Warning Signs, Be Aware Of Possible Natural Disasters

The Sunset Two Days Before Rita Makes Landfall

A photograph of a sunset days before Rita came.
A photograph of a sunset days before Rita came. | Source

When Birds Act Strange

Concerned that the exchange of sweat, dribbled water, and grilling heat would cause my nipples to poke out through my work shirt, I just leaned farther forward, feeling tiny dirt pebbles fall down to the ground, while my bra had a breather from holding up the girls.

A fantasy of lukewarm, soap lathering clean up popped into my heat-addled brain. All there was to do, was wait for dark, meanwhile, there was crazy busy work to get done.

I clasped my clipboard sideways, to cover the breast area. Without direct airflow, already it was quickly making my chest warmer, and of course, sweat more. Our minds would all be on business.

The only woman visible on the construction site, and being the _ _ _ _ing inspector, I had earned the respect and healthy fear of an international covey, of hard working men. I intended to keep that respect. Women in the construction industry walk a fine line between acquaintanceship, friendship, hatred, cooperation, engineers, State Regulators, and the ability to get things done efficiently. I got ahead by working diplomatically, fairly, fast and safe.

On this job site, the liner crew had already done their thing, and had demobilized for home. The main contractor, the owners, the tractor guys, the laborers and me, were all that were left.

Earlier, in May of 2005, we had completed a landfill cell in a neighboring Texas town. Three months after we completed the project, Hurricane Katrina, hit New Orleans, and the Gulf Coast. Luckily, Nacogdoches, Texas, was not terribly affected by Ms. Katrina. It was close.

The landfill owners, and the State of Texas were very pleased with the Quality Construction, and the Reports from the landfill construction previously. The last landfill job to be done, was started before Katrina hit. It would take too long to go into, but there were problems with landfill job bids, because the price of fuel tripled after Katrina, so another contractor was called in, as well as myself, to finish this overdue project in under 30 days.

Building a landfill cell is a very big deal. There are vital environmental regulations, and processes that cannot be ignored.

Public safety is number one, so there is a lot of testing and paperwork.

No pressure.


Birds, Insects, Pets, People and Weather Acting Funny

Earthquakes:

  • Cats disappear
  • Dogs are antsy and / or lethargic
  • Birds disappear. They are roosting at odd times, or cannot be seen.

Hurricanes:

  • Abnormal swarms, or group sizes of insects.
  • Strange insects, or bugs not indigenous to the area can be found.
  • Birds Acting Strange. Outside of normal behavior. Moving Nests.
  • Fish and aquatic critters acting outside of standard behavior.
  • Extreme changes in temperature, in a short time. (24 hours or less)
  • Odd odors in the air, coming with breezes.
  • Weird colors in the sky.
  • A quick change from cold to hot, or hot to cold.
  • Very stormy or windy, then silent. [By the time you read this sign, you better be in shelter].

Tornadoes:

  • Sudden changes in temperature
  • The sky looks funny
  • Clouds building up
  • Odd odors in the air.
  • Cows flying by. [By the time you see this sign, you had better be low down in the ground.]

Baby Vultures

Love Bugs, Really, Bugs

These can really raise a stink!
These can really raise a stink! | Source

When Bugs Act Weird

The Texas sun beat down on the entire crew, showing us all, just how big Texas does everything. The largess of sunshine, and heat could never be ignored, even if you tried to get in under an air conditioner in a work trailer, or truck.

We started September 8, 2005, and had thirty days to finish the cell in order to comply with State Law, and the contract for the model landfill cell. Even a small 10 acre job is several million dollars, when it is on schedule. Let the price of the products used triple, the price to run equipment, transport, etc. triple. Taxpayers would be hit hard if it was not complete by October 8th, 2005.

We had the construction meeting, and got to work. September in the South is usually still very hot. High 90's with a heat index in the low 100's is about normal. The closer we got to the 29th of September, the hotter it got. At night, it wouldn't really cool down.

The closer Rita got to the Gulf Coast, the shorter our 30 days became. If this hurricane made landfall, before we completed construction, it would not withstand a hurricane, or tornado.

