Uh, that’s TROPICAL STORM LEE we’re now talking about!

Yes, it is no longer that oddly-shaped tropical wave out there in the Gulf. Nor is it TD 13, meaning Tropical Depression 13. The National Hurricane Center upped the storm’s status to Tropical Storm Lee this afternoon and it appears to threaten New Orleans with a lot of wind, a lot of network reporters and probably a great deal of hype. Perhaps I am being a tad redundant.

The national media, at least the electronic media, seem to have an obsession with New Orleans. Who can blame them? Who wouldn’t want to go to Fun City on an expense account? Who cares if it’s raining or the wind blowing? A real storm would be just great, then the reporter could go out and do a Dan Rather-style standup in the howling wind and rain, then dry off in the truck and haul ass to Pat O’Brien’s for a little French Quarter-style hedonism.

I am being somewhat facetious here and even more than a bit cynical.

What I see as a media obsession didn’t just start with Katrina. As long as I have been associated with journalism, what I call the “New Orleans Media Obsession (NOMO),” has been evident. Katrina was a journalist’s gift that fed NOMO and that kept on giving.

That is not to say Katrina was not a compelling story. It was and it remains that way, to some extent. But a lot of folks which suffered their own disasters and felt their own losses got tired of NOMO and wished they’d hear no mo’.

To survivors — if you want to label them as such — of latter storms such as Rita and Ike, New Orleans is a damned touchy subject.

It isn’t that those who suffered their own loss or went through the unpleasant experiences of a hurricane cannot empathize with a magnificent American city which lost hundreds of people and places and much of its soul during Katrina. Rather, they wish the media had also been there in smaller places like Cameron and Sabine Pass and Bridge City and even towns 70 miles inland after Rita. Sure, the media were there when the “optics” looked good. But when people were sweating and beginning to smell a little ripe and were a bit weary and even bitchy, where was Anderson Cooper then? Why he was doing a standup in front of the St. Louis Cathedral, right next to Jackson Square and facing the mighty Mississippi.

The national media going where the largest number of people are involved is something that most folks should understand although many probably do not. New Orleans and Katrina involved something unparalleled in modern U.S. history. But forget the hinterlands for a moment, not nearly as much attention was paid to the Mississippi coast either where Katrina killed several hundred people and some places were wiped off the map.

So New Orleans could get 20 inches of rain — perhaps over several days. In our drought-ravaged southeastern corner of Texas, we wish we could get a little of that rain or even more than a little.

The truth is no one can say for sure what Lee will do next. The spaghetti models have been thrown against the walls every which a’ ways. The confluence of Texas and Louisiana at Sabine Lake isn’t expected to get but between a half-inch to a couple of inches of rain at that. It’s expected to be pretty windy because of Lee for several days. That will at least keep these hotter ‘n hell temperatures down a bit.

We really don’t know what will happen until it happens though. Pretty much every hurricane I’ve seen hit our area was originally forecast to make landfall as much as 100 or more miles away. Science has thankfully become better at predicting hurricanes, and the National Weather Service cannot overemphasize that people should not rest their focus on where the center of a hurricane hits because there are way too many variables which affect the dangers and potential damage of tropical systems.

So stay tuned. If it looks like rain, perhaps you might consider getting out of it.

Or not.