Sound Off: Did Officials Overreact In Preparing For Irene?

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Tropical Storm Irene has blown through the area, leaving parts of the Tri-State awash in floods and other parts relatively unscathed.

In New York City, mass transit was shut down entirely – an unprecedented step which brought the city that never sleeps to a virtual standstill. Mayor Michael Bloomberg followed that with another unprecedented action: The first-ever mandatory evacuation of some residents.

“I think in retrospect we did the right thing,” Bloomberg said Monday. “Common sense says we should do what is right to protect the public.”

CBSNewYork has been asking our viewers on our Facebook page all weekend what they thought of the measures taken by officials. An unofficial survey of your comments suggests that most of you think they did the right thing.

“The concern for the safety of the people was very important,” wrote Judy Hojnowski Hunter on Sunday. “The information and preparations surely saved lives.”

“Better to be safe than sorry,” wrote Dawne Marie. “There’s nothing worth your life and the lives of others.”

Not everyone agreed, though.

“HUGE overreaction,” wrote Rob Postrel, also on Sunday. “I’d be pissed if I got evacuated over a rain storm.”

“This mismanagement is exactly what we don’t need here in NYC,” wrote viewer Kevin James Dalton. “Because now when the next really big storm comes people will not take it so seriously due to media/politicians crying wolf over this one prematurely.”

One Gulf Coaster wasn’t impressed.

“I used to think New Yorkers were tough as nails,” Patrick Lemire wrote. “Lee Press-On nails is more like it. It’s one thing to prep for the worst case scenario, but this is laughable.

“If they didn’t take precautions, people would still complain about them not doing anything and knowing it was coming. You can’t win,” wrote Kimberly Welsh.

“What people fail to grasp is that for a few hours of inconvenience you are kept safe, your family is safe, your loved ones can feel you are safe,” wrote Ruth Croson. “What price do you put on your life?”

So now, once and for all, tell us what you think: Did officials do the right thing by shutting down the subway, ordering evacuations and more or was this an overreaction? Tell us more in our comments section.

  • Joseph Peter Bee

    I’d like to know why Nassau County exec. ignored the carefully prepared flood maps and issued a blanket ‘south of Merrick Rd’ evac. order.

    I’d also like to know by what authority did he act to issue ‘mandatory’ evacuation orders.

  • tookie


  • MikeyLikesIt

    It’s not that a mayor preparing residents for a storm is bad, it’s that Bloomberg’s handling of this storm wasn’t trustworthy. It seemed like a PR move to save face after the city’s notorious handling of the 2010 Blizzard. When I’m being told to stock up on food or leave my house, I’d like to feel that it’s out of sincere concern and NOT as a political maneuver (hey Bloomberg, where’s that F train express line you hinted at during election year?).

    And if the storm had actually hit NYC, Bloomberg wouldn’t have been prepared for squat. NYC in a prolonged, post-hurricane blackout?? Please. How many people here would rate Bloomberg, MTA, and ConEd highly ON A GOOD DAY? It would’ve been a flood of excuses and finger-pointing press conferences. No thanks.

    Of course, NYC avoided chaos this time due to dumb luck, and Bloomberg got what he wanted (a PR boost) – all at the expense of the rest of us who spent good money on tuna and batteries.

  • advance2go

    The officials are not meteorologists and they were appropriate. The news media however tremendously overexposed and hyped this. It was the only story reported on hour after hour.

  • 7-11 rocked

    The city can learn from 7-11 fresh donuts hot coffee and sunday paper.They made life easier.

  • Peter


  • Debbie J

    While I don’t count myself among the Christie fans. I will give kudos when they are deserved. I think Christie did an excellent job handling this storm. It may not have had the devastating effects that some people thought it would. But I truly believe that if we all weren’t as prepared as we were it would have been ALOT worse. Ask some of these poor people who lost everything, have damaged homes, cars, businesses if Irene wasn’t devastating. I think anyone that thinks the govenor overreacted is a few cards short of a full deck !

  • Jan

    i recognize there’s a thin line between being proactive and getting word out, versus not saying anythinig at all, and then having it blow up in your face. Personally, the CYA motive played was more at play here than anything else, compounded by the media who saw an opportunity to boost their viewr/readership and pick up some ‘name recognition’ in huge markets.

    My only concern is the whole ‘Chicken Little’ potential. Having lived along the Gulf Coast most of my life, this has always been a factor. I’ve watched as the media hyped Cat 4 hurricans that were days out, and then fizzled to barely a Tropical Storm before landfall. I’ve watched the weather experts freak out that a hurrican would innundate one large city, then get head-faked by the storm which crashes some unheard of little ‘burg’, devastating it to little care or concern from the same media.

