Monday, October 30, 2017

Fire and Rain

"Fire and Rain" is my favorite James Taylor song, and I think it makes a perfect title for this blog post. There have been no shortage of natural disasters in the past few months! Whether these weather-related events are acts of God or are that of Mother Nature is a matter of personal opinion. I believe that God is in control of all things, including the elements, and that He uses natural means to accomplish His work. People might ask, "Why would a loving God allow such horrible things to happen to His children if He is such a kind and loving God?" I don't know the answer to that, specifically, and I won't presume to know the mind and will of God, but what I do know is that just because terrible things happen, it doesn't mean that God is any less loving. Part of mortal life involves going through trials, and that might mean losing all of your earthly possessions (or becoming paralyzed). Sometimes bad things just happen, and/or God allows bad things to happen and doesn't intervene to prevent them. That being said, here is a rundown of what has been going on in recent months:

Hurricane Harvey: Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a category 4 storm in Rockport, Texas early on Saturday morning, August 26, with wind speeds of 130 mph and then the storm stalled. It stuck around for the next three to four days, dropping more than 50 inches and 30+ trillion gallons of rain. It made landfall three different times and did catastrophic damage to Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana. 77 people died in or as a result of the storm. Thousands of people had to be rescued from their houses or other buildings during the storm. Tens of thousands were displaced by the storm, at least temporarily. Nearly 275,000 homes were damaged, and over 40,000 were completely destroyed. This doesn’t even count the number of buildings/businesses that were damaged or destroyed. An estimated one million cars were destroyed. Economic losses are preliminarily estimated at between $70-$200 billion. This was the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
I thought the following graphic was interesting. Hurricane Katrina was extremely devastating, yet, SO much more water fell during Hurricane Harvey. That really put things into perspective for me. I still think Katrina was worse. The government response after Katrina seemed worse, and like it took longer for people to get help and to get rescued, which is probably why there was a much higher loss of life after that hurricane.
All of the images were heartbreaking in their own way, but the picture above was one of the most heartbreaking, in my humble opinion. These elderly residents in this nursing home are sitting in their wheelchairs waiting to be rescued. I just pictured myself in that situation, and how frightening it would be to be so physically vulnerable, and to know you had no way out. Not to mention the fact that you are sitting in filthy, contaminated flood water, and how bad it is for skin to be wet for hours on end. That's skin breakdown and infection waiting to happen!

Hurricane Irma: Hurricane Irma seemed to last forever, but maybe that's because it took 2 1/2 weeks for the storm to dissipate after it first formed. It was a Category 5 hurricane that caused catastrophic damage in many areas, particularly in the Florida Keys, as well as Barbuda, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla, the Virgin Islands, as well as other islands in the Caribbean. There were many counties in Florida that issued a mandatory evacuation notice. As bad as things were in Florida, things actually could've been a lot worse, but the storm changed its path, and it didn't seem to do quite as much damage as was predicted. I was actually glued to the TV on Sunday afternoon, September 10, as I watched the news coverage of the hurricane battering Florida. I was enthralled and riveted, and also extremely grateful that I don't live in hurricane territory! As of October 10, the hurricane had caused at least 134 deaths (with 90 of them being in the contiguous United States). Preliminary calculations estimate Irma caused more than $60 billion in damages.

One factoid I learned about hurricanes while watching the Hurricane Irma news coverage is that a hurricane is made up of hundreds of thunderstorms all swirling around each other. That was news to me, but I guess it kind of makes sense.
Hurricanes Jose and Katia followed Harvey and Irma, but I'm not going to go into depth about them. Hurricane Maria was another devastating hurricane, and did significant damage to the entire island of Puerto Rico, killing 51, and costing billions more in damage. (900+ more have died in Puerto Rico in the weeks since the hurricane, due to injury, infection, and the lack of food and clean drinking water.)

California wildfires: While hurricanes were raging in the Atlantic, wildfires were burning out West. There were wildfires in Oregon and Montana, and most notably in California. 8400 homes, businesses and other buildings in the Santa Rosa and surrounding area have been destroyed. 42 people have died. Thousands had to evacuate their homes, some with little notice, since the powerful winds frequently changed direction, causing the fire to spread to new places rather quickly.
I read an article about John and Jan Pascoe, an older couple that got word that they needed to evacuate in the middle of the night, and they couldn't get out before the fire closed off all of the exits to their neighborhood, and they were trapped. They didn't know what else to do, so they got into their neighbor's pool and stayed in it for six hours while the inferno blazed around them. Even though they were surrounded by fire, they were freezing in the cold water. They had to cling to each other in order to keep warm. Jan Pascoe said that while she was in the cold water, she kept wondering how long it takes for a house to burn down. It took hours! Fortunately, John and Jan both survived, and here they are back at their neighbor's pool:

When I think about all of these catastrophic disasters, I just think of all the millions and billions of dollars in damaged property (houses, restaurants, businesses, stores, merchandise, vehicles, boats, machines, etc.), and how costly it will be to replace and rebuild everything. And then there is the cost of the emergency response: police and firefighters' wages, food/water for the victims, money to rebuild infrastructure and pay workers to do the labor, and so much more. Even if people aren't directly affected by these disasters, we all pay in one way or another.

As I said in my last post about the Las Vegas shooting, the worst circumstances bring out the best in people, and it was truly heartwarming to hear the stories about strangers helping strangers. People let complete strangers into their homes, and temporarily housed, clothed and fed them. When Hurricane Harvey hit and there was epic flooding, people who lived states away took their boats down to Texas so that they could assist in the rescue effort. People didn't care about each other's race and religious or political views; the only thing that mattered was that human beings were in dire circumstances and needed help, and kind-hearted people rose to the challenge. Of course, there were also reports of despicable people that shamefully looted homes and businesses looking for what they could steal, and others that price gouged, looking to make a few bucks off of people who were already losing so much. But overall, the good in people far outweighed the bad.

I cannot imagine losing all of my earthly possessions in a flood or a wildfire, especially those treasures and mementos that are irreplaceable. I can't imagine having to start over with nothing, but I guess people do it all the time after tragedies like this. It would be unfortunate to lose everything, but I guess surviving with your family members unscathed is really all that matters, especially when you realize that there are some people that aren't so lucky, and they lose loved ones. I suppose material possessions lose their importance when put side by side with loved ones.


Julie said...

This is so touching.x

It amazed me that with all that electrical stuff in that nursing home - the telly & lamp etc - that no one was electrocuted. It must've been awful to be in cold water like that for hours on end.

When someone loses their house etc I always think of all the precious memories that they can lose, such as pictures, pictures that their children have made & stuff like that. Things that can never be replaced.

May Heavenly Father watch over them all as they try to restore their lives & belongings. x

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