We made very good time through the required construction, testing, and dirt work, our french drain trench was perfect, but the truck carrying the liner cloth was stolen, so... like the action part of a movie, when they get the orchestra pumping their violins to show the tension; it is like that; we were waiting for a new truck of liner cloth, and/or cussing everyone out, involved in losing the truck, to get that S_ _ of a B_ _ _ _ truckload found. At the same time, we are watching NOAA minute by minute to see where she is going to hit.

Much of the Nation and World, looked on in horror, some crossing their fingers for, and sadly some against New Orleans. Rita followed the track of Katrina, right into that skinny hole, called the Gulf Coast. Where she would go, could not be discerned, until around 36 hours before she was to make landfall.


When People Act Strange.

The tractor operators who were getting further behind, the faster they tried to go. When in regular operation, they did keep cool, listening to their jams, or preaching. Today they would have probably been blaring the weather reports as they were coming in patches, that bled through an urgency that doubled for the value of loss of our project, if we were unable to finish the cell before Hurricane Rita hit.

Kile and Roberto, the tractor operators were sure to get my attention that afternoon. "Lora, you ever seen a baby vulture?" I knew where these jokes could lead, but considering how much stress we were under, I was ready, "No, why?". Awaiting a punch-line,I looked to where they were pointing, "baby vultures, I have never seen a baby, except on that old cartoon...".

Landfills and Vultures have a precious relationship at the landfills. They should be found on most any dump or landfill. In all the years out in the field, between the three of us, there was probably 70 years experience, and none of us had ever seen anything like it. Vultures were building mounds up on the hill next to the cell. They were moving babies over there trying to get them to stay.

We had less than 24 hours, the main highways were clogged with thousands of cars, trailers, trucks, you name it, trying to escape the coast, but not being able to buy gasoline, or eventually water.

*****

The cell was finished, but the final inspection would not be done until the three feet of water abated, the winds died down to their average speed, and many pieces of humans' lives were sorted out and put back together.

The main contractor finally released me, and gave me a back way out of town. I would be so glad to be rid of the smell of Love Bugs that permeated everything I touched, wore or ate. During the period prior to Rita hitting land, love bugs swarmed everything. In reality, there should have been mosquitoes, but in their place were love bugs. Once you get a whiff of those critters, you will never forget. Sometimes I'll catch the faintest breath of the smell, and automatically go into warning mode.

Another "sign" I saw, but didn't realize it until later, was that this silver scarab bug landed on the liner cloth, the last day. It never crossed my mind to "get it," but my attempt at picture taking was shaky at best. I have a photo of it, that is not very good.

*****

If we pay attention, and connect the dots, we are given opportunities to prepare for some Natural Disasters. Hopefully this little story, along with the some of the signs to look for preceding a disaster, will save a life or two.


Storm Warnings - Damaging Hail

It happened yesterday, April 19, 2015, the skies were a bluish green on one side of the sky, while the sun continued to shine on the other.

Honestly, I did not notice any bad weather, but had been awaiting projected storms. The tornado sirens were what got me to take a look outside and see what was happening outside.

It was not long until giant, damaging hail began pounding on my door. It sounded like gunshots.

I could hear my neighbors outside laughing and walking around. I did poke my head out, and asked, "Did you know those sirens mean Take Cover?" They just laughed. I got my hallway closet ready for a disaster of larger proportions, we were lucky here, but there were signs.

When I opened the door to warn my neighbors, the air had a funky smell. All of the signs were there.

Severe Weather - Damaging Hail April 19, 2015

What Signs?

Can You Think Of Things In Nature That Were Indicators of Disaster?

See results without voting

When Love Bugs Swarm

Love Bugs when they swarm, it is a stinking mess.
Love Bugs when they swarm, it is a stinking mess. | Source

Natural Disasters I Have Known

show route and directions
A markerLufkin, TX, Hurricane Rita, 2005 -
Lufkin, TX, USA
[get directions]

Rita brought 75 mph winds, and 36" of water to Lufkin, TX September 29, 2005.

B markerRamona Convent, Alhambra, CA -
Ramona Convent Secondary School, 1701 West Ramona Road, Alhambra, CA 91803, USA
[get directions]

1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake, destroyed much of Ramona Convent, Alhambra, CA

C markerSan Fernando, CA 1971 -
San Fernando Courthouse, 900 3rd Street, San Fernando, CA 91340, USA
[get directions]

The night before this quake, my cat Garfield disappeared. Due to shaking, he left his hiding place, and had to be bathed.

