Friday, June 1, 2018

Natural Disaster in Our Own Backyard

A couple of weeks ago, during one of the typical water cooler conversations at my office (conversations which sometimes seem to take up more hours each day than any actual work), the topic was the volcano eruptions in Hawaii.

When people originally purchased the homes that now have been engulfed and destroyed by lava, it must’ve been an interesting conversation with the real estate agent. “Oh, you’re just gonna love this place!” the agent probably said. “Great views. Secluded neighborhood. Truly paradise!” Then the prospective buyer asked, “But it’s built on an active volcano, right? I mean, isn’t that a concern?” “Oh no,” the agent answered, “People barely even noticed the volcano during the past 20 or 30 years, so there’s nothing to worry about!”

My homeowner’s insurance company freaks out if my chimney flue isn’t cleaned on a regular basis. I wonder how steep the premiums are when your house is located three blocks away from molten lava?

At the water cooler, we started talking about all the places that are threatened by natural disasters. California is often called paradise, but they have to deal with earthquakes, droughts, wildfires, and mudslides.

People living in the Gulf coast states, Florida, and the Carolinas are at risk for devastating hurricanes.

The folks in the Midwest get whacked every summer by killer tornadoes. And those living near major rivers get flooded out every few years it seems.

I summarized our discussion by making this sweeping declaration: “Here in Connecticut, it might be too dark and cold for too many months in the winter, but at least the only disasters we have to deal with are manmade, such as high taxes, crumbling roads, and a lousy football program at UConn. At least we’re safe from natural disasters!”

I’ve got to stop making sweeping declarations.

Exactly one day later, a nasty line of thunderstorms raced across our state and produced four different tornados. Not one, but FOUR different tornados! Here in Connecticut! Gee whiz, I could probably count on one hand the number of tornados that have hit the Nutmeg State during my lifetime. (Please don’t send me emails with precise tornado numbers gleaned from extensive Google searches. I’m just using a figure of speech to convey the idea that we ain’t exactly Oklahoma, OK?)

Tragically, two state residents were killed during that recent storm; hundreds of houses and vehicles were severely damaged by falling trees; many days after the storm, tens of thousands of homes were still without power; and aerial footage showed swaths of destruction that made what were once dense forestlands look like a bunch of toothpicks scattered on the ground.

So, for the next water cooler discussion, the topic will be: where the heck can you live that is safe from natural disasters? I think the answer is obvious: nowhere.

Ever since the storm hit, I’ve been uneasily watching a row of tall pine trees on my property line swaying in the breeze. I did some quick calculations: Hmm, if the trees are 90 feet tall, and the base of the trees are 60 feet from my house, and if the wind knocks down one or more of the trees directly toward my house, let’s see, carry the five, move the decimal place over, that means, um, that means the trees will not hit me — as long as I’m at work having a conversation at the water cooling. However, If I’m lying in bed, the trees could squash me like a bug.

Maybe it’s time to sell my house and move to a safer part of the country. I hear you can get some great real estate deals these days on the big island of Hawaii.

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