    They almost got Katrina right. Even tho it did try to “float” NOLA, the real devastation happened along rural coastal towns in Mississippi–many of who were told it was going to make landfall in NOLA up until a hour prior when the storm jinked to the northeast. Bad call–and it cost lives. But hardly picked up a by-line.

    All in all, it was overhyped. Now let’s hope if the “Big One” comes, no one is jaded by this experience.

  • Steve

    following all the weather stations and the hurricane. I knew the would not add up anything! once the mistake was made they started showing you footage of places the always flood when it just rains! the weather people blow it!

  • littlestar

    No. However the subway should have been turned on sooner. I mean the storm was practicaly over by noon Sunday.People certianly over reacted. It was predicted as a catagory 1 with diminishing strenth. Every supermarket that I was in was packed for two days ! It was like people had not been food shopping for weeks ! There was one photo in the paper Saturday, of a line of people, twenty two, to be exact. Waiting to get into one store, only because there were already so many inside already. It was a liquore store ! ?

  • New Lamby

    Of course they over reacted. They had to. The politicians have to justify their positions and make you feel that that life can not go on unless they are reelected

    • Rudy

      They had too because most people need someone to tell to do the right thing. My friends who stayed behind in Long Beach were very scared. Ocean water in the garage! They are leaving with the next one.

  • Jay

    People can easily say that the city overreacted but if one of those people got stuck on a train underground because of a flooded tunnel or a power outage I’m sure they’d be the first to complain it’s the city’s fault. I was evacuated, left and came back to my completely unscathed apartment building and even though I could’ve stayed I felt better knowing that my family knew I was safe. It could easily have gone in the other direction. Though i think the city did a good job trying to protect the people I feel the cuty’s reaction to this storm and the fact that it wasn’t as bad as expected will cause a cry wolf effect for the next one.

  • NYSmike

    Better safe than sorry! Actually, this is the type of response that was needed during the major snowstorm last winter when both Bloomberg and Christie were out of town!

  • p8nt

    Weather forecasting is not an exact science yet, and there’s still a lot we don’t know when it comes to predicting storms and how they interact with current weather patters, however, we have come a long long way, and weather predictions are for the most part precise. Having said that, people would be saying a different song if the predicted movements of Irene happened, or worse, if the hurricane strengthened. Its better to be over prepared, that to get caught off guard with your trousers down.

  • Tom

    The five boroughs got very lucky due to the track of the storm. If it had been 20 miles east or west, the flooding or the winds would have been much worse.

    Instead of being glad that they got lucky, some people are so self absorbed that they can’t think beyond their noses.

  • Eileen

    No, I don’t think they overreacted. I think the mayor and the MTA did a tremendous job! And I also thank our very dear Lord for protecting all of us!

  • misteryman

    Everyone knows better after the fact. If you can “predict” the weather better, you go get the job and do it. Just be happy you’ve got a place to go back too and your alive…. not everyone can say that.

  • sparverio

    Considering the 24/7 hype by this station’s weather forecasters and reporters, your question is very disingenuous and is nothing more than monday morning quarter backing in an effort to shift blame to others. Proper planning prevents poor performance is the maxim.

  • Daniel

    I’m from Houston. It’s very hard to tell how much damage will be done by these storms. The worst damage Houston has had from one of these storms was from a tropical storm that hung out too long, not a strong Hurricane. Anything less than what the city did this past weekend I would have considered tempting fate. We got lucky with this storm and there certainly would have been deaths in the low lying areas if everyone stayed and police/fire had to rescue everyone instead of just a handful of holdouts.

  • snowdog

    It’s really a money issue! How much money did the MTA LOOSE by shutting down the system? Can they afford to shut down the system again?

    Based on wikipedia, there are 3 million Subway riders on a Saturday and 2.3 Million on a Sunday. You are looking at 5.3 million subway fares lost in the two days. At $2.25 for a ride you get $11.9 Million dollars in LOST revenue. Since they shut the system down around noon on Saturday, let’s just drop it down to a nice even $10 Million fr two days.

    Will the subway system shut down again for a loss of $10 Million? What if it was a weekday!! Wikipedia says there a 5.1 Millions riders a weekday. I bet you they would have thought twice about shutting the system down in the middle of the week where the financial impact is much higher.

