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TODAY   |  August 29, 2011

Was Hurricane Irene over-hyped?

Hurricane Irene wasn’t as bad as predicted, and now some are asking whether the storm was over-hyped. NBC’s Peter Alexander takes a closer look and The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore and Bryan Norcross share their insight.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now the debate on whether the storm measured up to all the coverage. nbc's peter alexander experienced the storm firsthand. you were at the beach on connie island and now you're in the studio, what do you think?

>> i'm still finding sand in my ears right now. your perspective on the to remember is a function of where you live. if you're in vermont or upstate new york or outer banks of north carolina , you are surely not asking this question right now. but in manhattan and other place where's many people expected hollywood type windows being blown out, they did, in fact, get a little bit less than expected. as you saw i experienced this experien firsthand at coney island . people were asking were we over-evacuated and was this storm over-hyped. this is not hunkering down.

>> three hours ago i was reporting on the end of that dock. right now, it's floating.

>> reporter: from the start we were warned our introduction to irene would be an ugly one.

>> this has the makings of just the hurricane of our lifetime.

>> reporter: an onuminous storm on the radar and on tv.

>> it gets scarier and scarier.

>> reporter: but was the first major hurricane of 2011 oversold? surely not if you ask the flood victims in more than a dozen states.

>> we're a little worried right now.

>> reporter: or the hundreds of thousands waking up in morning in the dark.

>> we have power. these people have no power.

>> reporter: and certainly in the in the minds of the families who lost loved ones. the economic losses are predicted to be in the range of $7 billion. but some say we wasted millions more stocking up and shutting down, ahead of a potential disaster that never met expectations. the good news is, at least along the coast, not as much damage as we thought.

>> reporter: in fact, irene reached the big apple as a category 1 , quickly downgraded to a tropical storm . still punishing as i can attest. wow, that is just so stinging and uncomfortable. but causing limited damage.

>> i'm glad that my kids are fine. my family is okay.

>> reporter: opinions poured in on twitter. irene ain't no pushover, one wrote. she's still at it. irene was the most over-hyped, underwomening event since the "hangover 2." of course, it's easy to point fingers in hindsight. but lessons from past severe storms --

>> my relatives in mississippi and in louisiana would beg to differ .

>> reporter: -- have taught us we are beth served being overprepared.

>> mother nature calls so i would rather take the proper precaution.

>> reporter: new york governor andrew cuomo addressed the topic with my sunday night.

>> just because it could have been worse doesn't mean the preparation wasn't justified.

>> reporter: now it's easy to say whatever you like about irene . but everyone agrees, we are better off with her behind us.

>> it was a hurricane. could have been -- could have been worse. it blew past us. what are you going to do, you know?

>> reporter: as we have been seeing this morning there is significant flooding. and while this storm may have passed the damage and impact is only now beginning to be assessed, there are many places where they believe the rivers will only begin to flood later this week, matt. we're still going to be watching exactly what the impact of irene was well into the week. matt?

>> peter alexander . peter, thank you very much. let's bring back in al along with the weather channel 's jim canne er cantore. let's start with you, al. was this storm overhypes? this storm killed more than 20 people and 4 million bepeople are without power, and clearly there's misery and destruction. how could it have been overhyped and yet people still question it. why?

>> you look at the predictions, you look at the track, which was right on the money. category 3 storm . there's no armth here.

>> so what's bugging people? because there are some people who are bugged by this?

>> if we could make half the progress with intensity forecast as we've made with track forecast, this would be big, this would be better, but we didn't do that. we thought this was going to be a cat 4 comiing to the outer banks .

>> the fact of the matter is the same people who are yelling that this storm was overhyped might have been yelling, as you down played this storm , and it had been more severe than you thought. think about this.

>> here's a minimal category 1 storm . 23 people have lost their lives. how many more people would have died or could have died if this had been a stronger storm ? the preparations -- everything that was done, i would say we should do over again if we get the same scenario.

>> how many more times do we have to play pictures in.

>> and yet, brian, you see the evacuations of 300,000 people in lower manhattan , a million people along the jersey shore and they say, we didn't have to leave our homes. how would you respond?

>> well, the fact, is matt, if i were to say to you that there's a one in ten chance that you're going to die if you don't fix that wheel on your car when you leave the studio this morning, probably you would fix it and most people would fix it. but not everybody would. and if you equate it in that kind of way, you know, the fact is that we don't know for sure but the odds were significant enough of a threat to life and more than property, but especially to life, because we didn't take action, that maybe one in ten chance.

>> al, would you deal with a one in ten chance with life and death ? most people would not.

>> al, is there a chance though that people who left their homes and inconvenienced by the evacuations and shut-downs of transportation systems during this storm are going to be less likely to leave their homes the next time they get warned of a storm approaching?

>> of course.

>> and might that not put them in harm's way?

>> it will. but they need to keep in mind, again, 23 people are dead. and you know, look, if there's a bear outside your door and i see it and i don't say anything to you. i'm irresponsible. doesn't mean the bear is going to get in there and get you but you need to know that it's there.

>> there's another aspect to them, jim. when the storm made landfall in knowledge knowledge and new york. we seen reports in the field talking about sustained winds of 45 miles an hour, 55 miles an hour. in all the years we've been reporting on hurricanes that is not a category 1 hurricane . in our opinion, did the national hurricane center keep this storm labeled a category 1 hurricane simply to keep people afraid and safe? and is that appropriate?

>> no, i don't think they did at all. i mean, there all discussions through this, especially the second half of this thing, about how if you went up with height, there were very much stronger winds.

>> that's not in the past how we label hurricanes. when they hit florida and atlantic coast we call them category 1 if it's 75 miles an hour, sustained and above. that's not what happened in this one. why?

>> as it's coming up the coast it was still technically a hurricane. and you have to make sure that people are prepared for this. now, is it going to die down? yes, it did. but on the back side of the storm , like in long beach, we were getting 65, 70-mile-per-hour wind gusts. so, you know, you absolutely have to err on the side of caution.

>> battery, the strongest winds came after the storm moved north. same thing here.

>> al roker , jim cantore , thank you for doing this with us.

>>> what do you think about this? was hurricane irene overhyped? head to our website, today.com, let us know. we'll tell you the results of what you had to say.