The internet exists, and so does Hurricane Florence. The inevitable result? An ever-growing tally of online hoaxes about the dangerous storm, hoping to go viral on the good intentions of people who are trying to find and share the latest information.
Look on this list, ye Mighty, and despair.
Sharks, sharks, sharks
Shark hoaxes are so common during natural disasters involving flooding that their circulation has become a meme. And yet, those who aren’t online all the time seem to fall for these hoaxes every storm. Florence appears to be no exception.
A fake television image purporting to show that Florence “now contains sharks” started circulating earlier this week. The image is nearly identical to one that generated tens of thousands of shares online during Hurricane Irma. Although some circulating this fake image clearly know it’s a joke, not everyone seems to understand; Snopes has already posted a fact check on it.
The image originates from a pretty well-known fake TV still generator, Break Your Own News. Normally, the image bears a prominent watermark indicating the source, but some have blurred it out before sharing.
It also doesn’t help when some of those sharing the image are journalists themselves.
We reached out to Matt Hartman, whose bio identifies him as a “Freelance News Photojournalist,” for comment on his decision to share this hoax. His response:
“its clearly a joke and was not originated from me nor and i the one who created this. go away”
He then deleted the tweet. Anyway. Don’t share shark pics of dubious origin.
Don’t put your valuables in a dishwasher
A copy-paste meme offering a long list of hurricane advice already has thousands of shares on Facebook, and it might offer some good advice. But it also contains some very wrong information.
First: No matter what you read on Facebook, don’t store your valuables in a dishwasher to protect them.
The viral post advises that “anything that you want to try and preserve, but you can’t take with you - place it in a plastic bin and put in your dishwasher, lock the door — this should make it water tight in case of any water intrusion into your home.” The post’s advice was picked up by multiple news outlets this week.
Like other hurricane misinformation, this advice has been viral before. During 2017’s Irma, a post advising a similar idea was shared more than a million times. However, as BuzzFeed reported in 2017, dishwashing companies don’t recommend this. The Tampa Bay Times called a dishwasher repair company to ask about this myth, too, and they confirmed that dishwashers don’t keep the water out during a flood.
It makes sense that people might think a dishwasher is waterproof — after all, it seems to keep water in while running. But those who have tried this tip in the past have been disappointed.
Don’t shoot at the hurricane, it’s not scared of your guns
More than 30,000 people have joined a Facebook event organizing an effort to shoot guns at Florence to scare the storm away from Richmond, Virginia. The event is clearly not serious, and carries a disclaimer from its organizer: “Do not actually discharge firearms into the air. You could kill someone and you cannot frighten a hurricane. I cant believe I actually have to write this.”
The Facebook group is one of several promoting tongue-in-cheek ideas for stopping Florence. One, playing off the “Aunt Flo” nickname for menstruation, suggests throwing tampons at the storm.
But in the past, law enforcement have had to clarify that shooting a bullet at a hurricane, even in frustration or jest, isn’t a great idea.
Ryan Stumpf, the Facebook event’s organizer, said in a direct message that the group was “100 percent satire.”
“Humor has long been a way of dealing with stress, and this is no different; with the serious nature of this storm, and the uncertainty of where/when/if it would make landfall, exacerbated that stress. This event has never been anything but a joke,” he wrote. “Are there some people who took it seriously? There’s over 100,000 people that have either RSVP”d ‘Going’ or ‘Interested’ to the event, and possibly millions more people have seen it. I’m sure there are disturbed individuals who could believe that shooting at a large cloud could effect it, but the very vast majority of ‘participants’ know that it’s just an excuse to make memes and laugh about the absurdity of it all.”
People have also been sharing actual advice in the group for preparing for Florence’s arrival, Stumpf noted.
If anyone was inspired by his group to shoot at a hurricane, Stumpf added, assuming they were “found competent by law to own and access said firearm,” then “their decisions are their own. Consequences would also be their own.”
The whole “shooting at a hurricane” thing is, frankly, in the same category with fears about eating Tide Pods: the idea tends to go much more viral than the actual act. But given the possible dangers of shooting a bullet blindly into a natural disaster, it’s worth noting that you shouldn’t try to scare the hurricane with your puny guns. You won’t hurt Florence and you might hurt a real human.