    • ham07

      Just think what would happen if a train derailed in the Hurricane and people are injured, so they sue. Assume 100 people on the train each being paid 100k (which may be modest) by the city then this equals $10 million dollars over the incident right there, plus litigation and ruined political careers.

    • mk

      Not to mention the loss of revenue because they weren’t collecting tolls on the bridges. And this started Friday night!

      • x new yorker

        The tolls from bridges and tunnels should not pay to make MTA fairs cheep. the tolls for the bridges and tunnels were to maintain the bridges and tunnels that’s how it should still be. why do i have to pay a high toll so you can ride a bus or rails AKA trains cheep.

  • Robert

    HUGE Overreaction. If they think Category 1 is just terrible, tell that to New Orleans.

    • Tom

      Tell that to the families of the people who died.

    • Robert is dumb

      Who cares about New Orleans .We only care about New York New York

  • Michael

    Yes they did overreact looking at the information. The great question here is why isn’t anyone looking at the next time. Properly designing and rebuilding the core systems to deal better with these conditions. Local switches to close effected areas rather than shutting everything. Better break walls to deal with rising water. NY’s core systems are a conglomeration of ancient and modern technology with limited vision to the future. So the question is why aren’t the politicians and media talking about it?

  • Janet

    When preparations began, we were looking at a possible category 4 hurricane, I believe. There’s no way to predict that it is going to dwindle by the time it reaches us. It could have been full-force and a lot worse. I thought the planning and safety measures put into place were very impressive. ALso glad that it has finally been learned that pets must also be taken care of and evacuation shelters must allow them to accompany their owners. Like the people who refused to evacuate in front of Katrina, I would have stayed put if my cats couldn’t come. How could I leave those trusting, loving souls to their own devices?

  • Janet

    For once, I was impressed with the MTA. I thought they did very well to get everything to safety and restore service as quickly as they did. Even though the subway was slow this morning – I was surprised on Sunday to hear it would be running at all!

  • Norman

    Oh please. We got lucky. If the shift north hadn’t happened sat night we would have gotten killed with an additional 3-6 inches of rain. We have trees down everywhere, flooding everywhere, people without power, billions in damage and still it could have been so much worse. Imagine if we had gotten 80+ mph winds. It would have been devastating.

  • Johnny Handsome

    NYC Motto: Ya damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

  • EdC

    It would be great if the city can improve the NYC sewage.

  • VY

    Anyone slightly inconvenienced a little more than necessary just because where they were it was slightly less bad, and they are complaining about all the shut downs and evacuations, the rest of us who are sane should recognize these complainers as MORONS!
    After we recognize them as the morons they are we should then totally discount their complaining as the rants of stupid selfish people who are only interested in what is easiest for them and no one else.
    I thin most government officials and the people running the operating transit agencies all sis the right things, and made

  • SS

    No, I don’t think they overreacted. I have a tree that had huge branches fall into the street/neighbor’s driveway twice yesterday and is being cut down as I write by the City because it is not stable, no electricity since 4am yesterday and a one year old that I had to send somewhere else last night because of the issues previously stated.

    Of course, those who are not having any issues or don’t live in New York will think that government overreacted. Infrastructure is simply not the same from state to state.

  • Proud New Yorker

    The shut down of the transit system was appropriate and it was done within reasonable time frames for a system as large as the MTA and the need to get equipment to a safe location to recover quickly. Evacuations seemed appropriate for the most part.
    The mayor seemed to be trying to make up for the snow storm he sat out in the Bahamas and tried to get more face time than necessary.

    • Rudy

      The LIRR did a great job!!! Everything went smooth.

  • Michael

    What a pointless question! What question would be asked if less preparation took place and the storm damage was much worse? C’mon. No one will ever be satisfied!

  • mj

    officials didn’t over act …. THE MEDIA DID . they made it sound like the end of the world was coming. they know that they worse they make it sound and the more fear they can gnerate the HIGHER their ratings will be . people were glued to their tv’s and radios .. perhaps you noticed … the world was coming to and end but the didn’t stop showing their commercials .

  • jh

    is there any way we can blame a. j. burnett for anything?

  • midi-man

    Everything was fine except that could have keep the train runing untill like 3 or 6 pm on sat. THe storm hit sunday night.

    • midi-man

      Correction Saturday Night.

  • mak

    I give the government officials props for doing their jobs. They warned the public and made decisions regarding transportation and evacuations that most likely saved lives.

