Data Show Media Hype Over Irma Generated Enormous Public Attention

Courtesy NASA/Handout via REUTERS

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Tropical Storm Irma received more attention than hurricanes Maria and Harvey, according to data released Tuesday from Google.

Media reports prior to Irma’s arrival painted the massive storm as perhaps one of the most powerful and destructive hurricanes to ever make landfall in the U.S. Data from Google show that interest from the U.S. about Hurricane Maria was substantially less than during both Harvey and Irma.

The data, which calculated the number of times people searched for specific terms related to the storms, excludes interest generated from people living in Puerto Rico. Those living in Puerto Rico were very interested in Irma and Maria, but were less interested in Harvey, which pounded parts of the southeastern section of Texas for several days.

Government officials from Florida and elsewhere advised citizens from the state to evacuate before Irma made landfall. They issued dire warnings about the potential of storm surge and the hurricane’s 130-mile per hour winds.

Irma, which made landfall Sept. 11, caused more than 36 deaths inside U.S., with some of those due to intense Florida heat as residents dealt without electricity are forced to go without air conditioning. Nearly half of the state’s residents were foisted into complete darkness.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida estimated earlier this month that repairing damage from the hurricane would run in the billions of dollars. Congress is expected to continue allocating money through FEMA, despite the federal flood insurance program being billions of dollars in debt.

Maria, which followed roughly the same path as Irma, pummeled Puerto Rico and left the small American territory reeling. The hurricane knocked out the entire power grid, including more than 95 percent of the island’s cellphone system. Much of the island of 3.5 million citizens remain without running water.

President Donald Trump plans on visiting Puerto Rico next Tuesday.

Puerto Rico is “literally destroyed,” the president said during a press conference Tuesday. “They’ll be back,” he added. Maria hit Puerto Rico Wednesday as a powerful Category 4 storm.

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