Is havoc ever preceded by any verb other than “wreak?”

Not this week.

As my child, a music student at the University of Miami in southern Florida, reported that his food supply included a few packages of Ramen, some instant oatmeal … and that’s about it, Associated Press journalists wove boring weather predictions into as dramatic presentations of the hypothetical as they could while still technically remaining nonfiction.

“Wreak havoc” is what I’m talking about.

They have no clue what Hurricane Matthew will do, where it will land, IF it will make landfall… but just like American Airlines (MiamiàWashington D.C. one way, $1700, one ticket left) are ready to capitalize on the misery—or sheer terror—of others.

Wait.

Doesn’t that make them terrorists?

And wait, I know you are all busy trying to find a way to get your student out of the path of a hurricane, no matter the expense, but isn’t that illegal? Isn’t that price gouging? Isn’t that SHAMEFUL?

And I’m not just talking about American Airlines. What about you, Associated Press? It’s one thing to report the news for the edification of the nation. But “Wreak havoc?” What does that even mean?

SO my son, who we will call, “Seth,” is a very tall, skinny, 19-year-old excellent musician who, like many tall, skinny 19-year-old excellent musicians, may lack other life skills.

For example, he is not 25 years old so he may lack the skill to rent a car.

He is also notably shy and polite, so he may lack the skills to get a ride the hell out of the hurricane’s path.

And he would rather just hole up in the stairwell of his dorm and practice, especially since he has this amazing opportunity—classes have been cancelled for the rest of the week.

So how does a mom a thousand miles away find a path through the hyperbole and price gouging to rest, alas, to sleep?

The University of Miami staff who pen the daily hurricane advisories get this.

Calm, comforting, intelligent language defining factual predictions advised remaining indoors. When windspeeds reach 39 mph, the dining halls will be closed, parents reading the U of Miami website learned. Each dormitory resident would be provided MREs and water. After the hurricane passes, damage on campus will be assessed before students will be released from the ‘shelter in place’ mandate.

Not once did the website use the words “wreak” or “havoc.”

But were they erring on the pabulum side of the equation?

 

Update: Strong winds cleaned the University of Miami campus but did not havoc wreak. Other states flooded and downstream dominoes predictably fell. Transportation systems interrupted, food supply systems stymied, cars swept away goods damaged, routines rerouted. Havoc? Not sure. But next time, maybe havoc might be less if precise terminology were employed. Instead of “Havoc,” an entirely useless term in its imprecision, let’s use predictable elements thereof like “flooding, transportation interruptions, food source disconnects, and routine services less than normal.”

 

University of Miami: 1

Associated Press: 0

American Airlines: -1700