Thursday, September 01, 2005

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

I have been a "weather junkie" for years. It's just part of being in my family. During hurricane season, I remember sitting in the living room with my mother, my brother, and my grandmother (when I was about 6 years old) listening to the radio to get the latest "lat/lon pair" from the National Weather Service. I learned my Atlantic Coast geography thanks to Hurricane Gerda, Hurricane Belle, Hurricane David, and a few tropical storms thrown into the mix. Hurricane Gloria taught me some appreciation for what the NWS went through in terms of "hype" about a storm. By the time Gloria reached us, she was a tropical storm, and I saw lots of news coverage about "the weather folks always say it is going to be bad, but it never is". But my mother was a child when the Great '38 hurricane hit New England. She witnessed what happened after Hurricane Carol and Hurricane Hazel hit in rapid succession. Then Hurricane Diane hit the following year. My mother and my father and my grandparents taught my brother and I how we had to respect hurricanes -- in spite of what others might say about "hype".

Then came Hurricane Bob.

Hurricane Bob hit the year that my husband and I got married. We were true newlyweds -- 4 months into our marriage -- and we were doing all our hurricane preparations -- storing water, gathering canned goods, buying candles, etc. Bob hit as a Category 2 storm and we watched as satellite dishes blew up the street. A tree fell down in our backyard and took the electric meter right off our house. We made it through fine, and yes, it was a pain not having power for a week, but we did not have flooding, we still had a house to live in, and we muddled through okay. But many friends were not as lucky. Friends that lived near the bay did have flooding. They did lose the roof of their house and had to gather their belongings quickly to move out of their house for a long while. Bob showed me how all this stuff is "real".

We moved to the DC area in 1994, and Hurricane Bertha paid a visit in 1996. I got to see the DC area's version of "they just hyped the storm" complaining. But I did not get forget what I learned in Bob. When Hurricane Isabel hit the DC area in 2003 as a tropical storm, I saw friends once again suffer major losses thanks to a "just a tropical storm". But people still talked about "all the hype".

Now we see what Hurricane Katrina has destroyed.

I hear about the devastation at work, and it just breaks my heart. Then I come home and, after the kids are in bed, I watch the news coverage and have to kiss my kids another time. My heart goes out to all the families.

I just hope that people -- not only residents, but also elected officials and emergency management personnel and the like -- will learn a little from this and have a healthy respect for the weather. Sure, it costs a lot of money to do mandatory evacuations 48 hours out from a storm. But you can save some lives in the process, too.

I think one of the posters on the Eastern US Weather forum said it best -- this was posted the morning of landfall (Aug 29 2005, 09:14 AM):
I am very sad this morning... deeply moved by the disaster unfolding before our eyes. I have been in two cat 1 hurricanes in my life.... and it take a lot to scare ME with weather...

I cannot imagine what a cat 4 is like... the wobble to the west here which has placed New Orleans right in the western Eye wall is just so unbelievably bad.... the words fail me.

2004 .... 4 canes in 44 days in FL.... now this 3rd massive cane in the gulf....

From this day forward these persons and families.... even those not directly in the path of Katrina... and those families who have relatives in other parts of the country watching this disaster unfold... KNOW that today is one of those life-changing days that we love and also fear. Imagine leaving your home on another seemingly senseless evacuation.... just like the last time... kidding with friends and neighbors and family members that this time again nothing is going to happen but secretly having that fear that it just might... then as we watch the media coverage knowing that this time it's different. This time the place that you call home is in serious trouble... this time the luck isn't going to hold .

And as you come home you find your home smashed wedding albums and family pictures scattered about ... the kitchen destroyed... and your entire life strewn about as if you and your family were insignificant nothing. When you are in a category 3 4 or 5 hurricane EVERY days in your life will be post-Katrina.... post 8/29/05... everyday gets viewed as before and after... everything that happened to these persons and these families lives... from 1776 to now get put into one compartment or mindset... and everything that happens from August 30, 2005 until... well until whenever... is viewed as AFTER Katrina.

Yet the greatest power of humanity is that we know deep down the lives are not insignificant and we make our stand against the forces of nature as we rebuild sometimes a rather seemingly senseless act of the defiance but always in a very human matter.

In general Humans are at the best when things are at their worst... and no place is that more true than in United States of America.

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