In Search Of… S02E07 Hurricanes

Well, at least there'll be some good visuals in this one.

Ok, the seashore, rising wind, spooky music, immediately followed by a bunch of stock footage of storms. All right! I mean, I don't wish anyone ill, but this episode might just be a pretty straightforward show about hurricanes without too much craziness.

Aftermath of Hurricane Camille.
Aftermath of Hurricane Camille.

Nimoy praises the work of newsreel cameramen, as we watch the footage. Really, mostly just a cool montage, and Nimoy saying pretty obvious things about hurricanes – property damage, hard to predict, dangerous. Nimoy claims that the etymology of the word 'Hurricane' comes from a powerful Carribean god. Not going to look that up. Sounds cool, don't really care if it's true.

Now looking at weather satellite pictures of a hurricane forming. Hurricane Camille, to be precise. Nice. Nimoy starts explaining the physics of hurricane development. Footage of stormclouds and lightning heading towards the Gulf Coast of Mississippi.

Oh! Now we're inside the cockpit of a US Navy plane tasked with observing hurricanes from close up. It's like The Dambusters meets Twister. Interspersed shots of the aircrew swapping flight jargon with shots of storms. Nimoy claims that they learn that it is a big storm. I hope he's selling the storm watchers short.

Now footage of boat owners preparing for the oncoming storm. Guys in radio rooms start broadcasting warnings. People start boarding up windows. Others gas up cars to drive inland. Some people (possibly including Johnny Utah) go out in the surf. Nimoy intones a list of the sort of people who might stay – "the thrillseekers, the sightseers, the stubborn." He might be right, the actual footage of the storm is awesome. I don't mean that in a '1990s eXtreem advertising' sort of way, I mean 'inspiring awe'. Houses being blown away, forlorn cows on washed out roads, winds and rain lashing down without mercy, a massive tidal surge.

It's cool to watch – up until you see the injured survivors hobbling through the ruins and water. Takes a bit of the fun away. There's footage of entire towns in ruins. Nimoy tells us 250 people are dead, and 200, 000 are homeless. There's a news interview of a woman who is forlorn until she sees that her house is still mostly intact. She literally screams with happiness and relief. Another, less happy woman says that her house is under 12 ft of water. A third woman – possibly the most no-nonsense person I ever saw – assures any family watching the news broadcast that she's fine.

Nimoy assures us that, even though Camille was the worst recorded storm at the time, worse are coming. Hey, come on Spock. We have emotions, you know. Break it to us gently.

Footage of an old hurricane in Miami. People are riding skateboards, using umbrellas as sails. Nice! Nimoy tells us that Hurricane Betsy was one of the worst in Eastern Florida. The footage bears him out. "The ground floors of houses and hotels turned into rivers and pools. A freighter was beached. Hardcore.

Now we're going back to the flying hurricane watchers. Nimoy assures us that they're learning more and this might one day save countless lives maybe. Now a bunch of nerds at the hurricane warning centre, tracking weather patterns with cool old fashioned computers. The people making the electronic music are having the time of their lives. Teletype machines! Squee!

Dr Neil Frank, Director of the National Hurricane Centre talks enthusiastically about new technologies in hurricane forecasting – satellites, radar, planes etc, but bemoans the fact that these tools were yet to improve the accuracy of their forecasts.

Helicopter shot of Miami Beach. Looks kind of like a scene from Jaws. Nimoy suggests that Miami is unprepared for a hurricane. Dr Frank talks about the how the increase in population in East Coast Florida might be unprepared for the next hurricane, since the last major one was in 1926. Black and white photos of a devastated old-timey Miami. Oh, so many Model T's stuck in the water!

The spooky electronic music rises as Nimoy intones a story of destruction and woe, describing Dr Frank's ideas of what would happen if a hurricane hit 1970s Miami. Lots of talk of woe, difficulties of evacuating. It's basically disaster porn, kind of a less ridiculous version of the 'great conjunction' story in the Earthquakes episode. Helicopter shots of Miami are interspersed with the grim pictures of post-hurricane 1926 Miami. It's pretty awesome. That time I was talking in the '90s ad exec way. I mean it's mildly interesting.

