Preparing for Disasters is Not Just Wise it is Essential

When I was a “wee lad” I belonged to the local Boy Scout troop for a few years.  I remember little about that experience other than their motto: “Be Prepared”.  If I could only shout one non-spiritual message to this nation everyday it would be: “Be Prepared”.  Investing a little time and money to be prepared for what might happen (especially regarding natural disasters) will reap huge returns.  People suffer needlessly in disasters because they were either not prepared for what was coming or ignored warnings to get out of harm’s way when the disaster was at their doorstep.  Ignorance and stubbornness can be fatal attitudes when it comes to surviving a disaster.

I am concerned, on this first day of October, with situations that could happen in the natural realm.  Those of you who follow what I write know I have been very apprehensive about this year’s hurricane season since last May when I attended a Hurricane Summit in Houston, TX.  It was stated then by many experts that the biggest worry this year was “sleeper” storms that would blow up at the last minute and surprise people by their rapid development and strength.Many of the tropical storms this season have done this very thing.  

The only reason the vast majority of people in this country don’t know anything about this is because most of these storms have crashed into Mexico.  If the meteorological steering currents had been slightly different, we would have seen not one, but two category 5 hurricanes hit our Gulf Coast instead of the Mexican coast.  If the storm which hit Texas recently had stayed over water another 8 hours, it could have hit the exact same area as Hurricane Rita hit two years ago at the same strength. These “near misses” should not be laughed at or ignored. 

The month of October could be an exceptionally busy month for hurricanes, especially along the Gulf Coast.A situation is developing currently that could cause huge problems for the Gulf Coast.  The east coast of Florida has been seeing gale force winds and outrageous waves for several days. This has not been caused by a hurricane, but by a developing storm that could turn into a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico later this week.  There are other areas of disturbed weather waiting in the wings that could end up in the Gulf next week.  This is not a good situation for either the people down there trying to rebuild, or the oil industry who have to evacuate their rigs when storms develop in the Gulf.

In the last few days there has been a rash of moderate to severe earthquakes around the world.  What is unusual is the location of some of these quakes.  Undersea earthquakes have hit near Guam, New Zealand and Japan.  There has also been a flurry of activity in the western United States.  Unlike hurricanes, earthquakes cannot be accurately predicted.  There are certainly areas more prone to major earthquakes (like Indonesia), but no one can say a quake is going to hit a particular place at a predetermined time.

I do not wish to be negative, but what if we, in this country, had a major earthquake hit either the west coast or in middle America (New Madrid fault), and at the same general time have a category 5 hurricane slam into either the Gulf Coast or along the eastern seaboard?   Having been involved with disaster relief a little bit, I can assure you a double blow such as this would have a devastating effect on this country.

On September 22, 1989 Hurricane Hugo ripped into Charleston, SC with 140 mph winds.  Until Andrew in 1992 and Katrina in 2005, Hugo was the costliest storm to ever hit the United States.  Many of us can recall the images of destruction not only the night of the storm but even more so the next day.  People who lived through Hugo will never forget it, just as those who lived through Andrew in 1992 and of course Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005.

On October 17, 1989 at 5:04 pm a magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck near San Francisco, California.  The reason many of us remember that quake so well was because the World Series was being played in San Francisco that year between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics.  In fact, the game was just getting ready to start when the earth moved, power was cut off and the entire nation wondered what was going on out there.

Most of us can vividly recall the images of burning warehouses in San Francisco and collapsed freeways in Oakland.  Although the damage and fatalities could have been far worse, that earthquake, because of the media attention given it, gave America a crash course in how devastating an earthquake can be.  Two huge disasters on opposite sides of the country happened within three weeks of each other. 

A lot has changed in this country since 1989.  The amount of new construction and population growth in both California and along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts is staggering.  If a major earthquake (6.9 is strong but not major) were to hit Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle; the amount of devastation, money needed to repair the damage and loss of life is incalculable.  If a category 5 hurricane with a 25 foot storm surge would strike a major eastern city; the physical damage and loss of life would be so great no one would believe it. 

No one in Greensburg, Kansas thought that one of their common springtime severe storms would produce an F-5 tornado that would literally wipe the town off the map.  No one in southeastern Minnesota thought a few days of heavy storms would cause unprecedented flash flooding.  No one in Texas ever thought they would see as much rain and flooding as they have seen this year.  No one in Springfield, Missouri last winter expected an unprecedented ice storm to knock down trees and power lines resulting in no electricity for weeks.  No one ever expects a disaster, and no one can stop a natural disaster from happening.  All you can do is prepare, prepare and prepare some more.

Please, no matter where you live, take some time and prepare for whatever might be coming.  Whether severe storms, hurricanes, floods, tornados, earthquakes, tsunamis, fires or ice; preparation is the key to survival, and survival is not something we in this country think much about.  Prepare for the worst but keep praying and hoping for the best.  Those are the best words I could give you today.  God bless you and keep you safe.


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