D markerMayflower, AR Tornado -
Mayflower, AR, USA
[get directions]

Earlier this year, Mayflower, AR was hit majorly by a tornado.

Hurricane Katrina Historic Storm Surge Video - Gulfport

© 2014 Lori J Latimer

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Comments 16 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Very interesting, and I do believe nature attempts to speak to we humans. We just don't know how to listen.


LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 2 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas Author

Thank you @billybuc for the read and comment. I agree with your comment readily.


sheilamyers 2 years ago

I ditto billy's remark - very interesting. I've known that animals will give off behavioral signals before a disaster, but other than my cat hiding from the distant thunder and birds flocking right before a severe thunderstorm, I've never been close enough to a big disaster to watch the animals react. Thanks for sharing your story. I'll have to keep an eye out and watch the local insects and other animals the next time the news puts out tornado warnings.

LOL @ cows flying by. My favorite line from "Twister" is "I've gotta go. We have cows."


LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 2 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas Author

Thank you for the read. I got a giggle re; the Twister movie quote. Many thanks.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

Interesting read. I have noticed the calm before the storm, dogs barking and acting funny. You've had some interesting jobs..Great article...


LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 2 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas Author

Thank you Ms. Ruby for sharing your "signs." I have had many different kinds of jobs, during my forty years. There was a time when I was signed up for several temp agencies at the same time, and working 2 - 3 jobs per day....phew.


Writer Fox profile image

Writer Fox 2 years ago from the wadi near the little river

It really is true that animals can sense danger.

I've never heard of lovebugs before. That's a freaky picture of them swarming your car!

Enjoyed reading about your experience and voted up.


LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 2 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas Author

Writer Fox, thank you for the read, and the vote up. Let us hope you never have to smell them swarm. They were in the water system, the food even tasted like that stink...


Lady Lorelei profile image

Lady Lorelei 20 months ago from Canada

Fortunately other than being snowed in a time or two I have not had to encounter a natural disaster in my area. Their increasing numbers though is a very strong indication that man has got to stop what he is doing and take a step back into the past. We are creating an environmental nightmare driven by dollar signs and it has to change or we won't always have a planet there to come home to.


LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 20 months ago from The River Valley, Arkansas Author

Thank you Lady Lorelei! We are in dire straits. We must act quickly, but unfortunately humans don't act, they react. Hoping for the best at the end of this geologic age. Peace.


pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 19 months ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

No pun intended, but is there a dark side to us regarding our fascination with storms? We are told to stay away from windows during a lightning storm and yet, there we are, gazing out the window in awe until a bolt of lightning hits close by and we jump back in shock. What I find amazing is the stillness in the air and how quiet things get just before a major force of nature hits. The birds become eerily still and out of sight. We are both hypnotized and frightened at the same time, preparing for the unknown that is about to occur.


LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 19 months ago from The River Valley, Arkansas Author

Dear pagesvoice, yes. I finally accepted that I do have a dark side. I love storms. Of course, I do not like death and destruction, but... Yes. I am in tune with the Natural world, and realize that I am made up of the very same elements of the Storm. Exciting and dangerous. [mad laughter as I sign off.]


colorfulone profile image

colorfulone 19 months ago from Minnesota

Lilly, you are a very good writer. Interesting topic. I do believe that animals and nature speak to us of impending danger. My favorite thing to do is to commune with them and care for them.

I am in the midst of rounding up blocks to build a double burner rocket stove. It is a good thing to prep for a disaster or a prolonged power outage.


pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 19 months ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

Rationalizing that we are all made up of energy, it stands to reason that we would naturally be drawn to massive energy. I can't help myself from looking in wonderment and the forces of nature. It is the proverbial double edged sword.


LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 19 months ago from The River Valley, Arkansas Author

colorfulone, thank you for reading this article, yes the rocket stoves are awesome, especially the ones molded into an Earthship home. I have several examples and a couple with instruction on Pinterest.


LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 19 months ago from The River Valley, Arkansas Author

pagesvoice, yes.

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