2,500 Miles Away From Hell

T.A. Barnhart

Needless to say, I've never been more grateful for this beautiful, temperate Oregon summer.  And no matter how stereotypical our winter is -- six months of rain, clouds, cold; the usual -- I don't think I'll be bitching about the weather too much this year.

I've been through a near-hurricane once right here in Corvallis: Colombus Day, 1962.  I was on the fringes of Dennis this year as it aimed at the Florida Panhandle, and in 1998 I was in the Keys when Hurricane Mitch made a return engagement to Florida after slaughtering 20,000 in Central America.  I've seen just enough to understand that I have not the slightest clue what they are going through right now on the Gulf Coast.  I have no background to draw from, and I am incredibly thankful for my experiential ignorance.  I hope to live a long life without ever gaining that personal knowledge.

I used to watch the weather reports of tropical storms forming out in the Atlantic as the forecasters tried to guess where they would go, how big they would be, the possibility for damage.  I watched these reports the way my friends watch Survivor or American Idol: a contest built out of real life (and then filtered through the television).  How terribly arrogant of me, how heartless.  When a hurricane would finally strike somewhere -- the Gulf Coast, Florida, the Carolinas, right through the middle of some lovely island -- it was like my team had scored a touchdown.  I am so disgusted with myself to remember this, and feel no pride that I know better now.  I'm just less shameful.

And I am far less cavalier about how good my life is here in Oregon, in the Willamette Valley's lush, green beauty.  Apart from the occasional ice storm, we have almost no worries from the weather.  Floods are a rarity; we're too far upstream for any real chance of danger.  To know about what the scale of destruction planet can inflict on human beings and other living creatures, I have to watch tv and the Web; I have to gain my knowledge third-hand.  I am so thankful for this, and as I sit here writing, I am thinking of what I can do to repay this grace.  I am sending money to the Red Cross, of course.  I will be working within the blogosphere and my community to inform people why so much unncessary suffering occurred -- racism, war, Bush's heartlessness.  As a leader of the Corvallis High School Band Parents Suppport Group, I'm going to organize an effort to help schools in New Orleans and elsewhere replace instruments, music, and other equipment.  And I'll see what else comes along that I can do; I'm sure the opportunities will be many.

Whatever I do, whether it's contributing to relief funds or living my normal life, I am going to keep my eyes open to the gentle, good life I enjoy here in Corvallis.  When the rains return, I'll not be thrilled, but I'll see the grey skies and know the worst that can happen to me is a good soaking.  I don't know if I could be safer than I am here.  I see the pictures from New Orleans, and I understand too well, too poignantly, the difference between heaven and hell.

  • Kent (unverified)

    Let's not get too cocky there T.A. Oregon's still on the ring of fire.

    Remember Mt. St. Helens?

    Hood and Rainier aren't exactly extinct volcanos. A big blast in the wrong direction and Hood River or Puyallup will look like Pompeii.

    And the Pacific coast isn't immune from tsunamis. I guess volcanos and tsunamis aren't weather related disasters. But they can be pretty deadly none the less.

    If the Northwest ever gets blasted by either one then there will be a lot of people asking how we could all have lived in such a danger zone.

  • allehseya (unverified)

    Adding to Kent's list I'd add earthquakes

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    Oh you mean those little fault lines that run right under the West Hills, all down the Willamette Valley and all the way up into Puget Sound? Those??

    That's actually what I've been thinking about since Katrina. Other than worrying about things I can't fix except to donate money, I've thought about what it would be like if it happened here. We're not in danger of weather disasters, really (save the occasional flood - and tsunamis on the coast), but earthquakes... which would come with no warning. No chance to evacuate. In my opinion, we should all heed the advice of The Red Cross and get ourselves prepared for natural disaster.

    And whaddya know - September is <a href=http://www.redcross.org/services/prepare/0,1082,0_239_,00.html

    National Preparedness Month. How timely.

    No amount of preparedness could have saved/helped everyone affected by Katrina. But being prepared for natural disaster couldn't hurt.

    Oh and in the active volcano list, you forgot to mention the huge bulge forming on the side of the South Sister and the hundreds of small earthquakes in that hot zone every year. Aside from Mt. St. Helens, Three Sisters is probably the biggest threat to a northwest community.

    The chance of an earthquake or volcanic eruption aside, I too feel lucky to live here in the Pacific Northwest where extreme weather tends to just leave us alone. And every once in a while forces us to take a few days off of work by freezing us in.

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    granted the danger from earthquakes in particular, we're still a lot safer than most places. if you look at san francisco & los angeles, you know that a city can be earthquake-proofed to a large degree. we have a new high school here in part to have one that is as safe as possible in that regard. of course, if the BIG big one hits, who knows. but compare corvallis with so many other places, and it's hard to find a place that's as relatively safe from the earth's natural processes. and as such, i intend to enjoy and appreciate it fully.

  • Becky (unverified)

    I am very concerned about something that I think people need to start talking about now - a potential new aftermath of Katrina that could re-victimize those whose homes have been destroyed.

    The other day, President Bush commented that we would all be surprised at the great city that would emerge from the flooded mess of New Orleans. It sounded almost like a phoenix reference. And I thought how could that happen.

    Then it dawned on me - I remembered the recent Supreme Court decision in, Kelo v. New London. That's the case that allows condemnation for redevelopment. It could be used to take all that property from the owners and give it to developers, who could make a fortune. And because the property is in a shambles right now, it is virtually worthless, meaning the rightful owners could get paltry compensation and be able to do nothing about it.

    <h2>It seems to me that legal assistance to New Orleans property owners ought to begin now to work to prevent this tragedy. Otherwise, while there may well be a glorious city re-emerge, New Orleans' hundreds of thousands of residents will get screwed. They won't be able to afford the new homes that will be built. And without these people, the culture of New Orleans that we have all come to love will be gone forever.</h2>

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