Finally some vox pops with Miamians, who seem clueless about what to do. One woman suggests having a party. Nimoy grimly informs us that some people tried to have a hurricane party in Mississippi during Hurricane Camille. A helicopter shot shows us the hotel that they were partying in and holy crap! It got smushed to rubble!

There was one survivor. Holy crap!

Dr Frank talks about the bitter lessons of Hurricane Camille. He pulls out the line about ignoring history and being doomed to repeat it. Seems fair.

Nimoy concludes by saying that we don't know how hurricanes form, so heed warnings when they happen.

For once I'm not going to make fun. That's just plain good advice, Leonard.

Anyway, decent episode. What it lacks in weirdness it makes up for in some truly impressive visuals, and it has a quite worthwhile message about storm preparedness.

Quotes

"In the rest of Miami, flooding, severe winds and tornados will damage and destroy thousands of buildings. The death toll could be enormous." Nimoy plays the most depressing weather man ever.

Summing up

Visuals: 9/10, Electronic music: 7/10, Nimoyness: 7/10, Mostly making sense: 9/10, Disaster porn: 7/10. 39/50. Distinction.

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13 thoughts on “In Search Of… S02E07 Hurricanes

  1. John

    Okay. Given that Hurricane Harvey Wallbanger recently hit, and Hurricane Irma looks like a Category Six coming towards Miami, I've decided to re-watch this episode over lunch. As I recall, it stated Miami is in a perilous position if a major Hurricane actually hits. We'll see.
    Oh, and I saw the former Director National Hurricane Center Neil Frank was interviewed on CNN during Harvey. They tried to pin Harvey on climate change. It was hilarious to hear him say..."Uh, no. Hurricanes happen regardless of climate change". Nothing like watching CNN bank on someone backing up their agenda, only to have an expert say otherwise. Come to think of it, that happens quite frequently on "In Search Of...".
    I'll be back in a bit....

  2. John

    Just finished it. Lots of scary music in this episode. If Irma hits Miami as a Category 5, with the winds she's packing (180 mph sustained - 200 mph gusts), the damage could be devastating. Hopefully she weakens or veers off. She could be another Camille or Katrina. Or she could turn and miss. Hurricanes are crazy unpredictable storms, as we learned from "In Search Of...".
    Undoubtedly we'll see the obligatory weatherman standing in the rain and high winds, 'reporting'. This insane practice will continue until one of them is killed live on-air by flying debris or by a sudden surging wall of water. He/She will be called brave. I'll have another name for them.
    By the way, the Hurricane Party, told on In Search of... and repeated in the National media, is hokum. Never happened. Instead of an 8 year old boy being the sole survivor, 8 people actually survived. And they didn't have a party. They had stayed behind helping evacuate people, and to help those that couldn't be moved, including some senior citizens. For a show that seeks the truth, simply contacting some people from the area could have kept them from spreading a false rumor that has been debunked over and over, even at the time of the original airing of this episode. One survivor, Ben Duckworth, has repeatedly tried to squelch this story. He didn't want it said his friends died while 'partying', when they actually were exhausted from volunteering in the community.

  3. BG Hilton

    Yeah TV news lives off of visuals and that will get someone killed one day. Though it's just as likely to be a camera operator or sound recording as the front man who gets all the credit for courage.

    And thanks forletting me know that about the hurricane party. I don't fact check the disaster porn episodes very thoroughly so I can easily miss something like that.

  4. BG Hilton

    Well it's very difficult to pin a specific weather event on climate change, but the frequency and severity of severe weather events do seem to be increasing. I don't watch CNN but their question reveals a very superficial understanding of the problem, whatever their 'agenda' may be.

  5. John

    Actually, the frequency of severe weather isn't increasing. Coverage is. Until Charley it had been nearly 12 years since a major hurt made landfall on the United States. Sandy wasn't a hurricane when it hit the US. What made it so bad was the crazy set of simultaneous event of it merging with another storm, a high pressure system that kept it from going out to sea and dying as it should have, and hitting the East Coast exactly at high tide.
    I don't deny the climate, in some areas, is changing. But these guys at NOAA can't predict hurricane cycles 6 months in advance? Let alone 10, 25, 50, or 100 years out. NOAA said in April this year that 2017 Hurricane season would be "slightly below average in activity". They missed the boat there. Lol.

