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Catastrophic Weather and Survival

Updated on February 21, 2013
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The Power of Nature

There are events that occur in our lives that test the strength of the human spirit. Weather events may top the list as we are rarely prepared for the devastating effects. Sometimes it takes a severe weather event to put you in your place. Nature certainly has the power to do it. It can strip away your ego and remind you that in the big scheme of things, you are very, very small.

At 9:00 P.M. on June 29, 2012, the forces of nature spoke loud and clear in Central Virginia. NOAA Weather had warned of a severe thunderstorm.that could produce high winds and hail. I secured my patio furniture, unplugged my appliances, and readied myself to sit back and enjoy the show. I've always loved storms so I was feeling my typical anticipation. And then I heard it, a sound like none I've heard in my lifetime. It came roaring from the northeast corner of my home and grew louder and louder. Then, I heard my patio furniture go sliding across the concrete and UFO's (real unidentified flying objects) began slamming against the exterior walls. That roar was...THE WIND.

Such a small word, "wind". But what a force it is. When I said I loved storms, it's true. I love the rumble of thunder and the defiance of lightning. I do not love wind. Wind has a power beyond my understanding. It can sneak up on you because it is "invisible". For those of us who are not meteorologists, wind is unpredictable and somewhat mystical. Unlike lightening and thunder, wind can be a blessing. Who among us isn't grateful for a gentle breeze on a hot summer day? And then that same force of nature, the wind, can be a curse. So it was here only four days ago when the wind came down screaming "I am the power. Get out of my way or be destroyed."

For hours I walked from window to window peering out at a world I no longer recognized. For the first time in a very long time I felt real fear. My fear was not so much for myself but more for loved ones who live in surrounding areas. And then the power went out. This wind was relentless. In the dark there was nothing to do but listen. Now and then I would feel myself take a deep breath of relief that it was over and then it would return, louder than before, gusting longer than before, and reminding me once again that it was "the power" of nature.

Map shows areas of the East Coast affected by the storm on June 29, 2012.  Over 70% of Virginia and West Virginia without power.
Map shows areas of the East Coast affected by the storm on June 29, 2012. Over 70% of Virginia and West Virginia without power. | Source

Reality Check

So now what? It is 1 A.M. and the power is out. It gets very dark in the city when there is no power. I grew up in the country, where there were no street lights and I loved it. Not so much here in the city. Darkness is different in the city. There are moving shadows and sounds that you know are not your neighbor. But what are they? Who are they? I guess it's only natural to feel some fear of the unknown. I wanted to walk outside, to see what havoc the wind has brought to my part of the city but I found myself afraid of the darkness. This was a new reality for me.

I needed to check on family so I grabbed the cell phone and started calling. Everyone in my family was a victim of this storm and none of them had electricity or land-line phones. Reality check number two: none of us had a full charge on our cell phones. If we were going to stay in touch, I would have to go outside and plug my phone into the car charger. Sitting in the car in the dark, doors locked, wind still gusting, I was alone with my thoughts and my fear. My thoughts turned only slightly to gratitude. At least we did have cell phones.

Once the phone was charged, I raced back inside to the safety of my locked doors and windows. And then reality check number three slammed me. It's still 80 degrees outside and if I don't want to suffocate, I have to open the windows. I am reminded of my life in the country again. We never locked our doors and windows. Didn't need to. We looked out for our neighbors and they looked out for us. We didn't live in fear, There was no reason to. City life is quite different and I am all too aware of that now that I have to choose between surviving the heat and compromising the security of my home.

Needless to say, it was a sleepless night. Would daylight ever come? I tossed and turned, partly because it was hot and partly because I was restless and wondering what destruction I would discover when the first light of day arrives.

Imagine the power that can lift a 300 year old tree by it's roots and toss it uphill.
Imagine the power that can lift a 300 year old tree by it's roots and toss it uphill.

Survival Mode

Morning arrived and proved that my concern was justified. Much of my city looks like a war zone. About 70% of the city is without electricity. Roads are blocked by trees and dangling power lines. Businesses are closed and the real kicker is that NOAA weather is predicting temperatures near 100 with a heat index of 105-110 degrees. This could be very bad.

It's time to start planning. Although there are things about city life that I do not enjoy, on this morning I am grateful to be on a city water system. I am not dependent on a well for water so I can hydrate with ease. It may not taste great but it will do the job. I can also flush the toilet which is another benefit. I make myself a checklist of things I have to do first.

  • fill the car up with gas
  • get ice for coolers to keep my perishable foods safe to eat
  • evaluate my food stores and stock up on non-perishable sources of protein
  • check my battery stores and replenish if needed

It sounded simple enough but when I left home I was totally unprepared for what I witnessed.

  • gas stations closed, out of gas, or lines wrapping like ribbon around the station
  • grocery stores closed
  • fast food businesses closed
  • downed power lines and trees blocking primary and secondary roadways
  • traffic lights out causing traffic chaos

My survival mode plans changed. Getting gas for the car would be the priority so that I could keep the phone charged, cool off it necessary, and get to my family if they needed me. Ice would be nice but it's only food and if I lose it, I lose it. I can survive on some canned goods in my pantry. Batteries, well, cross my fingers, say a prayer, and believe that what I have will last. So I get in line at the gas station and an hour later my tank is full and I'm headed to check on my elderly relatives.

