Ocracoke Real Estate:
TV storm hype is a disservice to islanders and visitors
By B.J. OELSCHLEGE
With all of the tension that accompanies the prelude to a hurricane,
there was a bit of comic relief offered by the business marquees in
Hatteras in early September.
These clever folks were awarding an Emmy for best drama to Jim Cantore,
on-location in Hatteras village for the Weather Channel. To listen to
mainstream media, this Category 3 hurricane named Earl with winds
between 111-130 mph was going to wreak havoc on the Outer Banks.
The reporters neglected to mention that this storm was not forecast to
make landfall, but would brush by the coast some 100-125 miles out in
the Atlantic. This minor little fact makes all of the difference. The
truth allows residents to make informed decisions. The half truth makes
for good ratings and, therefore, the Emmy.
Residing on the Outer Banks requires an acknowledgment and acceptance
of the potential consequences of a storm. The same natural setting that
draws people to the Banks can also have a dark side.
We learn either by experience or by neighborly advice how to protect
our home, business. and vehicle. Year after year, storm after storm,
the preparations do not get easier over time. The emotional side or the
stress of knowing that this could be the big one is present with every
storm. Our nesting instincts are placed in limbo for a period of time.
Humans do not take kindly to sitting in the place of “not knowing.”
The news media has nothing at stake during a hurricane, except their
ratings. The bigger the hype, the better their chances that the viewing
public will stay glued to their channel.
This is my gripe – these ratings are at our expense. These reporters
are like ambulance chasers or accident gawkers. They prey on the
circumstance of the victim. They benefit from our misfortune. It feels
like stealing to me.
These are our homes that are being used for the purpose of
sensationalizing the storm, without our permission. Instead of
providing facts, there is too much emphasis on the shock and awe. If
property is to be lost, it would be our nests not those of the
reporters. There is a disconnect between that reporter and the subject
of his reporting.
Skip Waters, a local weatherman in New Bern, laid out the details of
what to expect and actually provided a beneficial service. Main stream
media is not a service industry.
It didn’t help that it was the five-year anniversary of Katrina. The
fear, stirred in the non-banker families of the residents by this type
of reporting, presents an additional stress. How many of us had to take
precious minutes to quiet the hysteria of off-island/banker friends and
After consulting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
website, even as late as Thursday morning, I made the decision that
staying on the island was safe. If I watched the TV, I began second
guessing myself. It was making me crazy. The TV had to be turned off.
And then there is the consequence of this exaggeration on our
livelihoods. Talk about theft! We had half the Labor Day that had been
expected. You wonder what might have happened had we had straight-up
truthful reporting. I can’t blame our visitors for hearing the news
reports and running the other way. They do not have the tools or
experience to be able to sort through the hype.
As Earl made its way up the coast, The Weather Channel followed closely
behind. They saw titillating news coverage. We see lives, homes, and
Fact vs. fiction and for what purpose? If only, the truth could prevail.
Oelschlegel has lived on Ocracoke Island for more than 30 years and has
worked in the real estate business for 26 years. She is a
with Ocracoke’s Lightship Realty and a real estate columnist for The
Ocracoke Observer. You can reach her by e-mail at [email protected])