It’s the first day of Hurricane season. My urban life experiences never gave me reason to be concerned with weather patterns beyond the four seasons of the New York City atmosphere. Yet, my grandmother was born and raised just off the Savannah River, she demands that all the electricity be shut off and sits still away from closed windows in her home when loud thunderstorms come, she says "hush now God's talking" eventually she gets around to her own storytelling of lighting strikes, flooding and lives lost. She pays attention when joint pain, sudden stiffness and an inner sense indicate that a storm is coming soon. The changing temperatures and severity of recent natural disasters around the world have me now following weather patterns. My fascination turned compulsion is also driven by a personal experience embedded in my psyche, a long summer night in a catastrophic hurricane. It changed my world perspective and awakened something within me.
My field report published in The New Physician magazine conveyed early reflections on the traumatic experience as I was in the first days of medical school when Ivan hit. While many years have passed, a residue of emotions and feelings still surface under the right conditions. The sudden approach of certain hues of grey in the sky, the hint of a sweet smell of moisture in the air, winds whistling gently stirring trees refresh my memories. It was a warm, clear, blue sky day filled with sunshine when the forecast of Hurricane Ivan was announced and in the early hours looking at the dopplers on CNN, we thought the storm might pass even with technological and sensory intelligence to the contrary. Within moments, the daylight disappeared, darkness emerged and the power failed soon thereafter. Category 5 Hurricane Ivan results:
“Catastrophic damage to Grenada and heavy damage to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and the western tip of Cuba. After peaking in strength, the hurricane moved north-northwest across the Gulf of Mexico to strike Gulf Shores, Alabama as a strong Category 3 storm, causing significant damage. Ivan dropped heavy rains on the Southeastern United States as it progressed northeast and east through the eastern United States, becoming an extratropical cyclone.”
The ear-popping pressure systems created by the wind should not be underestimated, it’s hard to imagine that you can be physically blown away. The effect of continuos downpours with rising tides, water can trigger a real threat to life. Storm surges, high winds, tornadoes, and flooding are the hallmarks of hurricane hazards.
Storm stories make me shiver, but The Moth Podcast of Deborah Scaling Kiley's storytelling “Lost at Sea” is struck with true meaning on what survive storms means in finding purpose in life. You can listen also at http://bit.ly/96gNjO
She's author of The Sinking and No Victims Only Survivors: Ten Lessons of Survival and a survivor of a near-death shipwreck and shark attack.
I still love spending time by the sea as well as swimming, returning to the water again has been a healing process of overcoming fears, letting go of control issues and finding the power of simple pleasures in life. I’ve been meaning to watch the Disney nature movie documentary Oceans to review the amazing cycle that water and wind work to produce in our natural weather system. Our encounters with nature can speak into our situations with truth and purpose so that we can see beyond our lives and look into the world finding purpose as well meaning in life.
Final note - Preparing for the Unexpected
I teach the American Red Cross course “Preparing for the Unexpected” and have been certified in the American Medical Association's Basic and Advanced Disaster Life Support courses. You should do what you can to prepare. Here are some tips you can follow:
Family Disaster Plan
- Discuss the type of hazards that could affect your family. Know your home's vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind.
- Locate a safe room or the safest areas in your home for each hurricane hazard. In certain circumstances the safest areas may not be your home but within your community.
- Determine escape routes from your home and places to meet. These should be measured in tens of miles rather than hundreds of miles.
- Have an out-of-state friend as a family contact, so all your family members have a single point of contact.
- Make a plan now for what to do with your pets if you need to evacuate.
- Post emergency telephone numbers by your phones and make sure your children know how and when to call 911.
- Check your insurance coverage - flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance.
- Stock non-perishable emergency supplies and a Disaster Supply Kit.
- Use a NOAA weather radio. Remember to replace its battery every 6 months, as you do with your smoke detectors.
- Take First Aid, CPR and disaster preparedness classes.
For additional details visit www.hurricanes.gov/prepare