Comment: Hurricane Irma And Our Popcorn Problem

Well, that was the story of The Hurricane, as Bob Dylan once sang. With the last of the dying gusts now blowing, Irma leaves behind a trail of horrendous damage, altered landscapes and, tragically, scores dead. With most of the feared storm surges just about weathered, the rescue operation is now underway.

The USA did get hit; but escaped comparatively better than the likes of Cuba and the ravaged Caribbean islands.

If you were one of those absorbed with the deluge of media coverage in recent days, you’ll by now know the difference between your eye-wall and your big band, high pressure coming from a warm front and, of course, you’ll know all about sustained winds from the backside.


We’ve also learned that to be a hurricane reporter, on CNN at least, you have to be a stoic, muscular and devilishly handsome American everyman. Ain’t that right, Brad? Sorry – Chad. Hardly a woman to be seen in thon’ rain – how’s that for promoting preconceptions about gender roles in society!

With Hurricane Season well and truly alive in continental America, Northern Ireland has a stormy past of its own to explore. The effects of a hurricane were felt in Clogher in 1961 when the roof blew off the local fire station. Regrettably though, Hurricane Debbie killed six people across Fermanagh, Tyrone and the Lagan Valley. Parts of Strabane were destroyed.

Furthermore, five people lost their lives when Hurricane Charley hit Ireland in 1986.


On Friday afternoon though, Irma was slowly pounding along the north coast of Cuba, and moving in such a linear westward path that many experts were rapidly reassessing the likelihood of a Florida impact. Had Irma not finally wobbled north, the insatiable masses of the Twitterati and 24 hour-news hounds were at risk of – let’s be honest – a severe disappointment, such was the mammoth build-up before a drop of rain had even fallen.

When potential human tragedies play out in the public forum like this there is something so utterly absorbing about it all. As the callousness, carnage and human drama of the 7/7 London bombings played out on our screens over 12 years ago, one popular Radio Ulster broadcaster stared, open mouthed, and simply said: “This is all just so terribly fascinating.” They were right.

Hurricane Irma

9/11 started it all when a blockbuster Hollywood movie came alive among the death and destruction and utter cruelty of the events in New York. The November 2015 attacks in Paris were an urban nightmare that stupefied a world which thought it was becoming desensitised.

“Quick, turn on Sky News there now! Just to see!”

Unless you’ve suffered the harsh fate to have been directly affected or caught up in such events, it’s hard – nowadays – to escape from the feeling that you’re watching some sort of twisted reality TV… although the poignancy and pain of Manchester in May managed to penetrate even that bubble.

Ultimately, our Appetite for Destruction has left some of us addicts for a fix of chaos. It’s a habit that leaves you feeling dirty and guilty afterwards. Indeed, the wife of famed horror writer Stephen King called the wall-to-wall Hurricane Irma coverage “weather porn”. Like porn itself, we’ll just wash hands when we’re done watching and forget about it.

Until the next Big Event, that is: Shall I schedule you in for a bit of ISIS inspired ultraviolence in a fortnight or so?

I’ll bring the popcorn, but just don’t tell anyone ‘cos you know, it’s terrible, n’ all that.

Scroll to Top