Today’s post comes from the final portion of Hearts across the Water. If you’ve been following our blog, we’re looking at stories from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
These two 2005 storms did more than change the landscape of southern Louisiana.
It brought about seismic changes that are still echoing across this part of America.
Today’s post was written about ten days after Hurricane Rita hit SW Louisiana.
Be Grateful for a hurricane-free 2015.
A Cool Breeze is Blowing
As I write today, I’m sitting beside the Gulf of Mexico in Texas. It is now one week plus 3 days since Rita came through. The camp is closed, and life is slowly but painfully returning back to normal. Our home is still without electricity although we now have water.
I’m at the Texas Baptist Assembly in Palacios, Texas, for a few days of rest and writing. There is something about the salt air that is good for both the lungs and mind.
Looking out across peaceful Matagorda Bay, it is hard to believe that one hundred miles to the east there is total destruction along the coast. Homes and businesses are still boarded up here. Originally the forecast was for Rita to come ashore near here. But this time this area was spared.
Now a cool breeze is blowing in from the ocean. For the moment it has blown away the mosquitoes, black bugs, and stifling heat that preceded and lingered after Rita.
Folks who were present during Rita will always remember the heat. The days previous to landfall were some of the hottest days ever recorded. A record high of 100 degrees was set on one of the days right before Rita’s landfall. The heat index was high and no breeze blew to cool any at all. It was as if the atmosphere along the Gulf Coast were holding its breath in anticipation of the coming storm.
The days, and especially nights, after Rita were brutal. With no electricity, fans and air conditioners were useless. Folks lay there and sweated their beds wet. At the camp many of our evacuees slept outside on the concrete porches or on picnic benches. As I made my rounds in the dark, it was not uncommon to hear loud snoring coming from anywhere on the grounds.
Then a cool front arrived. Everyone’s attitude changed as the north wind brought in relief from both heat and humidity. I’ll always remember the feeling of comfort after so many miserable days.
And here along the middle Gulf Coast of Texas, a cool breeze blows in off the sea. It feels so refreshing. It is hard to believe this body of water could rise up and attack the coast again. But I’m reminded that only two years ago in July 2003, Hurricane Claudette came roaring ashore here and wreaked havoc on the campgrounds where I am now staying. The same ocean that has attracted people to this camp for 100 years can very quickly become a menacing enemy.
For the hundredth time, but probably not the last time, my mind goes back to Indonesia. I’m sitting among a group of Acehnese fisherman in what was once their coastal village.
An interpreter quietly shares their words to me, a westerner from a world away. One middle-aged man with leathery skin stares off into the Indian Ocean and then briefly looks around at the area swept clean by the tsunami. He comments, “We’ve always trusted the ocean as our friend. It was our friend in that it supplied our livelihood. But on December 26 it became our enemy.” For emphasis he points a stick toward the beautiful green Indian Ocean, “One day we will trust it again enough to go back on it to fish, but not yet. We still don’t fully trust our old friend the ocean.”
Whether at the equator half a world away,
Or along the southern coast of the world’s most advanced country.
It is sometimes our friend, and still sometimes our enemy.
We as humans can do so much. But controlling the weather and events are beyond our abilities.
As Rita and Katrina showed we are not so far ahead of our supposedly third-world neighbors in Southern Asia. The ocean…it gives us life. It can just as quickly take away life.