I love hurricanes.
Growing up in North Carolina, hurricanes are the big thing in the area. The west coast has earthquakes, the center states have tornadoes, Hawai’i has tsunami, but the east coast – specifically the southern states – have hurricanes. We grow up with respect for and fear of the hurricane. It’s a yearly ritual, an observance that demands participation even from the most casual of practitioners.
It’s also educational.
Hurricanes are humbling experiences for those arrogant enough to disrespect them. Buildings can be built to withstand tornadoes, floods, and fires. Human engineering can manage those disasters. You can beat fires and floods. But a hurricane? One does not beat a hurricane; one survives a hurricane. Even the lowly hurricanes whose names have been forgotten to time test the mettle of all.
Hurricanes are remainders of nature’s might and nature’s wrath. They put humanity in its place when we get too uppity and too certain of our supremacy. Nothing like watching buildings crumble like sand and see cars go sailing through the air to make one realize just how powerless humanity can be.
Hurricanes have worsened in recent years, the result of intensifying climate change. There is a bittersweet, almost nihilistic enjoyment of this because while southerners have no monopoly on climate change denial, we are among the most vocal and ardent. For every redneck who refutes science, the next hurricane gains just a bit more speed and a bit more intensity.
Growing up in the south, evangelicals of all faith would talk about the wrath of hurricanes as divine retribution, meant to wipe away the sins of the wicked. I couldn’t agree more. But the sins they look to wipe away aren’t biblically listed but the sins of ignorance and arrogance. And not just climate change, although that’s a big damn one. There are also those who insist infrastructure doesn’t need to be funded. Why do we need to strengthen those roads and build those bridges and renovate those drainage routes? Why do we need to bury powerlines?
It comes so much and it’s so painful to see. Why do I need government permits to store rainwater? Because storing rainwater is actually really hard and if you do it wrong, you can conceivably die AND jeopardize your neighbors. Why do I need to pay for a library? Because that library acts as a shelter for the homeless, which can quickly include you depending on how the storm goes. Why do I need to pay for yet another levy? Because the beach is getting closer and closer inland and your house will eventually be next.
Hurricanes are powerful things, but like many disasters, they are never taken seriously until they happen TO a person. And then, that person blames others for their own lack of foresight. The lesson to learn from hurricanes isn’t just to respect them but to prepare for them. And I don’t mean running to the grocery store to buy a few jugs of distilled water and some batteries. You don’t prepare for a hurricane week of; you prepare for a hurricane the year before. You lay in a week or more of supplies, you get all your documentation in order, you make sure you know who to call and where to go when the power goes out. Because the power WILL go out.
I don’t know that Florence will blow by with little to do, or if it will wipe North Carolina off the map. I don’t know which will be worse. If Florence does damage…well, we’ve seen what kind of harm it can do in other places in America like New Jersey, New Orleans, and Puerto Rico (yes, Puerto Rico is part of America, state or no). But worse, if Florence passes by with nary an issue, the hubris and ignorance will grow. ‘I’ve been through hurricanes’ the arrogant will claim. ‘We’ll be fine’. And the respect that should be paid to the hurricane will be lessened. And when a hurricane comes and makes her presence known, the damage will be all the more epic.
I don’t know what will happen. But I know there’s a hurricane coming. And I am readying myself as best I can. I urge you to do the same.