I just verified that this was a made for television product and not a theatrical release. Knowing nothing about it before viewing, save that it was a disaster movie, the film itself made its identity clear. Not that I am knocking such films. Many are fine, many are entertaining, but none work with the kind of budget that an expected Hollywood megahit can have behind it. They also have to spread themselves over a wide range of audience types rather than having the chance to build by word of critics and word of mouth so that a specialized audience can be attracted and stimulate others to come later in the picture cycle.
There is also the time factor; very few television productions can take the time that movie-makers can to rehearse, find just the right spot to photograph, polish the dialogue, spend a day on a 3 minute segment, and other normal film practices. Thus we have in this film the stereotyped relationships which allow the audience to fill in much of the story with simply a hint from the screen: the husband sleeping with another woman, the self-appointed crusaders for one issue or another, who are thwarted by all the guardians of Corporate Greed (public and private), when they try to pursue the Public Interest as they see it, the teen- daughter going astray problem, and all the rest.
Yes, this film has its full allocation of these human interest short-cuts, but, nonetheless, I found it entertaining, on the whole, since I did exercise restraint in dealing with the aforementioned stereotypes. I also took a number of occasions to take a break, walk around, and, in the usual ways, avoid almost three hours of exposure.
It was good to see Brian Dennehy, then in his mid-sixties, and looking it, who was not allowed to dominate the human element in the film, but was still a major acting force. One does wish he had more to do and more freedom to cut loose from his supporting role. Others in the cast did about what they were supposed to do with only the news reporter-crusader allowed to give a more than routine performance. The bit part of Washington administrator was also allowed to make an impact in the short time allotted to her.
Insofar as their resources allowed, they give us a good storm, and glance at the damage done. Certainly, they made me happy not to have been caught in a major storm on the lakefront of Chicago, near which I spent a fair amount of time.
All in all, a watchable natural disaster film (and, yes, there is a human factor in the form of a malevolent hacker). It is not in the " Top Ten of the Year", but it should provide some satisfaction to others like myself, who like our natural disasters to be limited to the screen.