    Anyway - I continue to enjoy your reviews. Keep up the fun site!

  6. John

    Regarding the hurricane party story. I wanted to find the name of the "8 year old boy that survivrd" according to Nimoy. When I googled it, there's a lot of evidence that was a hoax. Theres only one person that's pushed that story, and it was a lady who ended up killing her 11th husband in 1981.
    The site the alleged party was held at was an apartment complex, not a hotel as Nimoy stated. After Camille the site became a shopping center. Coincidentally that center was destroyed by Katrina. Weird stuff.

  7. BG Hilton

    I don't live in North America so when I said 'severe weather events' I was thinking of a lot more than 'number of hurricanes to hit mainland USA'. And like I say general trends are not the same as specific events so flaws in predicting one tells us little about predicting the other.

    But having said that , I'm happy to agree to disagree with you on this. Economic and technical changes in the energy sector are going to kill off the fossil fuel industry quicker and more thoroughly then any sort of activism could, so I don't feel any pressing need to try to convert people in this issue.

    Anyway, I'm glad you're enjoying the reviews. And wow, that 'hurricane party' story just gets weirder.

  8. John

    I'm all for clean air, and clean water. Just not for scare tactics. And we recycle and do anything we can to make the environment cleaner - up to when it becomes cost prohibitive. As you said, when that barrier is removed, the problem solves itself.

    The woman who pushed the story was named Mary Ann Gerlach. A real nutcase.
    The rumor/legend of this party was actually turned into a 1970's Made for TV movie. Cleverly titled "Hurricane". The cast seems more like an episode of THE LOVE BOAT. The stars were Larry Hagman, Martin Milner, Michael Learned, Will Geer (the latter two both from THE WALTONS), and in a role he'd later play on THE HULK, Jack Colvin played 'the newscaster'.

    I actually saw this back in the day as an 8 year old kid. I remember being sent to bed before the hurricane struck, but snuck down the hall to see the ending. That's about all I remember. I'd love to look at this film again, just for nostalgia. In the film, they change the location as well as the name of the hurricane.

    Oh, one other comment about this IN SEARCH OF... episode. I love the stock footage of storms they used. Especially the lightening bolts that you see at the start of every episode of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. The same footage was used just 2 episodes earlier in "Astrology".

    In Search Of... they spare no expense.

  9. John

    OMG. I looked on both Amazon Prime and YouTube, and there it was!

    https://youtu.be/7L6p3-EISLg

    Horrible acting. Other cast members include Frank Sutton, who played the Sgt on Gomer Pyle. He stars as the drunken idiot who throws the Hurricane Party. A young Bobby Ewing....ehhhhh...Patrick Duffy also appears.

    HURRICANE has horrible plots lines, such as Larry Hagman (also a future DALLAS star) and his wife stuck on a boat in the eye of Hurricane Hilda.

    Will Geer and Michael Learned, who both starred in The Waltons that aired when this thing was made, are seen together for most of their scenes. She's the new young weather lady, he's the crusty old Dr who is the director of the hurricane center.

    Laughingly enough, much of the stock footage from the IN SEARCH OF episode is used in this film too. Including the scene of 'washed over roads', complete with the same cow in the road. Plus, in addition to the stock lightening shot we see on Gillagan's Island opening sequence, they actually use a shot near the start of the film that is the stock footage of the USS Minnow! Beyond cheap.

    The music is to die for. I mean really - you want to die while you hear the soundtrack playing ominously throughout the film. And we get day/time/weather updates in annoying Teletype messages across the screen. I loved it at the end when it types "...End...End...End...".

    Watch at your leisure - when you have 74 minutes of your life to waste. Or while folding laundry, which is what I did.

  10. BG Hilton

    Sounds awesome! I've got a ton of ironing to do this weekend, I might watch Hurricane then. I'm a sucker for 1970s disaster movies, and the cheaper the better.

  11. BG Hilton

    No, haven't had a chance. Been caught up in my studies, which is also why I haven't been posting a lot lately. Will definately see it though and report back.

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