30 January 2014

Eye on the Weather

Is there anyone who does not pay attention to the weather and its effects on how we live our lives? Already, this winter has provided numerous examples of extreme situations and their potentially devastating consequences.  In 2013 alone, we experienced blistering heat waves, bone-chilling ice storms, severe drought that is continuing into this year, Dorothy-and-Toto style tornadoes, as well as floods. People's lives are not only turned upside down, but they have to somehow find the strength to get up and start over. This process can easily take years, while some never make it, choosing instead to find a new place somewhere else.

In the constant effort just to live our lives as peacefully as possible, it is easy to forget about times in our past in which we had to rely on some ingenuity to get through some unexpected weather events. Having lived more than half my life on the Gulf Coast, it was very important to be prepared for hurricanes, tornadoes, and torrential rains that often accompanied tropical storms. Having experienced all of the above, my husband and I became very adept at handling many of the trials and inconveniences that followed one of these events which took out our electricity for days and weeks at a time. When you're faced with these situations, it's easy to have great respect and admiration for those that came before you--how did they do it?

The devastating hurricane of 1900, that almost destroyed Galveston Island, forever changed that city. Over 5000 people lost their lives as the island was literally underwater. What was left after the storm was a huge pile of debris and bodies, but the survivors refused to give up. The rest of the story is that the people literally raised the elevation of the island and built a huge seawall to protect it from being battered by incoming seas during a storm. This engineering feat has proved successful time and again, even during Hurricane Ike just a few years ago. Ike did produce widespread devastation on Galveston, some of which still has not been cleared away, but other places nearby were literally swept away by the sea. The storm surge was much higher than anticipated, and it literally drowned a couple of the coastal towns, leaving only minimal evidence that they had even existed.

The true test of a person comes after the event in dealing with the lack of amenities and resources. For my family, we were as well-prepared as one could be. We were without power for two weeks, and by the end of the second week, it had really gotten old. We teamed up with one other neighbor, and between us, we managed very well. I had to travel to do laundry, and we did have to look around for gas to run our generator, but overall, we didn't suffer like others we saw. It took quite a while to rebuild the power infrastructure due to all the downed trees and broken lines, but eventually, the power came back, and we had the luxury of a hot shower once again.

This winter, a severe ice storm hit the Dallas area which literally shut it down. We lost at least another dozen trees that made sure our power lines were useless, and we learned that it is different to be prepared for the cold. Many people this year have suffered from the intense cold, places that don't normally get this kind of weather and don't have the resources to deal with its effects.

Flooding can be a major issue in many parts of the country. This was our front yard at our log cabin after a few days of torrential rains. The driveway was completely underwater, and we found ourselves living on an island.

These experiences all become stories in our lives, and as such, we should record them for our descendants to read. Just how much do we actually know about our parents' lives, and I, for one, would love to know in more detail about some of their experiences. I can never say enough that it only takes a generation to lose your family's history, so it is vital that we write down what we can remember. If you don't know what to write about, think about an event that occurred and how your family got through it. All these little chapters will add up, and you will have a family record of your life before you realize it.



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