Over the last week, I’ve been glued to the television. As we all know, Harvey came to Houston, and I’m not talking Wallbanger. Perhaps I actually am, for the fierce winds and torrential rains certainly did a number on the town.
It still amazes and humbles me how we see the very best in people at these defining moments in our lives. Total strangers risk their own lives to save others, countless boat owners come to town to lend a hand, and search and rescue teams from thousands of miles away drive night and day to get to the southeast Texas area to provide aid.
I have always been fascinated by hurricanes. It’s a bit funny that my pirate moniker is Hurricane, and for an entirely different reason. But even before I lost my mind and went to Florida, I used to watch these mighty storms unfold, wondering what it must be like to be in one.
Of course, I eventually found out. The first year I was in Florida, three of them rolled through the state in six weeks: Charley, Frances and Ivan. Charley was a huge hurricane, a Category 4 when it hit. Frances and Ivan were smaller by the time they reached us inland, but the cumulative effects of the storms were horrendous.
If I recall, we were without power for two weeks or more during the time of the year where it is outright sweltering. We were really lucky compared to those in Houston, and I’m not trying to compare my own experiences with what all these tens of thousands of people are going through. I simply can’t imagine it.
My own experiences, however, have helped me understand what folks are going through. Certainly, watching the people in Beaumont and Port Arthur struggle hurts my heart. I had the privilege of spending some time down there, performing for many of these people and I continue to wonder daily how they are doing, how their own struggle to survive is going.
I also traveled to New Orleans about six months after Katrina. Another horrific hurricane. I had brought instruments to donate to a high school band that had lost all of theirs in the flooding. It was a small thing, but as we’ve seen in the aftermath of Harvey, even the smallest of things can mean a lot to people who are trying to return to some level of normalcy after a disaster has struck.
All of this has helped to inform me about the importance of preparing for disasters, natural or manmade. While I don’t live in the path of hurricanes or tornadoes these days, I do live in earthquake country. As anyone living in the Seattle area knows, another big one can come our way at any moment, setting off what some say would require the biggest relief effort in the history of civilization.
Since I was a kid we’ve all been told to have at least three days of provisions available. In the last two years, that has increased to two weeks. According to disaster planners around here, it may a full two weeks before someone can get to you, depending on the severity and intensity of the quake.
Florida helped me be ready. We have the necessary supplies tucked away to weather a disaster. There’s a backpack filled with survival goods – tarps, tape, rope, a first aid kit, batteries, lanterns and a crank emergency radio. There’s also a big tub of freeze dried food in there, enough for two weeks. Add in the cases of water, the tent, the extra water in the strapped down water tank and the understanding that not everything will be destroyed in a quake, and I think we are pretty well prepared for any disaster that could come our way.
I did the same thing in Florida, of course. But it was always seasonal. Every May, I would stock up on food in the dry goods pantry, make sure there were cases of water, and made sure we had things like batteries and a weather radio in the house.
Here, there is no earthquake season. They can happen anytime. I’ve been through two major ones in my lifetime and countless smaller quakes. Hell, I’ve even been in what is known as swarms in San Francisco, spending two hours watching a split screen of the San Francisco and Santa Cruz TV news studios, the quakes starting in Santa Cruz, ending in San Francisco, with me in the middle. Talk about surreal. There were something like eight quakes in an hour and a half. The Santa Cruz crew would experience it, seconds later my apartment started shaking, and then it would hit the studio in the Bay Area.
I did not find this fun, by the way. I also didn’t find the Nisqually Quake particularly enjoyable, as I was underground in our basement for that one. I have never been surround by the earth before. Being below the surface is a very different experience, one I don’t really want to go through again.
As for going through any disaster, it’s inevitable. I don’t think there are many parts of the country that are safe from them, whether it’s a hurricane, tornado, earthquake or snow or ice storm.
The only thing we can do is prepare for it the best we can, ride it out and hope for the best, and then pick up the pieces. For those in Houston, and later this week in Florida, that may be years from now.
But the great thing about America is that we are at our best when things are worst. As much as we bitch and moan about the littlest of things, Mother Nature has a way of reminding us that we are just little ants when it comes right down to us. And we all need each other, whether we like it or not. Funny how moments like this makes even the most ardent haters of one another fast friends, at least until the crisis passes. Perhaps Harvey will remind us that we’re all not so different after all and that nature doesn’t care what the color of your skin is or your economic status.
In the Emerald City, waiting for the inevitable shake, rattle and roll, wondering what that powdered cheese in the five-gallon tub really tastes like,