Natural Disasters Really Do Happen

Natural disasters

True confession: I  have lived my life with the acceptance that while natural disasters do happen, they don’t happen “here”. Fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, droughts . . . They wield their destructive force in other places. So when I read articles about the need to get prepared – financially and otherwise – for the possibility of a natural disaster, I read with the interest of an outside observer.

Flooding close to home

But this week, nature made her power known very close to home. Flooding has happened in my city and in surrounding cities and towns. The local news has been completely focused upon it for many days, and while water levels are now receding, the impact of the disaster is just beginning to be understood. Furthermore, rain is in the forecast for the weekend, so there’s no certainty that the worst has happened.

  • Thousands of people have had to evacuate their homes.
  • Roads, schools, and places of work have been temporarily closed.
  • Over 2,000 troops have been deployed for disaster relief.
  • 126 landslides have been reported.
  • There have likely been two fatalities so far – a father and his infant daughter swept away while driving.
  • People are becoming physically exhausted from the effort to save their homes.
  • People are facing impossible financial hurdles.

Is it possible to prepare?

I think that at this point, I’m supposed to offer tips on how to prepare for a natural disaster. But from what I’m hearing, many of the people who have had to evacuate their homes had taken a number of proactive steps – from building a wall between the river and their properties to having generators and pumps on hand “just in case.” Is it even possible to prepare for this sort of thing?

Every practical measure people took ended up being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the flood. I find that a sobering fact, and I’ll give my take-away points in light of it.

Take-away points?

  1. When disasters happen, there’s always a way to help. From practical work, like filing sand bags, to contributing financially through such organizations as the Red Cross, people can channel their alarm into helping those impacted by the flood. It’s a powerful response to natural disaster.
  2. Be proactive and philosophical at the same time. It’s wise to set yourself up for strength, but to be simultaneously at peace with your vulnerability too. That balance between taking ownership and surrendering control is tough to strike.
  3. Hold onto your goals loosely. Goals for physical health, for financial security, for career moves – as well as for preparedness . . . They can have such a constructive influence on your life. But when those goals are obliterated, you have to be able to move forward with resilience. A crushed goal does not have to translate into a crushed spirit.
  4. Gain a spiritual perspective. Believe that there’s something bigger at work than you can perceive – even when disaster strikes. Have faith that times of terrible hardship can be woven into a beautiful masterpiece.

Have you ever experienced a natural disaster? What were the “take-away points” for you? To what extent do you think it’s possible to prepare for disaster? Your comments are welcome.


*Images courtesy of Charbel Kadri

29 comments on “Natural Disasters Really Do Happen

  1. Oh my goodness – I had no idea!! I hope you and yours are safe and sound with homes intact, Ruth? Yes, it’s frightening how quickly natural disasters can happen. We had 11 inches of rain in one shot back in our suburbia home. Our home was situated on a small hill, so we thought we were safe. The sump pump was going off continually to keep the rains out of our house. And then the power went out, and we watched as the well that held the pump got more and more filled. The very minute before the water rose high enough to enter our basement, the power went on, but many in our suburb were not so lucky. Flooded homes and roads were everywhere. It was a frightening experience.

    1. We’re all fine, Laurie. Thanks : ) We live far from the river, and while we know people who have been impacted. so far we haven’t heard of anyone we know having to evacuate their homes. What a scary experience you had! So close to having a flooded basement. I bet the story continues for those who had flooded homes in your area. The damage and expense would still be felt today I’m sure.

  2. I hope everything is getting back to normal for your town. We’ve experienced two hurricanes in recent years. Trees falling on our house, extended power outages, no gas, etc. All things that can be repaired over time. The take aways, have a plan, and be prepared. Take care of your loved ones and help your neighbors.

    1. I think that “normal” is still a long way off for the areas that were impacted, but I’ve heard that the rain this weekend is not predicted to cause water levels to rise again. Wow! You’ve had trees falling on your house during a hurricane? That’s no small deal! I’m glad that what you’ve experienced has not left anything beyond repair.

  3. Oh my! I hope all is restored soon! Like you, I live where a natural disaster is not likely to happen, but getting prepared at even a basic level is wisdom. Thank you for the four suggestions for dealing emotionally with disasters, I totally resonate with #2 and #4.

    In times of great stress, it is important for us to remember that we are a three part being. Body, soul and spirit all need care during disasters, thank you for reminding us.

    1. Many people who have been flooded out of their homes have said, “At least I’m not in a body bag,” or something to that effect. I think that when people take that bigger, spiritual perspective, they can see how much worse it might have been. It’s a strange thing, but that recognition so often leads to gratitude – even in the midst of disaster. Thanks Anne : )

  4. I’ve never experienced a natural disaster personally. I think helping out when you can is a great way to support victims. On a more personal level I think #3 is huge! “Hold onto your goals loosely” – this advice is important when any life changes or stressors hit. Being resilient and keeping a positive mindset when those goals seem out of reach will help you push forward, even in the worst of times.

    1. I find it hard to hold my goals loosely. I think I wrote that one mainly for me : ) I can get so wrapped up in my determination about whatever effort is involved. Just imagining having a flooded home and losing everything – a reality for some people nearby – makes me realize the importance of easing my dependence upon a definition of “success” that could be swept away in forces beyond my control. Hard to devote effort while surrendering control of the outcome. (I think I rambled a bit there : ) Sorry!)

