Slow Motion Disasters

I’m no expert on disasters.  I’ve been close to a few of them as I suspect most of us have.  There are three disasters in my experience for which I have strong memories.  Hurricane Harvey, of course,…Hurricane Ike in 2008 the eye of which came straight through Houston….and the 1988 Yellowstone fires described in detail here if you are interested.

One interesting thing about two of those disasters (Harvey and Yellowstone) was that the experience seemed to happen in slow motion.  Ike was the exception as it was very much a wind event in Houston coming straight up from the gulf and right through Houston as if it were aimed.   Exceptionally violent winds that did a lot of property damage and left much of the city without power for some time.  It hit hard and then was gone.

Harvey wasn’t a lot of violent wind that you associate with a hurricane in our case because the path of the storm did not cross over us directly.  For us, and for most folks in Houston, it was not a wind event but rather a heavy rain event from the heavy bands of rain and moisture that surround a hurricane.

It was a slow motion, kind of tortuous, wait to see just how high the water would get before it stopped kind of disaster. This two minute time-lapse video captured it pretty well.  Two things stood out to me….very little evidence of really high speed winds….and a truck drives into the parking lot at some point after the water is well above the wheels.

It happened over a few hours I am sure.  No rush of water like a scene out of the Titanic.  Just sitting around and waiting like our 6 bricks story.

In Yellowstone, I remember wandering around in the mountains with my Army Battery one afternoon near the edge of one of the fires.  We looked up from our task doing “mop up” work and found we were in the company of a family of moose calmly walking away from the fire.  No panic.  No hurry.  Just a little grazing and slowly walking away from the fire.  I remember thinking that this was nothing like the scene from Bambi of the terrorizing flight of the all the beasts from the forest fire.  Quite a calm scene actually…even serene.

Mostly slow motion….fires burning along a path, slowly spreading and destroying.  Rains falling with waters slowly rising…and destroying.

Not sure which is worse…a disaster that hits quick, violently destroys and is over.  Or a slow motion train wreck that you get to powerlessly observe over a long period of time but cannot change in any way.

They are both reminders of the limits of human influence over nature.



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