Fast Forward Four Days

It is now four days after the storm. I am alive. I am safe. I am comfortable. My electrical service was restored 36 hours after the storm because I live very close to a hospital. Yes, I lost all the food in my refrigerator and freezer but food can be replaced. My family is safe although my brother's family still has no electricity but they are safe. My elderly relatives now have their electricity back on and I am feeling extremely grateful for the hard work of our utility company, city workers, local businesses, and neighbors who who are working around the clock to keep everyone safe and healthy. We have a long ways to go in this city of mine. There are still approximately 25,000 people without power and the majority of businesses are still closed. Grocery stores have lost all their perishable goods and many gas stations have run out of fuel. Generators don't exist for purchase and the city is literally out of ice. But I am constantly reminded that it could be worse.

Lessons From "The Power of Nature"

I ask myself - what have I learned from this experience? The lessons are many and I am sure will continue to attack my brain in the days to come. But I have learned a lot.

  1. We are complacent. It can't happen to us. It happens other places. We suffer from NIMBY syndrome (not in my back yard). We are so wrong. I am no geophysicist but I cannot help but believe that if we do not stop raping this earth of it's natural resources and disturbing the natural balance of things, we will continue to suffer from our greed.
  2. In general, we are lazy. Our dependency on perishable food is absurd. Our ancestors canned food for a reason. They did not have the luxury of refrigeration and fed large families on produce and protein that was canned. Most men today know little of growing or hunting their own food and women do not know how to can and safely put food away.
  3. We are apathetic and take our conveniences for granted. How often do we get ice from our freezer and never think about how easy it is or appreciate how it cools us on a hot day or makes our beverage just a little better?
  4. We are overly stimulated by technology. The silence was almost deafening when the power went out. We live with so much white noise that it is difficult to be comfortable in the silence or darkness. And yet it is in the silence that we often learn the most about ourselves.

These are all things that we can overcome, if we choose to. In fact, it would be much healthier for us and our planet if we did. Severe or catastrophic weather is tragic and the losses suffered can be life-changing. And although we have evolved to become a generation of technical dependents and comfort addicts, there is one thing that has not retreated. It is the human spirit.

People Helping People

Though this weather event has made life less than comfortable, it has also been inspirational. I am so proud of my community and the way that organizations, businesses, and individuals have reached out to help each other. I've seen neighbors arriving with chain saws to help clear roadways. The National Guard volunteered to come hand out free ice and promised to stay around the clock as long as there was ice to hand out. Churches and schools that had electricity opened their doors as cooling stations and provided free meals, health care, and shelter. Nursing homes offered the rare empty bed for those needing a cool place to sleep. Neighbors checked on the elderly and offered whatever help was needed. This is what makes us "human". This is what gives us the courage to face the next challenge.

The power of nature is magnificent and can destroy everything we hold dear. When it strikes at the heart of our lives and we feel helpless and hopeless, the human spirit rises to the occasion and shows itself to be an equally powerful force. It is indomitable!

© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.

Read more of my hubs here.

© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.

Read more of my hubs here.

Comments

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  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 5 years ago from Central Virginia

    Thank you Phyllis. My experience was mild compared to most in my area. I am always amazed at the strength I can find when I get "me" out of the way. Nature teaches me in so many ways. I am thankful for having the ability to listen when it speaks.

  • Phyllis Doyle profile image

    Phyllis Doyle Burns 5 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

    Wow .... what a horrific experience to go through, lrc7815. Seems like you came through in fine with faith in yourself and with the insight of how our spirit can help us to rise above the frailties of humanity.

    Very well-written and interesting.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 5 years ago from Central Virginia

    Thanks Junco. I really wasn't looking for a compliment but thought you might see the smaller scale similarity to what you experienced. Our storm in no way compares to the catastrophy of New Orleans but the response by local, state, and federal goverment was much the same. You're right... we ain't seen nothing yet.

  • junko profile image

    junko 5 years ago

    Very interesting and very well written. What you witnessed was a wake call about man's arrogants and refusal to except and make enviromental decisions that may reduce Capital Gain in this Capitalistic World Economy. What happened in New Orleans was a result of man's arrogants and greed affected by wind and rain. Over 300,000 people were displaced by standing water for months, years, and over 100,000 are forever displaced. New York can go underwater this storm season and millions will be affected. The difference today is, the emergency brake has been pulled on government spending and tax collections. The government's credit card has been canceled and Fema and most government public programs or underfunded or unfunded. We can be sure that something just as big as or bigger is on the horizons.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 5 years ago from Central Virginia

    Thanks uNicQue (love your screen name too). This was quiet a pivotal experience for me. I have a new appreciation for anyone who experiences these catastrophic weather events. Life is so fragile !

    Thank you for stopping by and for commenting. It means a lot to get feedback and support.

  • uNicQue profile image

    Nicole Quaste 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

    I couldn't agree more with the lessons that you took from this storm. I live near Philadelphia, and I was fortunate enough just to have some large branches fall on my property, and we lost some lawn furniture, but we didn't lose our electric. Glad to hear you and your family were safe. This a great hub. There are a lot of people who have no idea how scary those storms could be, and like you said, we really take advantage of things and don't notice until we don't have them. Voted up!