    Who I blame for the overkill is the media. What a bunch of buffoons. They kept going on and on about the possible horrors when it was evident that the horrors just weren’t there. They were being dishonest in their quest for a big story. I have learned not to trust them and will seek my own confirmation of the facts before making any decisions for my family in the future.

    Look around the internet, folks. There are plenty of independent sources with which to gleen information. Don’t depend on weathermen who stand in mud puddles and try to tell us it is a flood.

    • Rudy

      For ALL people
      Use the National Weather Service, NOT news at 11PM.
      NHC.NOAA.GOV National Hurricane Center

      Rudy of Long Beach

      • mak

        Another good source is ZoomRadar. This website used to have it but got rid of it when they changed the website. I found it again at an Albany news station.

        ZoomRadar is a realtime weather radar complete with storm tracks and local readings. I could tell by early Sunday morning from this website that the hurricane wasn’t going to pan out.

  • Myrtle Bobby

    27 people died. Cudda been a lot more without the preparation . The NYC armchair quarterbacks w 20/20 hindsight are a sorry lot.

  • KC74

    It was a good move and they were right, why risk lives? It’s a bit ridiculous to second guess it. Sure, transit could have gone a few more hours but why take chances, a bit of inconvenience is worth it for safety. The upsetting thing to me is that people in my neighborhood, on the upper east side, seemed like they’d claw your eyes out for a bottled water and box of crackers. Stores lines were crazy like we were in week 2 of Katrina. Bravo though to the City Officials for playing it safe. This type of speculation just shows they’re damned it they do and damned if they don’t.

  • Rudy

    I live in Long Beach. Ocean water was in our streets. Most life long residents left. After helping with the evacuation at the Long Beach LIRR station, I went to East Rockaway on Saturday on the last train out. It was bad in East Rockaway too. Trees down everywhere, floods, and power lines sparking away.

  • Manny

    Did officials overreact? No, their major concern was for the safety of the people. Property can be replaced…people can’t. As they saying goes: “Better safe, than sorry” Job well done as far as I’m concerned.

    • sbJerseygirl

      I TOTALLY agree with “Manny”! Well said! Safety first and Better safe than sorry!! Unfortunately, some people will never be happy – if it turned out to be worse, you would have had people asking why they weren’t warned better.

  • DeltaForce1

    Being lucky with the eye of the storm directly over NYC losing its strength and turning differently does NOT change the fact that most NYer’s were readied & prepared. There are neighbors living several blocks from here dealing with down trees, flooded basements and being of a widespread but scattered power outages in Queens County (as a borough of NYC) . Rising rivers and streams caused by Irene, just asked those surprised by this monster storm living in Westchester or up the Hudson counties. Bravo to the Mayor & other municipal officials to sounding the early warning & do the RIGHT thing, along with the governors and the POTUS for pre-positioning help.

  • beatrice

    This was so overblown it was funny. I live in Florida, and the damage cause by hurricanes is devastating. In 2004 when 4 Cat 4-5 Hurricanes in a row came thru we handled them. Most of your forecasters sound the gloom and doom but do not add that because of the amount of tall buildings in the city it would tear the wind bands to shreds, there may be some windows blown out also basement flooding which with proper construction could be handled. The ordering of evacuations and then shutting down mass transit? The city was not even prepared for the time factors involved.

    • Manny

      Actually it was 2 Cat. 4’s (Charley and Frances) followed by 2 Cat. 3’s (Ivan and Jeanne. Ivan had dropped from a Cat. 5 before making landfall along Fl/Alabama border) there was another Cat. 4 (Karl) But that hurricane blew straight Northward over the Atlantic. But still all-in-all me having lived in Florida the past 21 yrs I give kudos to NY’ers for having weathered Mother Nature as well as they had. God only knows, but it could have been far more worse then any of us can imagine.

  • JimT

    Stop baiting the story to get sensational

  • MikeD

    Idiotic Title – All the first responders and government officials did the best they could do to ensure all-around safety. “We prepared for the worst and hoped for the best” was the precedence and result. All involved did an excellent job, given the scope and severity of the situation. Well doneNY!!!!

  • ProFromDover

    Nope. It was serious enough and caused much damage and flooding in the Tri-State.

    But, NYer’s overreacted to the small earthquake centered closer to DC than here.

    • Manny

      NY’ers will forever be jittery in tall office buildings when they begin to shake and sway. I think partially dued to the events of 9/11

    • Johnny Handsome

      How did we overreact? Buildings shook – we got the heck out. Maybe you should have been here and witnessed 9/11. I bet you’d be running for dear life also.

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