Editorial: Hurricane by another name might frighten

Jul. 09, 2014 @ 09:28 AM

Thursday at the Outer Banks was much like any other day when a hurricane looms less than 24 hours away.

The beaches were left to oblivious people acting like the forecast called for mild rain rather than Hurricane Arthur, expected to hit the area as a Category 2.

Granted, as hurricanes go a Category 2 is not quite end-of-the-world stuff. But on the Outer Banks, a thin strip of sand supporting a thinner strip of asphalt as the only way in or out, even a small hurricane can leave people stranded for days without electricity, clean water and fresh food.

Though many people obeyed the evacuation orders, the Associated Press reported, quite a few did not. The AP’s story cited a man who was lounging in beach chairs at Kill Devil Hills with his 5-year-old son. Not his 25-year-old son, who used his adult judgment to weigh the risk for himself. His 5(!)-year-old son, who every day finds himself in enough situations that might keep him from reaching 6 without his father throwing him in the path of a hurricane.

The story quoted Gov. Pat McCrory urging people to pay attention to warnings and, “Don’t put your stupid hat on.”

But so many people nowadays seem to have no need for hats at times like this. The stupid is more like the hair on their arms than anything they put on or remove.

The man sitting with his son on a beach that, for all he knew, might wash away by the next morning told the AP’s reporter that he saw no need to disrupt his family’s vacation. (Note: The man was from Fairfax, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C., an area of high wealth and college degrees but not much common sense, but he was hardly alone on the beach.)

A news story a month ago said that a study found that people are apt to take a hurricane bearing a woman’s name less seriously than one with a man’s name, but it seems apparent that even men’s names don’t always inspire fear.

Arthur? What that brings to mind for many is a movie about a drunken billionaire playboy. Who wouldn’t want to party with a guy who’s picking up all the checks?

No, if you want hurricanes that people take seriously, what they need is not more men’s names but names that summon our fears.

The world’s religious demonology alone offers hundreds of possibilities. Lucifer. Adramelech. Pazuzu. Bukavac. Demogorgon. Moloch. Incubus.

The world of fiction offers seemingly a constantly renewing list of options. Cthulhu. Azathoth. Beltane. Zarquon. Parallax. Crom.

If telling someone that Lucifer is coming to harvest his soul won’t make a man get off the beach, then he truly deserves whatever’s coming to him.