Get­ting chased by mon­ster storms

The New Indian Express - - EDITORIAL - P SUBRA­MA­NIAN Email: mailp­sub­ra­ma­

In the US, there are storm chasers who drive into storms for sci­en­tific stud­ies, cu­rios­ity, ad­ven­ture, etc. But I have the un­canny knack of get­ting chased by storms. Two years ago, Chennai was flooded. I was ma­rooned in the city with­out power, trans­port and com­mu­ni­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties. Last year, cy­clone Vardah lashed the city and I was grounded again with­out power and all the at­ten­dant in­con­ve­niences. Re­cently, when I went to Mi­ami in Amer­ica, I thought I was safe from na­ture’s fury. Un­for­tu­nately, that was pre­sumed too soon. Along came mon­ster hur­ri­cane Irma.

My host pre­pared to face the fury of the ap­proach­ing cat­a­strophic storm. My host’s wife and chil­dren flew to a rel­a­tive’s place in Cal­i­for­nia to avoid hard­ship to kids due to flood­ing and power out­ages. I stayed put with my host brag­ging that I had ex­pe­ri­enced the fury of na­ture back in Chennai.

Wa­ter bot­tles were bought. A few gal­lons of milk were stored in the freezer. Loaves of bread were also stocked up. Bat­ter­ies, flash lights, veg­eta­bles and fruits were stored suf­fi­ciently in case power went off for a few days. Cars were locked up in the garage. Alu­minium sheets were screwed on to pro­tect glass doors and win­dows from shat­ter­ing due to high ve­loc­ity winds.

As we waited for Irma to ar­rive, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties sug­gested cit­i­zens to leave the area of the storm. Peo­ple liv­ing near wa­ter­fronts and flood prone ar­eas were asked to move into storm shel­ters. Those who could find friends or rel­a­tives in north­ern cities moved away from the path of the storm.

Un­for­tu­nately, the hur­ri­cane kept chang­ing its course. Ini­tially, it was pre­dicted to hit the east coast of Florida. But, af­ter it lashed at Cuba for a lit­tle longer, it de­cided to take the route along the western coast of Florida for de­struc­tion. Peo­ple who moved from east coast to west coast were stranded be­cause of short no­tice. Be­cause of the enor­mity of the storm, all ar­eas of south­ern Florida got a taste of the fury of mother na­ture. Trees and poles fell down. Power failed in many cities. The ad­min­is­tra­tion im­posed cur­fews in storm-hit ar­eas. Amaz­ingly, the re­pair ma­chin­ery, be it gov­ern­ment or pri­vate en­ter­prise, re­stored pub­lic util­i­ties in record time.

Ev­ery­body com­plied with gov­ern­ment di­rec­tions. Con­se­quently, loss of life or in­jury was min­i­mal. Cit­i­zens were also not ex­pect­ing the gov­ern­ment to do ev­ery­thing. Peo­ple re­moved de­bris in front of their houses and from side­walks so that they could walk on foot­paths and ve­hi­cles could drive on.

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