Hurricane Irene: A Bully To Be Taken Seriously
As Hurricane Irene takes aim at the right coast, millions of people are warned to expect the worst and hope for the best. Where will it hit? How hard will it hit? Will it end up being a dud? Should I take it seriously? These are questions being asked tonight. The same questions I remember asking years ago.
“The end is near”
We moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia in 1993, just before another major hurricane, this one called Emily, was bearing down on us. Coming from the left coast, we were accustomed to the unpredictability of earthquakes, not the precautions and warnings of hurricanes. Just like today, emergency officials struck fear in people. “Move to higher ground.” “Board up your windows.” “Stock up on supplies.” “The end is near.”
My neighbors laughed at me
I was new to this kind of talk, so I heeded the warnings. I stocked up on water, food and emergency supplies. I gassed up the car and plotted our escape. I boarded up our windows with plywood. My neighbors laughed at me. “We’ve gone through all this before,” they told me. “A hurricane has never hit us.”And it didn’t that time, either. During the night Emily took a right turn and headed out into the Atlantic. Disaster averted.
“It won’t happen here”
Today, and for the past 15 years, I’ve traded the anticipation and fear of one natural disaster for another . Every spring, tornadoes strike and often kill near me. In a way, I’ve become much like my former neighbors in Virginia. “It won’t happen to me, it never has.” I’ve talked to countless tornado victims over the years who’ve basically said the same thing. I heard it in Joplin, after a twister destroyed a third of the city in May.
Like the meanest, baddest bully
They don’t give names to tornadoes, like they do hurricanes. If they did, the Joplin twister would be named after the kid who was the meanest, baddest bully in your school. I’ll never forget the horrible scene as I rolled into Joplin just hours after the EF-5 tornado roared through town. All I could think (and later wrote about) was the often used cliché, “It looks like war zone, like a bomb dropped here.”
Meanwhile, Virginia Beach, and most of the East Coast, is in the path of Irene’s wrath. I wonder what my former neighbors are doing tonight. Are they taking this bully seriously?