I’m just going to assume you have heard of Hurricane Dorian. 🙂
When natural disasters loom, we humans can do some unusual things. Before I dive into that, let me tell you my natural disaster history.
One of the single most deadly weather events was a national tornado outbreak on April 3, 1974. The worst of the tornadoes that hit 11 states that day was in Ohio, specifically in the Dayton suburb of Xenia. That is where my family lived. I had turned 4 years old 6 weeks earlier. I remember that day like it was yesterday. There was one tornado that formed south of Dayton and moved up toward Xenia, destroying everything in its path. Several other, smaller twisters developed in the area. One of them formed right in front of our house. My almost 8-year-old sister was at the front door and saw it forming. We ended up having to evacuate. I vividly remember the whole crew walking along the side of a highway to get to a car. It was a terrible day. By the next morning, 85% of the town was gone. Miraculously, our neighborhood was part of the remaining 15%. If I live to be 110, I will remember this day very clearly. I bet that even if I develop Alzheimer’s, I’ll still manage to remember that day. I remember 4 years later, in the spring of 1978, toward the end of my second grade year, we were living in the Houston area (my dad had got a job down there and we moved). There was severe weather and a tornado threat. The school went into emergency mode. My class was in the library, under tables. I was a total basket case. The rest of the class was having a blast mocking and making fun of me. I had no idea why I was so hysterical. Years later, I realized I was having flashbacks to the tornado when I was 4.
Fast forward to Friday, September 22, 1989. My second year of college at UNCC is underway. Hurricane Hugo is barreling down on the Carolinas. Everyone in Charlotte was in panic mode. I loudly predicted the hurricane would be nothing more than a big rainstorm by the time it got here. I had moved off campus that year. As I headed home for the night, I told several of my buddies, “See you in Accounting class in the morning.”
The category 4 storm was still technically a hurricane when it blew through Charlotte at 3 AM, with 80 mph winds. Dadgum storm woke me up. I sat at my window and watched 50-year-old trees being bent sideways. Well, what I could see of them through the wall of rain that was falling. My roommate slept through the entire thing. “Dude’s gotta be dead,” I thought. “How can you sleep through this?”
By dawn, the storm had raced away and the sky was clear. Most of the roads were blocked by downed trees. My roommate’s parents came down from Rocky Mount, NC to look after us. We were among the fortunate ones – we were only without electricity for about 5 days. Because the UNCC campus was on the same main power delivery line as a hospital, campus got power back by Sunday night. My roommate and I crashed on the couches of friends in on-campus apartments for a few days. How much debris was there? If you piled it 6 feet high, it would stretch from Charlotte to California. And Charlotte wasn’t destroyed anywhere near to the degree that Charleston, SC was.
Those are the big-uns. That doesn’t even count the numerous ice storms we can get during the winter around here. So you could say I have a little natural disaster experience. I also have 18 years of working at Duke Energy, the nation’s largest utility, where every possible storm has to be prepared for in anticipation of the electricity infrastructure being damaged, and the safety measures required during the storm and restoration process. My better-than-average-trained eyes and ears find some of the things we do in the face of natural disasters to be tragically dumb, and others downright comical.
- I will NEVER understand the Bread and Milk Panic. First word of nasty weather, and everyone starts hoarding bread and milk. OK, if it’s a winter storm, I can see the logic. Your power is out, you stick the milk and bread in the snow and they keep a little longer. But in summer? Two days after the power goes out, the milk is rancid and the bread starts going stale. Makes no sense to me.
- The local TV weather forecasters aren’t fooling me. They might care about people a little, but they’re going for ratings and clicks. When a nasty line of storms forms in the NC mountains that will pass through here in a couple of hours, then move on to Eastern NC and out to sea, do you really need to suspend 5 hours of programming and force me to watch you play with your computer and say the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over again? I was actually watching that baseball game, and I have a perfectly good smartphone with a weather app that will keep me informed. Your histrionics and hysterical language are just giving old people heart palpitations. Shut up and put the game back on. Break in when you actually have new information.
- “I’m gonna ride it out.” Dumbest idea this side of a Bread and Milk Panic. I think of comedian Ron White when he talked about some guy in Florida that tied himself to a pole as a category 3 hurricane approached, to prove he was strong enough to withstand it. White said, “It isn’t that the wind is blowing, it’s what the wind is blowing. If you get hit by a Volvo, it don’t matter how many pushups you did that morning.” Another classic take? This, that I saw on the Twitter this morning:
I especially like the advice to write your next of kin’s contact information on your body if you’re stupid enough to go to battle with a category 5 hurricane.
What should we do?
Use logic. While the weather forecasters are forecasting The Most Destructive Storm In The History Of Earth so you will drive up their ratings and website stats, you will find relevant information in there. If you’re in the path of the thing, don’t get macho and pledge to tough it out. (That “don’t act macho” applies to you too, ladies.)
Be perpetually prepared. When storm season starts, stock up on supplies. That way you don’t have to fight the masses for supplies 3 days before the storm rolls through.
Don’t panic. That’s really what most entities want you to do. The government wants you to curl up in the fetal position, beg them for information and pledge to do everything they tell you to do. Suppliers want you to panic and hoard stuff so they can maximize profits. The weather geeks want you to suspend your life and spend every waking moment on their TV channel and/or website.
And don’t forget your business. If you are a business owner, make sure you have your emergency plans in place, including having colleagues that can provide backup assistance if you are temporarily put out of commission by the storm. If you have a Virtual Assistant, use the VA to take care of as much as possible. If you don’t have a VA, adding one as part of your emergency plan would be a good idea, in addition to being a worthwhile partner when no emergency is eminent.
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