September 13, 2017

Natural Disasters Everywhere

Forest fire in OregonForest fires, flooding, hurricanes, and earthquakes. It seems like natural disasters have been in the news way too much lately. Are they becoming more frequent or getting worse? If so, are at least some of these disasters the result of the "Chinese hoax" known as climate change? If so, it seems likely that we will see even more of them in the future.

When I was a child, my family lived in a part of the country where the primary natural disaster threats included earthquakes and fires. Droughts were frequent too, but I don't put them in the category of natural disasters because they never got bad enough as to result in the rationing of drinking water (although water for other purposes was rationed). The earthquakes were usually mild but had the potential to be devastating. The fires were often destructive but were usually far enough away from where we lived that the worst I can recall was a haze of smoke in the air. There was no real threat of flooding, tornados, hurricanes, or blizzards here.

I was still fairly young when we moved to the region where I'd remain until graduating from high school. In terms of natural disasters, it was better in some respects and worse in others. The threat of earthquakes remained, but those I experienced here were milder. The worst one I can remember woke me up from a deep sleep and broke several fragile items in the kitchen. Droughts were less common and not a real concern here. The fires were worse but still far enough away that our town was never in danger. I did encounter a few forest fires while camping, but I can only remember two occasions where I wasn't sure I was going to make it out in time. Snow and ice were somewhat more common hazards but still infrequent enough not to count (no blizzard threat). I also won't count the volcano that erupted (Mount St. Helens). The ash cloud did some damage, but we were too far away for any real danger.

When I left this area for college, little changed. I remember hearing that the area was due for a major earthquake, but I didn't experience anything worse than a couple of very mild ones. Fires were less of any issue here. Snow and ice were somewhat more common and had the potential to grind things to a halt for a day or two, but this area was still free from blizzards. Aside from a couple of scary encounters with black ice on the freeway, the impact was minimal.

When I moved again for graduate school, I found myself in a region of the country in which I had previously spent little time. I traded most of the disaster threats with which I was familiar for new ones. No earthquakes or droughts here, and fires were less of an issue. Instead, there were frequent thunderstorms unlike anything I'd seen before in the summer months and snow, ice, and blizzards in the winter months. The thunderstorms posed little danger in terms of tornados or flooding; lightning was the primary concern, and there was plenty of that. Power outages were more common, but this was more of a hassle than a danger. The winters were nasty with far more snow and ice than I was used to, but the blizzards were the real concern. I made it through a few bad ones. These were new experiences for me, and I can't say I enjoyed them.

Here in Mississippi, I no longer have to worry about earthquakes, droughts, fires, or blizzards. These have been replaced with frequent thunderstorms worse than anything I could have imagined (often with flash flooding and tornados), tropical storms, and hurricanes. I never thought I'd fondly look back on the days of blizzards, but I'd take them over tornados and hurricanes in a second. Same goes for earthquakes and fires.

I suppose every region has to deal with a somewhat different constellation of natural disasters. I'm not sure there is anywhere one could live that wouldn't have any. Still, some regions are worse than others when it comes to the type, frequency, and impact of natural disasters. It would be interesting to compare a map showing the various types of natural disasters with one showing the concentrations of religiosity. I wouldn't be surprised to see some religionship between the two.