped their mass transit service way ahead of the storm. People were terrified into buying generators (perhaps not a bad idea, but not one of those things you should decide on in a few hours, based on scare tactics).
It was a parade of weather nerds that aren't often heard from, except when some snow is expected or during times like this. One individual went on Mark Levin's radio show last Friday----I believe a climatologist-----and stated confidently that this would not be more than a category one tropical storm. He correctly predicted that the National Weather Service and local meteorologists were overstating how bad the winds would be----that the storm would pack a punch, but not be as "historic" as everyone was saying. He appeared on Levin's show again on Monday to run a victory lap (not his words, but my estimation). It's clear that he was much closer to getting it right than anyone else I heard.
On cue, the national news lied about the severity of the storm to prop up the missed predictions. An example: Both FOX and ABC reported "major damage" in New Bern, North Carolina. I guess "major damage" is open to interpretation, but having lived through the Tropical Storm Agnes flooding in 1972, I think I have a good idea of what "major damage" really is. It's not a few trees down and water in basements. I know people who live in New Bern and drove all over town to survey the "damage" after hearing the news reports. They told me a couple nice old trees were down. They had no idea what the news was reporting. And as a side note, the news reports I saw about New Bern didn't offer photos/video coverage. They were reporting from Atlantic Beach and/or Virginia Beach, and mentioned little known, obscure New Bern in passing. At the very least, they exagerrated. My opinion is that they lied to make the story fit the template that had been drawn up a couple days earlier. It's terrible reporting.