We saw it coming long before it came, but i didn’t want to look.
Hurricane Sandy dominated the 24-hour news cycle in the days leading up to landfall. Breathless warnings ruled the airwaves, as talking heads stressed the importance of being prepared.
The media gave it the cartoonish nickname “Frankenstorm,” and meteorologists briefly became rock stars. It even obscured the presidential campaign, so you figured it had to be important.
But I wasn’t buying it.
Even though I live on Long Island, N.Y., not far from where the storm was predicted to make landfall, I wasn’t going to get fooled again. A year ago, I heard the same dire warnings of doom and gloom when Hurricane Irene was barreling up the East Coast. And as a new homeowner, I absolutely freaked out.
I pruned trees, stocked up on water and canned food, and my backyard became an advertisement for the power of bungee cords—everything that could be strapped down was strapped down twice. Cash was in hand, gas tanks were filled, batteries were charged, and windows were taped. My hatches were seriously battened.
“Go ahead, Irene, do your worst,” I thought. “I’m ready for you. Hell, I’m ready for a nuclear war.”
And then, nothing happened.
A week before Hurricane Sandy, I drank the last bottle of water I had bought for Irene. And maybe it was that water, that reminder of my panicky response a year ago, that caused me to disregard Sandy. Maybe it was the nickname “Frankenstorm,” conjuring images of a child’s Halloween mask, that I couldn’t take seriously.
Or maybe it was the 24-hour news cycle itself. All too often, the broadcast media deals in hype. It’s their lifeblood. The actual issue being debated is almost unimportant—the emotion shown by the talking heads, the anger that inflames debate, becomes the show.
It’s a new kind of yellow journalism, where feelings replace facts, a business model that measures success by who can cry wolf the loudest. But sometimes there really is a wolf.
And Sandy was one hungry wolf, huffing and puffing until my area lost power for a week. If you could find an open gas station, it quickly ran out of gas. Panic bred panic. My local station became the starting point for a mile-long line, and several heated arguments.
The moral of this story is clear: Be prepared, even if you don’t think you need to be. If you’re not, you might end up fighting for a place in the gas line, or that last bottle of water on the shelves.
As you’ll see in our cover story, there’s another kind of storm approaching. We’ve tracked it for years, but nobody wants to see it. Simply put, the elimination of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will make financing more expensive and harder to find. And that means the value of your apartment buildings will fall.
It’s hard to see those storm clouds on the horizon, being, as we are, in the sunny climate of an upturn. And it’s impossible to know how strong that storm will be. But when the birds stop chirping, when the clouds start turning black—when a 7 percent interest rate is the best you can do—you may wish you had taken the warnings to heart.