! ! ! HURRICANE ! ! !
What’s wrong with the media? Sometimes it scares us to death, but maybe that’s a good thing.
Old Jack, here, is totally distracted by local events today. Hurricane Ike is bearing down on Galveston Island, and the local media, along with the Weather Channel, are making grim predictions. The pictures we are watching almost 30 hours before landfall are, indeed, ominous. Waves are crashing over the Seawall in Galveston, something I’ve never seen before. The portion of the island beyond the seawall, where people have built everything from modest beach homes to million-dollar mansions on stilts, is already surrounded by flood waters, and 20 to 25 more feet of water is predicted to sweep across the island. Horrifying! Even more troubling was a report on the Weather Channel that of the 60,000 people who live on Galveston Island, only 30,000 are estimated to have heeded the mandatory evacuation orders issued yesterday. For many of those left behind, time has already run out. The exit roads are already underwater.
Here in the piney woods north of Houston, we are hunkered down hoping that the forecasters are doing what they normally do — overstating the wind dangers that face us. I understand their feeling the need to present worst-case scenarios, but it is nerve wracking for their viewers nonetheless. We are mainly being warned that the beautiful pine trees that lured us to this area could snap and fall upon our houses bringing destruction and maybe even death.
I have been looking out my windows this morning to see if my neighbors are preparing to evacuate to points north, but no signs are evident of such a rush to leave. This decision was made more difficult by what happened three years ago. Almost everybody ran away from Hurricane Rita because the local media scared everybody to death. Here in my neighborhood all but two houses of neighbors fled. Mrs. Jack, who spent her childhood in Florida, wanted to leave, but she had to work down in Houston the day of the storm. Although we had filled the gas tank that morning before she left for work, a traffic-snarled six-hour commute home burned up almost all the gas in her tank. Up here where we live, the evacuees from down on the coast and the city dwellers who were not ordered to evacuate but did anyway swarmed through here like a plague of locusts, buying all the gasoline and food, water and ice. As a result we were forced to ride it out.
It was frightening to watch the weathercasts foretelling the disaster awaiting us, but we were stranded with no way out. Miraculously for us, Hurricane Rita swerved to the right before she reached Galveston and slammed the unfortunate souls of Beaumont and Port Arthur as well as Lake Charles to our east. For our area, though, the greatest tragedies happened out on the roads leading north out of Houston. Traffic came to a stop all the way from Houston to Dallas and people ended up stranded on the road as the hurricane came up behind them. As if the frustration of those stalled out evacuees weren’t enough, those of us left behind watched on television before the power went out and saw a bus full of handicapped elderly evacuees burn to death along the roadway.
A couple of days later as my neighbors returned to our virtually undamaged community, I went around to talk to them. Their stories were universal: the evacuation had been such a misery that they all swore they would never leave again. I just quit writing long enough to go look out the windows to see if anyone has changed their mind about this, but there are no neighbors packing their vehicles for evacuation. I hope we are all making the right decision this time. Mrs. Jack and I have also decided to stay home.
All of that being said, I feel compelled to address an issue that permeates our society today. At times of tragedy like these, there are always those who take the opportunity to speak for God. I speak specifically of Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell and those of a like mind who outrageously claimed that God, Himself, had directed Hurricane Katrina to hit New Orleans to punish the city for allowing gays to live in peace within its limits. Why don’t these crazies recognize the fact that literally hundreds of thousands of God-fearing Christians suffered greatly as a result of that terrible storm, not only in sinful New Orleans but along the coastlines of Mississippi and Alabama?
In my humble opinion, the will of God is a great mystery to us all. Some of my family who were in agreement with Robertson and Falwell believe that these mammoth storms are a sign of the end times promulgated by Revelations. While most of these believers are banking on being “raptured” out before the end comes, I would point out that if a hurricane or tornado violently ends their lives, they won’t be there for that expected rescue. I am reminded of one of my aunts who lived in California forty years ago. One night she had a dream that God punished California by breaking it off into the sea. She was so convinced that this was a sign for her and family to leave that she insisted that they move back to Oklahoma.
Those of a religious persuasion often point to California as the poster child for what has gone wrong in America and predict that God will surely punish their wickedness with a massive earthquake. I think that the evidence points to quite a different conclusion. While California has stood strongly through the ensuing forty years, tornadoes and hurricanes have repeatedly pounded the Bible Belt, destroying churches and killing people. Now, we are seeing the most powerful tornadoes in my lifetime up in Oklahoma, and monster hurricanes sweeping through the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico slamming into the coasts of the Bible Belt.
This evidence prompts me to posit a different theory of what God may be trying to tell his followers. Perhaps, just perhaps, He looks down on His oil-friendly, global-warming-is-a-myth believers and wants to send a different message than the one their leaders would interpret. Is it possible that, instead of a punishment, these dramatic weather phenomena are merely meant as a message from our Creator that we need to clean up our act and be better stewards of the beautiful place he has given us to live? Maybe, just maybe, He is simply using the tools at his disposal to try to clean up the mess we continue to make of His world. I REALLY don’t know, but I just send that out there with the hope that perhaps people will think for themselves and consider our role as stewards of the world that sustains our lives.
In closing, I ask those who believe to pray for their brothers and sisters here in Texas, and pray also for Divine enlightenment to better understand the signs around us.