05 September 2017

Stormy Weather

Matthew on his Caribbean/East Coast tour last fall.

It's been a tense weekend watching the weather maps as Hurricane Irma makes its way toward the East Coast. As of today, the time and place of its landfall remains only an educated guess. One thing seems certain, though -- whichever unfortunate island or state Irma chooses to be her host will have quite the mess on their hands. Florida is looking more and more likely to be the unlucky winner, although the Carolinas are not outside the realm of possibility.

With Hurricane Matthew still relatively fresh in mind (there are still telephone wires down in front of our house), the thought of riding out yet another major storm leaves me rather vexed. Even so, I don't like to be someone who dreads bad weather. Technically, a true optimist doesn't even subscribe to the notion of "bad" weather. It was a true optimist who said, "There is no bad weather, only different kinds of good weather." I have to wonder if the residents of Houston, who are still digging themselves out from under the handiwork of Hurricane Harvey, would agree.

Of the natural disasters I've experienced, hurricanes are, hands down, my least favorite so far. They're pure evil. They stubbornly refuse to be ameliorated by a lot of the preemptive measures you can take in other kinds of disaster. In a hurricane, you can't just hunker down in your basement and hope for the best like you can in a tornado -- you'll drown. Nor can you suppress a hurricane like you can a wildfire. No, with a hurricane, you are at its mercy. And hurricanes are not known for mercy.

Blizzards are the resident natural catastrophe where I come from. But blizzards not a big deal. In fact, they can be a lot of fun. School gets cancelled for days, and you can stay at home and go sledding once the snowfall is over. You can get things done around the house you had been putting off, like cleaning out the freezer. You have absolutely the best excuse for not being able to go anywhere; you're snowed in. It's an introvert's dream come true. As long as you keep the ice off your roof, you'll be okay. Of course, there are always a few boneheads who manage to get themselves killed, but this happens even when the weather is 70 degrees and sunny.

Earthquakes are also not a big deal. I do realize the Really Big Ones can be devastating, but those are few and far between. Earthquakes can't be anticipated, and this is what I mean by "not a big deal." You don't have days and weeks of nail-biting anxiety and media-induced frenzy leading up to an earthquake, because they can't be forecast. They simply happen when they happen, and then they're over. You put the pictures back up on the walls and go about your business.

Fire is somewhat more concerning, and I admit the prospect of losing my life and property in an inferno isn't an attractive one, but you never know, maybe it's a fear based on ignorance. I came to this conclusion because -- for whatever reason -- the residents of areas that routinely face the threat of fire seem unperturbed about it.

While living on the West Coast, I woke up one morning to a sepia sunrise. The whole sky, from one horizon to another, was brown with the smoke of a huge fire in a neighboring city. Naturally I found this unsettling, and wondered what we should do. But the native Californians to whom I posed the question of evacuating reacted as if I'd suggested building an igloo in the Sahara desert. Clearly, a fire burning out of control a mere several miles away was no cause for alarm.

Of course, one always has the option of evacuating from a hurricane. If Irma gets too comfy here, maybe that's what we'll do. Maybe we'll go to Iceland, where they have volcanoes, which are, at least, interesting to look at. After all, the saying goes, "He who packs up and runs away, lives to fight another hurricane another day." Or something like that.

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