The myths surrounding Hurricane Irma

2017 seemed to be the year of fake news and false information, and Hurricane Irma was no exception to these phony sources. Some of these were meant to be harmless jokes, or even naive mistakes, and ended up reaching millions of social media users. An article by Newsweek covers a wide variety of these and other errors.  Here are some of the stories that most commonly passed for the real thing.  

Old videos and pictures from past storms floated around Facebook, and with many came absurd weather predictions. One Facebook user uploaded a video which they claim to be footage of Hurricane Irma, but the clip was actually probably from a hurricane that hit Uruguay in 2016. Even with news sources such as Buzzfeed pointing out the error, the video has been viewed over 31 million times and shared a whopping 800,000 times. This, however surprisingly, was one of the smaller mistakes made in the flurry of Hurricane Irma. 

Another popular omission of the truth came about when a prominent right-wing radio broadcaster named Alex Jones claimed that the hurricane was a “Category 6 Mega Storm”. However, there is no “Category 6” when it comes to hurricanes. The Saffir-Simpson Scale, which is the scale used to measure the intensity and size of the tropical storms, goes from a Category 1, which is the least severe, to a Category 5, the most devastating form of a hurricane. Hurricane Irma was downgraded from a five to a four a few days into the storm.  

Although this next myth is not centered around Hurricane Irma, it is about Hurricane Harvey, a storm that brought its reign down within weeks of Irma. A photoshopped picture posted on Twitter shows a shark swimming alongside a car on a road. This picture wound up circulating through most forms of social media. While this is a cool scenario to think of, sharks would not be able to survive in such shallow waters. The barometric pressure drops leave the animals exposed to danger. For their safety, most sharks swim to deep waters. 

These social media screw ups can be funny, but there is an underlying danger of how fast false information can spread. To be sure that one is getting the highest quality news, fact checking is key.