Hell and High Water
WHEN THE WATERS ROSE AND THE WINDS HOWLED, BRAVE MEN AND WOMEN ANSWERED THE CALL.
The scene was eerily familiar: Flattened trees. Rising waters. Splintery rubble where there used to be houses. People ambling through waisthigh water. Boats stacked on top of each other like misplaced toys. Helicopters surverying the wreckage, pulling people to safety.
Unlike natural disasters in recent memory— including the powerful earthquake that struck Mexico City in September—this hurricane season didn’t feel like an isolated incident. It had the feeling of an unending event, a multiweek succession of destruction. But most of all, it reminded everyone of the predictable unpredictability of Mother Nature.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimated that this year we would see more hurricanes developing in the Atlantic Ocean. Conditions were ripe, with warmer -than-usual surface sea temperatures. Forecasts called for 14 to 19 named storms. But no one could have predicted the severity, the quick succession, and combined devastation of what was to come.
And come they did, marching their way into history. Harvey. Irma. Jose. Maria. They were like carbon copies, with some revisiting the same ground trampled by their predecessors. (At press time, Maria, a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 135 knots, is tracing Irma’s deadly path in the Caribbean.)
In times like these, it can be easy to fall into despair, especially if you were affected by this summer of destruction (like those in Key West, pictured here). But in the wake of every storm, nature’s wrath was answered by steely human resolve. Both citizens and the brave men and women of the U.S. military came to lend a helping hand with disaster relief, while search-andrescue teams pulled people up to safety, from Houston to Key West to the Caribbean.