Friday, August 26, 2011

Mesmerizing In A Different Way

NOAA GOES East late Friday EDT
The day before yesterday I posted that awesome video of dancers doing a Bob Fosse choreographed routine to Sing, Sing, Sing. I called it "mesmerizing."

Today I have been mesmerized by the incredible power of Hurricane Irene. It is not even a "major" hurricane and it is becoming historic. No, I don't think this is media hype. I have been a weather watcher for 40 years and while there have been big storms with big damage, this one has a lot of differences. At any given point along the NE coast millions of people are within the range of being impacted by:
  • Wind
  • Rain
  • Tornadoes
  • Serious flooding
  • Even more serious beach erosion
New York City, for the first time in history, is evacuating and shutting down the transit system. Right there in direct or indirect ways over 8 million people are being affected.

No, this is not an over-reaction. We have not seen a storm like this hit an area like this in decades. Even Katrina was not impacting the Gulf Coast like Irene is. It has size, intensity, and lots and lots of people in its way.

So why are we mesmerized? It almost seems like a cliche to say that we can't believe this can happen in the modern world. Katrina, with thousands hunkered down in a football stadium, felt like a fluke. You know- if the levees had held it wouldn't have been as bad. It's hard to remember Andrew where mile upon mile upon mile of homes and businesses disappeared.

In spite of all our modern powers, when faced with something like Irene we are as poor and naked as we have ever been. We are weak, powerless human beings. At least today we have the technology to know long enough ahead that it's going to hit- and the ability to run away far more quickly than when we needed horse and buggy. There will not be a lot of loss of life although any loss is tragic. We will hear the "It wasn't all that bad" survivors who "toughed it out." We will hear cries of "Hype!" if in any given place it isn't as bad as expected.

But let's admit it. Let's stand in awe of the power of the world around us. No matter how strong we think we are, we are still tiny in the face of the storm, let along the power of the cosmos beyond.  Is that hype? Maybe. But it is hype that can keep us aware of our place and lead us to the humbling position of accepting what we cannot change.

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