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In wake of storm Flossie, complainers take the stage

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As Flossie swirled temperamentally toward the islands Tuesday, nature dispatched another event to shake Hawaii.

Just as the tropical storm was losing steam, an earthquake with a local magnitude of 3.5 took place off the Windward Coast of Oahu, about nine miles from Waimanalo.

The quake caused no damage and didn’t trigger a tsunami, and though TV stations and “breaking news” logs noted it, the quake was largely tuned out.

As Flossie took her leave spattering rain here and there, sunshine returned and wind disbursed much of the dank air that had residents and tourists adding their sweat to the moist air.

Though lightning from the storm blew a hole in the roof of a Maui home and slightly injured a Valley Isle man, turned out the lights from Volcano to Molokai and racked up sales of bottled water at stores across the state, its effects appear only slightly worse than the quake’s.

Civil Defense and other emergency agencies shut down shelters and sent home workers stationed for the possible disaster, businesses reopened their doors and tourists whose summer vacations were interrupted when airlines scrapped flights went on their merry way.

All’s well that ends well.

But now comes the complainers, people who make a fuss about the weather service, government preparations and advice, retailers who sell emergency supplies and, of course, the news media.

If the weather service can’t exactly pinpoint a storm’s severity, it’s just another federal agency that sucks taxpayer money for no good reason and should be dismantled, they say, ignoring the fact that forecasts are just that, an educated calculation, which are mostly accurate in gauging nature’s unpredictability.

Government preparations and guidance are necessary and people, including complainers, would welcome organized assistance should the worst forecasts become reality.

Retailers respond to demand for products people will need in a disaster and if complainers didn’t wait until the last minute, they would not have to stand in long lines or pay prevailing rates for them.

Complainers seem to aim most of their gripes at the news media, particularly television. While it is true that some of the broadcasters verge on hyperventilation, amid the swooshing graphics and flashing visual images, they perform a critical public service.

Some of us remember the old days when instant television was nonexistent, when radio was the only way to get quick particulars in an emergency.

In those times too, the newspaper’s telephones rang constantly, requiring available employees to pass on the latest data to anxious callers.

The network for communication today is so swift that erroneous information gets out, such as the International Business Times’ Twittered feed that Flossie had cause two fatalities in North Carolina.

No one at that publication has explained how the story — headlined “Tropical Storm Flossie: 2 Dead in North Carolina After Flossie Barrels Through US Mainland, Storm Touches Down in Hawaii” — was posted.

It prompted meteorologists and science writers to tweet ridicule down on IBT.

The story was obviously a major goof. Still, it is unreasonable to find fault with news organizations, government agencies and weather forecasters who are trying to help.

Think of the chaos had the earthquake been more severe.

Cynthia Oi can be reached at

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