Campaigns and PACs See Advertising Opportunities in Impending Disasters

With Hurricane Florence bearing down, political ads on the Weather Channel go up.

Let me begin by saying I’m watching what is happening with Hurricane Florence carefully.

When Hurricane Matthew ravaged North Carolina in 2016, my family and I were unprepared. For me, it was October 2016, one month before the election, and my focus was elsewhere.

We sat without electricity for 3 days afterwards. We hadn’t been to the supermarket and the entire city was in the dark. Stores and restaurants were closed. We had to make due, as best we could.

I found out then that I’m not well suited to the rustic, off the grid life.

The memory of that awful experience has made me hyper-vigilant.

I watch the weather reports. If there’s news of a hurricane, I prepare. And here’s a tip: It is better to be prepared and not need it than it is to be unprepared and need it.

With the Weather Channel playing in the background, I’m writing this with the specter of Florence still looming. It seems like a good time to talk about how politicos take advantage of impending disaster.

A media research company has determined that political ads pop up all over the Weather Channel during the coverage of disasters.

The Washington-based NCC Media found 83 political advertisers are purchasing airtime on the channel, up from 59 last week.

When a hurricane or some other weather-related disaster strikes, The Weather Channel quickly becomes one of the most-watched stations in an increasingly diversified television marketplace.

I guess if you want to be seen…

Frankly, if not for Florence, I wouldn’t be watching the Weather Channel. You can only stare at weather patterns so long before the thrill is gone. Some love it, however (like, my mama).

Nielsen is reporting a bump in viewership of 10 percent between 2016 and 2017. That could be due to a particularly active hurricane season in 2017.

The station reached 70 million viewers last year and averaged more than a million viewers during the week Hurricane Irma hit Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and Florida. When Hurricane Harvey slammed into southern Texas a few weeks earlier, 37 million viewers tuned in.

And the PACs came calling.

On the candidate side, Ohio Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine’s (R) campaign, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) campaign and Connecticut gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont (D) are all running advertising on The Weather Channel.

Interesting, considering none of them will be affected by Florence.

The Senate Leadership Fund, which has spent more than $19 million on advertisements for Republican candidates, is the largest outside group buying Weather Channel time. Chris Pack, a spokesman for the group, said it was airing ads on the channel aimed at viewers in Tennessee, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Nevada and West Virginia, all key races in the increasingly-tight battle for control of the Senate.

Also states that have no stake in the current weather crisis.

I’m not begrudging these campaigns or PACs the right to run ads in any venue that will take them. It’s politics, and it’s a smart move, if your job is to grab attention for your candidate or cause.

It’s just further proof that there’s no occurrence that can’t be harnessed for the sake of politics.

I’m going to be honest here, however. If this thing shakes out the way they’re predicting currently, I’m not going to be thinking of a single political ad or issue, while I’m standing in what they say will be anywhere from 18 to 24 inches of rain water.

Stay safe out there, folks.

Comments
No. 1-4
GawainsGhost
GawainsGhost

Stay safe and well, Susan. I'll be praying for you and your family.

Was Matthew your first hurricane? Three days without power, everything closed, that does sound harsh, but at least you learned from the experience about how important is to prepare, stock up on supplies. That should help you weather this storm.

Honestly though Matthew sounds like a relatively mild hurricane to me. It was nothing compared to Florence, because this storm is unique. The previous hurricanes that struck the east coast, going back over a century, all followed the same path. They came in from the south, travelled up along the coastline, parallel to the shore, then moved inland. Florence is the first to not do that. She formed in the north Atlantic and will strike the coast directly, bringing with her unprecedented storm surges, torrential rains and catastrophic floods. Wind damage will probably be minimal, but water damage will certainly be maximal. I'm not so sure Matthew taught you to prepare for something like that.

I've lived through six hurricanes since my family moved from San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley in 1969. None of them were as large and powerful as Beulah, the storm that struck in 1967--she caused such severe flooding it created inland lakes that are still standing 50 years later--but several were consequential. The thing about this area is that the entire region is 80 feet below sea level, so it is particularly vulnerable to flooding because the water has nowhere to flow.

Since we live about 100 miles inland from Port Isabel, we seldom face the full brunt of a storm like the coastal cities do, but we always bear the torrential rains on the periphery and the floods that come with them. I can remember a couple of times when there was three-to-four feet of water on the streets for two weeks. Imagine you entire town turned into Venice, just like that. The only way to get around is by boat.

Power out for up to 10 days. Every school, business and store closed, even the hospitals are swamped. You absolutely have to have stocked up on supplies to get through something like that. Fortunately, the people down here had grown accustomed to such emergency situations, having had to contend with them before over decades, so everybody knew how to prepare. I fear a lot of the people in the Carolinas don't, because they simply never have had to face those conditions before.

As a kid, it was kind of fun paddling a canoe around town, water, water, everywhere, sort of like a sea adventure. Camping out at home, cooking over propane stoves, living by candlelight. It wasn't so much fun when those days and weeks were taken out of summer vacation, and you had to sit in a classroom when you'd rather be outside playing in the sun.

Looking back now as an adult, I can't even imagine the rebuilding costs incurred. And that's the thing, it really is. Wind damage is easy to repair, but water damage is very difficult. We're talking about wood rot on frames, floors, walls, and roofs, coupled with more dreaded mold infestation. The rebuilding costs after Florence, and the worst is yet to come, will exceed those of Katrina and Harvey, probably by tens of billions.

Not exactly a good time to have the prices of building materials--lumber, steel, aluminum, wiring, not to mention carpet, paint, appliances, furniture, and everything else--going up by 20-25%, thanks to Trump's idiotic tariffs and stupid trade wars, is it?

Susan_Wright
Susan_Wright

Editor

@Polarbearpapaw Thanks, and yes. The storm is projected to come ashore in Wilmington. I'm just over 100 miles west of Wilmington.

Polarbearpapaw
Polarbearpapaw

Wife and I will be praying for your households safety Susan...

I take it you do not live directly on the coast but inland a tad bit..hence your choosing the option to ride out the storm...

DriverZn
DriverZn

Be safe Susan, We were without power for a week last year as a result of the wildfires and then mudslides. It's no fun. On the plus side it was nice to have a calm break away from the news.

Now in this case I do expect it to be weaponized, especially due to this.

Basically the government choose to be unprepared. That's too juicy for PACs to leave on the table.

Stories