Perspective and perception
I nearly choked up when I first began seeing the heart-wrenching images from the recent Houston flooding. The staggering amount of rain, falling so quickly and at night caught many by surprise and led to a tragic loss of life. The Bayou City, so aptly named because of the many tributaries traversing the 4th largest U.S. city has seen its fair share of these episodes.
So I found it quite interesting that media reports Tuesday blared with headlines like, “Worst Flooding Ever”, etc. As someone who has lived through several Houston floods as well as covered a fair share of these as a meteorologist and reporter, I have some perspective. While this one is “bad”, I can think of others that were worse and the difference in perception has to do, in part, with the technological world in which we live.
Fourteen years ago, Tropical Storm Allison hit Houston twice producing 36″ of rain causing scenes worse than what we’ve witnessed this week. One major difference – social media. Back in 2001, it took days and even weeks in some cases, for images and stories to travel across the country. Tuesday morning, selfies and drone video dispatched the news much more quickly and to a larger audience.
This kind of event seems larger with more eyes witnessing and feeling as though they’ve experienced it via a viral visage. However, that facade lacks the perspective of the past. The collective, seemingly shared experience of some recent storms lends to easily bestowing upon them the “never been this bad” and “worse ever” labels. Truly, in the years to come, there may yet be record-setting and truly unprecedented storm events. The challenge will be finding objective ways to determine the difference. It can’t really be that perception is reality, no matter how often the “shares” and how frequent the “likes”.