I’m continuing on with my Earth Day themed posts this week, gearing up for Earth Day on April 22nd. In fact, I’m making plans to take my son out and about as part of my pledge to do something kind for the Earth on that day. But the Earth doesn’t always reciprocate. Sometimes Mother Nature rages in a fury and wreaks havoc on a large scale.
I’m talking about natural disasters.
Have you ever been involved in a natural disaster? Caught unaware right smack in the middle of devastating event? Here in North Carolina, we do get our share. We’re prone to flash floods, severe thunderstorms, snowstorms (yes, they can be devastating in this part of the country), and of course, hurricanes.
Because of the way North Carolina juts out of the East Coast into the Atlantic, it is usually classified as the number two state on the receiving end of hurricanes. Living as far inland as Raleigh, it never usually amounts to much more than annoying wind and rain by the time it reaches us.
It was not the case in September 1996. I was a young single girl living in an apartment when I made preparations for Hurricane Fran, a Category 3 hurricane. It ended up being a bit of a “perfect storm” situation.
While only a Category 3 storm (meaning winds between 111 and 130 mph), It had been raining non-stop for the previous three days. This, in effect, created very soggy grounds and softened the soil that normally held tree roots intact. Hurricane Fran then made landfall at a high rate of speed. While hurricanes normally break up over land, this storm traveled so fast that it was still a pretty intense hurricane by the time it reached Raleigh.
I remember that night quite well. I was in my apartment alone and was worried about how I would get up early enough for work if the power went out and my alarm didn’t work (remember – this was before the time of cell phones). And then the unthinkable happened. The cable went out. No TV. Shortly, thereafter, the electricity went out followed by the phone lines. All I could think about was getting to work on time.
I woke up early with no power. I looked outside and saw trees everywhere. I saw a tree on top of a car. And yet, I got in my car trying to drive to work. I started going the way I typically went. Turn right out of the apartment complex, turn left down the big hill towards the mall. As I’m driving, I realize the mall doesn’t quite look right. I can’t figure out what’s wrong so I keep driving. And then I realize it. I can’t see the road or most the mall. It’s under water. 17 feet of water to be exact.
I turned into a parking lot and found a pay phone that actually worked. I used a calling card to call my sister mainly because I just needed to connect with someone. Everywhere I drove was devastation. Power lines were down, trees were laying across the roads, houses were destroyed.
I did eventually make it to work only to find that there was no power and nobody else was there. Why did I go in? Sometimes I think in the face of a natural disaster, we look to find way to return to normalcy. I didn’t get that. In fact, it took over 3 weeks for some residents to get power restored and it took the city well over a year to clean up the aftermath.
I’ve had a few reminders over the past few days of how quickly and easily nature can turn against us. Our area suffered an intense storm system on Saturday that spawned the largest tornado outbreak in North Carolina in 25 years. It was different this time.
We know when a hurricane is coming. We know what to expect. We’re not accustomed to the severity and unpredictability of tornadoes. As a result, we had a lot of fatalities and a tremendous amount of damage. Roads have been closed. Power lines have been down. Trees have littered yards. Roofs are covered in tarps.
So how can we help? If you live in North Carolina, the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina has just completed an assessment of the damage in their service territory and are asking for help.
We are providing additional food and non-food essentials (hygiene items, cleaning supplies, paper products) as well as extending our hours and making special deliveries to affected agencies. We are also in communication with American Red Cross and North Carolina Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NCVOAD) to provide supplies to victims. Those in need of food can search our online directory to find a partner agency near them.
We are calling for donations of food and funds. We have a most needed items list posted on the NCTornado page and well as instructions on sending contributions by mail or text to give.
I encourage you to help locally whether you live in my neck of the woods or on the other side of the world. Natural disasters are universal.
What have you lived through? What are you most afraid of?