Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Moody Planet: Tsunamis, Quakes, Typhoons, Floods


Looking at the news today I see more death and destruction in Asia, a tsunami, an earthquake, flooding from a typhoon--all in Asia. The news causes me to meditate on the blessing that for the first time in a while, America's Gulf Coast and Florida didn't faced a hurricane disaster this year. I thought about this reality briefly yesterday when I was on the phone with a man who said, "Boy, I bet you're glad about this hurricane season."

"Oh, yes. I'm so glad that I didn't have to evacuate this summer," I said.

Having to evacuate as a hurricane descends is one my least favorite things about living down here in New Orleans, and I was not here in the New Orleans area for Hurricane Katrina. However, I was here for Ike and Gustav, and my family evacuated for Gustav. It's scary having to consider that you may return to a house of mold and memorabilia washed away and worse, that anyone who stayed behind may be dead.

In 2005, when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, it was the hurricane season from hell. It seemed every other week a storm was slamming Florida, or the Islands, and finally the Gulf Coast. Up until this year, it seemed each summer for a time was one to watch the Gulf warily. This year as we watched, however, I was relieved often to hear words from the weather reporter like, "No need to worry about this one. She's disorganized and will probably dissipate."

Yes, Atlanta saw some flooding, and some folks here had more damage from brief floods than anyone would like to have, but this summer has been a walk in the park compared to some others.

Strange how nature takes us through cycles of terror, and that's what it looks like now on the other side of the world: Mother Nature's cycle of terror is busily spinning.

CNN reports at least 111 people dead after a tsunami in Samoa, which was trigged by a "deadly earthquake"; the death toll following a quake in Indonesia is at 75; and Typhoon Kestana now claims more than 300.

Hearing of such devastation all at once--storms, floods, earthquakes bearing down to take hundreds of lives in such a short period of time--I can see how ancient humans developed mythologies and gods with personalities to explain natural disasters. It does seem sometimes like an entity is angry with one area of the world more than another. In some ways it's more soothing to think some god like Zeus sends down his thunderbolts because he is displeased or that we have made a goddess like Kali angry than it is to declare death and destruction are random.

If we can link disasters to some entity's logic or emotional distress, then we can convince ourselves we have some control, that if we behave a certain way or make specific sacrifices, we can control our destinies, stop some mad god from wreaking havoc in our worlds. But life is not that simple.

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Related: "Floundering El Ninos Make for Fickle Forecasts" (Science Daily)and "Quakes off Indonesia, Samoa Kill, Trap Thousands" (Bloomberg)

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