Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

current color enhanced goes east infrared image
(GOES Satellite shot of Hurricane Irene taken on August 25, 2011 provided by NOAA)

It's all over the social networks (FaceBook, Twitter, IMs, etc.) in the United States at least. Hurricane Irene has rapidly built itself up from a mere tropical storm into a Category 3 (winds are at 115 mph as I write this) hurricane with threats of intensifying. As you can see from this infrared satellite shot from the National Oceanographic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA), this is an impressive storm, well over 400 miles in width, taking direct aim at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. (NOTE: This information was accurate at the time of posting, but overnight the storm was downgraded to a Cat 2 and while this is a huge weather event, it clearly is not the monstrous Cat 4 that was threatened earlier.)

As I listen in on the chatter, I realize that this storm has the potential to hit every place I've lived in the past 50 years, barring the western states. If it comes ashore the first time in Morehead City, NC, it will cause enormous heartache and devastation. I lived aboard a sailboat there for almost three years. Then it is forecasted to head for New York City, NY, and while I didn't live there that long, I have visited and been with relatives and sailed those waters for years so it is as familiar to me as any home I've lived in far longer. The last stop could be the Boston area and whether it is Boston itself or Cohasset or Scituate or Cape Cod, those are all places where once I called the place 'home.'

I think the information I've gathered today in listening to some of the questions asked on a live chat (there were over 16,000 on the chat, so I didn't hear ALL the questions) is that many people have never been in a hurricane, never went to volunteer for a service agency after a devastating storm, have never even had a friend or relative in a major weather event or earthquake, and have NOT A CLUE as to how to be prepared or what to do.

In case you were not aware of it, there was a 5.8 earthquake just last week in Virginia, felt as far south as South Carolina and as far north as New Hampshire. The social media network was almost overwhelmed with all the chatter, and from what I could interpret, the greater percentage of those sharing had never been in an earthquake before either. The natural tendency is to run outside of a shaking building. But the suggested safest choice is to find a secure doorway and wait there until it is over and the falling stones have landed.

Although 9/11 awakened people to dangers, it did nothing to educate them to becoming prepared for them. I will be willing to bet that after Hurricane Irene has passed by, there will huge pockets of whiners who complain that they didn't have enough water, or food or batteries or common sense to see them through it all. And for a few, like the 16 minutes required to be able to outrun the Japanese tsunami, it is too little, too late. Depending on a commercial meteorologist to answer your question on a live chat three days before a major hurricane hits your area is like asking a new barber a political question. It's not very productive and is coming from a source that knows nothing about you and your lifestyle.

Perhaps because I lived on a sailboat for almost eight years, I learned about being proactive and being prepared for various eventualities. The day we almost sank because of a tiny, tiny hole in the bow, I learned my lesson. The hole doesn't have to be big for that mistake to nearly cost you your ship. And while helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina, I learned that small things can cause infections, be driven  by wind like bullets into concrete, and stop engines from working. It doesn't take much to stop technology... wind, water, shaking. And being unprepared to deal with the consequences can stop you.

Prayers go out ahead of the storm to all the friends I've made in all those places that Hurricane Irene is planning to visit and intending they are avoiding danger, heartache and loss in this difficult time.

1 comment:

  1. Hey kiddo- Have lived in the "Deep South" since '83 (Ohio Gal), and feel pretty "tough" when it comes to Hurricanes.... Katrina went right over our house... G.W. was here in town afterwards.

    Saying that, I fear for the folks up North...they're not familiar with hurricanes. Also, part of me wonders about Earthquakes, Hurricanes and the Middle East/Africa going to hell.... Scary times, Sandy.