Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Master of Disaster?

Slate discusses disaster coverage, and Joel Achenbach says the greatest disaster article ever written was Dave Von Drehle's story on Hurricane Hugo in 1989, for the Miami Herald. Slate -- not knowing, I guess, that they could have gotten the full article, not just the summary in Nexis, from or, gets a copy from Von Drehle, and permission to reprint it from The Herald: The Master of Disaster: David Von Drehle vs. the catastrophe clichés.

Von Drehle navigates around clichés as swiftly as a slalom skier. His hurricane doesn't batter the coast or flatten buildings. Stop signs don't shimmy in the wind as if possessed by the devil. No homeowner or businessman nails glass-saving plywood to the front of his building. When the time comes for the obligatory "the hurricane sounds like a passing train" reference, Von Drehle shakes his head uh-uh and writes:

It sounds like the harsh intake of a dentist's suction tube, greatly amplified and always increasing. Or the roar of a seashell a billion times over. Or Niagara, if only Niagara cranked up its volume each time your ears got adjusted to it.

The headline on Dave's story: Shaken Survivors Witness Pure Fury.


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