What Limbaugh Said.
Rush Limbaugh was widely lampooned for a September 5, broadcast where he cast aspersions at hurricane forecasting and reporting. The basic thesis of his on-air article was that hurricane forecasting and reporting are not to be trusted for two reasons:
- Forecasters and reporters inflate the risk to major population centers because they are in cahoots with local retailers who sell out of disaster supplies. Limbaugh claimed (and I swear I am not making this up) that it is a plot by “Big Water” to sell water bottles (his rant goes on and on about why people don’t just fill containers with tap water). Limbaugh claimed the media “reports in such a way as to create the panic way far out, which sends people into these stores to fill up with water and to fill up with batteries, and it becomes a never-ending repeated cycle.”
- Forecasters and reporters inflate the risk to major population as part of a nefarious plot to convince people climate change is real. Limbaugh declares:
hurricanes are always forecast to hit major population centers. Because, after all, major population centers is where the major damage will take place and where we can demonstrate that these things are getting bigger and they’re getting more frequent and they’re getting worse. All because of climate change.
Limbaugh declares that “these storms, once they actually hit, are never as strong as they’re reported.” I’m sure that comes as a surprise to the victims of storms like Harvey and Katrina.
The obvious point of his broadcast was to suggest the early warnings of hurricanes should be discounted because it is biased by the likes of “Big Water” and those who believe in climate change.
For starters, it’s hard to imagine how a storm spanning hundreds of miles in diameter could avoid significantly affecting major population centers. Coastal areas, particularly in Florida, are full of population centers. People like living on the coasts, and there’s that whole port industry thing. Speaking of which, you would think that Big Cruise, Big Tourism, etc, could overcome the effects of “Big Water” (and maybe even “Big Batteries”).
Limbaugh’s Dishonest Effort To Correct The Record.
With media and social media lampooning him, Limbaugh two days later posted his effort to correct the record. So let’s look at this effort to set things straight and see how honest it is. I’ll be comparing his defense, to the facts.
I constantly pointed out that I was not a meteorologist, which I did yesterday. I didn’t say that anything I’m predicting here as any the authority.
False. In his earlier report Limbaugh directly stated “when it comes to a hurricane bearing down on south Florida, I’m the go-to guy.” While he did say he was not a meteorologist he did hold himself out as an authority of some type regarding “a hurricane bearing down on South Florida. Put simply, he lied about his words.
I didn’t say I’m trying to replace the hurricane center or any of these experts. I’m just telling you how I analyze their data
Well yes, this is true. Limbaugh “analyzes their data” by running it through the filter of his belief that it is tainted by the influences of Home Depot selling disaster supplies and advocates of climate change theory. He presents these things as reasons to discount the data, forecasting and reporting on hurricane projections.
I’ll just tell you this. I was having a chat with someone you all know last night whose name I’m not gonna mention, we were making bets with each other, and I made a prediction. I said, “When we wake up” — this is after the 11 o’clock track had moved it close to Naples and Fort Myers and moved it off of Key West. I said, “I’m gonna tell you exactly what’s gonna happen. We’re gonna wake up at five a.m. tomorrow and that track is gonna split the state in two. It’s gonna come right up the center of the state of Florida,” and damned if that isn’t what happened.
But I told him. That’s not the news. The news is that 11 o’clock tomorrow West Palm Beach is gonna be dead hit. I told my buddy this at midnight last night. And, lo and behold, that’s exactly where the track is right now.
Don’t you just love him boosting his case with the supposed midnight conversation with the conveniently anonymous “buddy” conveniently proving every word he uttered is truth? He’s no longer using the public record of what he said, he’s creating a private record to boost his case.
Here’s the thing. Hurricane forecasts always provide a zone of probable error. The longer out the forecast the larger the zone of error is. Here’s one from a couple of days ago.
Notice something about that projection? Absolutely ever area mentioned by Limbaugh, from Naples to Key West to Palm Beach and off the coast are in it. Limbaugh focuses on where the “M” is as if that is some concrete forecast and talks about how that “M” keeps moving around. True enough, it does. But so far it has moved around within the expected zone of error.
I never, ever heard a single report treating that “M” as a concrete forecast. Absolutely EVERY report I saw emphasized that the eventual center of the storm could move ANYWHERE in that zone of error. Every report I saw was obsessive in emphasizing that the entire area in that zone was a possible future location of the center of the storm. I understood that even if Rush Limbaugh and his dwindling army of ditto-head zombies did not.
Time has passed and the zone of error has narrowed a bit, but guess what? It’s still pretty damn big. Here’s a screen grab from weather.com right now.
Once again, while the center of probability is right over Miami, the graphic is clear that the center of the storm could still go pretty much anywhere from Key West to Freeport in Grand Bahama. The point is the projection two days ago, with a wider area was not wrong. Everything within the above most recent projection was included in that one.
Further, EVERY report I hear says they still don’t know precisely where the center of the storm will go and EVERY report I hear continues to emphasize Irma could still be anywhere in that red area. If that dot near Miami moves again, as it may very well do, to somewhere more West (to near Key West) or somewhere more East (to near the Bahamas), this forecast will still be entirely on target.
Dear Mr. Limbaugh, if we make a bet that my football team will beat your football team by between 7 and 13 points, and my team wins by 12 points, I still win the bet. I don’t lose the bet because the score was not in the middle of my predicted range.
So people when they see the cone narrowing on their area begin to prepare. Limbaugh seems to think that a bad thing. As a resident of Key Largo Fl, I think it prudent and responsible. It is especially prudent and responsible when the storm is so massive that your area will be strongly affected even if the center of the storm ends up going at the opposite end of the zone of error from where you are.
Irresponsible is using your the power of your voice and influence over people to tell them to discount fully accurate warnings because of your pet conspiracy theories that are patently absurd.
Edit and update: On Thursday Limbaugh said they were having to cancel Friday’s show and that he was leaving the Palm Beach area for “parts unknown” where his show will be broadcast from next week. He did not even mention the hurricane at all never mind cite it as the reason for his having to evacuate and move the location of his broadcast. He even had the gall to say he “had a feeling this would happen.”