  5. We’ve had a lot of flooding recently, and NC is still recovering from Hurricane Matthew last fall, so you have my sympathy. While I’ve never been affected by more than storm-related power outages, my dad’s house was hit by a tornado several years ago, and my mom’s house caught on fire due to a lightning strike. In both cases, rebuilding took a long time and a lot of trouble, but no one was injured.

    It’s made me realize nothing is guaranteed.

    1. Having your mom and dad impacted makes it all very close to home! I’m glad they were able to rebuild. Did insurance cover everything for them? Occasionally, I hear of people in our local situation who don’t have coverage. What a nightmare! You’ve right: nothing is guaranteed. That’s a tough one.

      1. After the deductibles, yes they were covered. But Mom, in particular, had trouble with keeping her contractor on schedule, and unlike Dad’s house, her house was unliveable until repaired. If she and her husband had not had a second home to retreat to, or if they had still been working and not been able to head for the mountains, housing costs would have really hurt.

        1. No doubt others in her area were’t as well set up – particularly with a second home. What a difference it makes to be set up to withstand a major setback!

  6. My prayers go out to you Ruth and to all those affected. We’re in what is known as a very safe zone, the Syracuse area of New York State. I was hyper aware when we lived in Florida of the dangers down there. Trust in Jesus was key.

    1. Thank you, Kay. My family and I are safe and sound – far from the river banks that are overflowing. Florida sure does seem to be prone to disaster. I bet you’re glad to be back in safe Syracuse. (With your son now too – is that right?)

  7. That’s just awful, Ruth. I’m sorry that floods have affected you and yours so badly – I hope that your area gets all the help they and you might need to recover from this.

    “It’s wise to set yourself for strength, but to be simultaneously at peace with your vulnerability too.”

    I struggle with this quite a bit.

    I was born and raised in California – earthquakes happen with almost mundane regularity here. I remember the highly destruction Northridge Quake. The thing that’s most present on my mind, just after all the day to day costs and preparation, is the knowledge that Northern California is due for a massive earthquake, of Big One proportions, sometime in the next 30-50 years. We don’t know when, how badly it will affect us, or where it will hit. We DO know that it will happen. So I am preparing for it as best I can with supplies and how and where we live but I also know there’s a not low chance that our entire town could be devastated by a major shaker. Being at peace with that unknown is a tough reach. I’m working on it but it’s tough.

    1. Thank you, Revanche. The floods haven’t affected us personally – but they are so close to home that it’s all a big wake-up for everyone. What you say about California is what I know to be true of British Columbia – where one of my daughters is going to school. That is definitely a tough one. I thought the time span was more substantial though – possibly over 100 years away. I like that projection better. Despite your struggle with the balance involved, it sounds like you are doing exactly what you should.

  8. So sorry to hear what is going on where you live Ruth. Keeping you and your town in my prayers.

    Like Revanche mentioned in the comment above, I too am a born and raised Californian. We are in earthquake country for sure. The last super big earthquake we had with devestaing results was the Northridge earthquake back in 1994. Although we have had smaller earthquakes since then, every Californian knows that 23 years is a long time to go without some major shaking going on, and we know “the big one” as we call it, can make its appearance at any time. All you can do is prepare any way you know how. Have plenty of water, first aid kit, flashlights, batteries, etc…

    1. That’s right, Mackenzie. That really is all you can do. It sounds to me like you’re not living in fear of the next earthquake, but that you have done what you can to be prepared for it – which is perfect. I know that you love California, so no doubt, you’ve weighed out the risk and find it to be worth it – as so many others clearly do : )

  9. We’ve found ourselves underprepared for storms before. Last summer, the hurricane knocked out power in our house for 2-3 days. It wasn’t too bad since we had water, a grill and snacks, but I had to drive around finding somewhere with wifi to complete some freelance writing projects.

    Now we have more bottled water, a few more emergency snacks, and I try to keep a full tank of gas in case we really need to get out of dodge. I’m also smart enough to have some cash instead of only digital currency on hand… just in case the grid really goes kaput.

    1. Hannah, it’s good to hear from you! I was thinking of you just this week (really & truly : ) Sounds like you are well prepared on many fronts for a possible emergency situation. Now let’s hope you never need to use any of it.

    1. That is a rare occurrence in Canada. We are certainly getting bizarre episodes of weather. (And I assumed you were American!)

  10. Beautiful takeaways, Ruth. I agree that it’s wise to admit our own frailty in the face of nature, while preparing to a reasonable extent (which I could definitely improve in). We have not experienced a natural disaster, but live in an area where people’s basement often leak. We were just discussing how our back up sump pump battery only lasts for a couple hours, and rain storm could easily outlast it. There really is a limit to what you can do in the face of “mother nature.”

    1. Flooded basements are no joke from what I’m learning in our local situation. Even when everything is all dry again, there are lingering concerns about mould besides immediate concerns about damage and loss. Good for you for having a back up sump pump, Kalie! I wonder how many people in your area have one, given that basement leaks are a common thing?

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