Here & there: Giving the old one-two punch to disasters

Composite image. Photo by Ronniechua iStock / Getty Images Plus; Photo by stuartmiles99 iStock / Getty Images Plus; St. George News

OPINION — September 2017 has been the most active on record for the Atlantic hurricane season. Most of Puerto Rico may be without electricity for months. The Guajataca Dam there is failing. Six other Caribbean island nations are in crisis with crumbled infrastructure and power and communications knocked out. Damages in Texas from Harvey alone may be upwards of $180 billion.

And they are still clearing rubble from back-to-back earthquakes in Mexico City.

Things are tough. And we’re not even talking about the geopolitical landscape.

I’m fighting the impulse to morph into Ben Stiller’s paranoid, overvigilant character from the movie “The Royal Tenenbaums.” But if you see me waking my children in the middle of the night for timed fire drills or religiously sleeping in the bunk bed below them, you’ll know I’ve failed.

I don’t think it’s only because I’ve been on the receiving end of a natural disaster before and am acutely aware that when it comes to man versus nature, nature is Muhammad Ali.

No, I think we are all feeling helpless and scared and uncertain.

I wrote back in October 2015 about losing my family home in a large-scale California fire when I was 13. We lost everything but the two family cars and the swimsuits on our backs. We didn’t have a generator. We didn’t have water purification tablets. But we did have food storage for the entire family. And it all burned to the ground. Every last No. 10 can.

But we didn’t really need any of that. We had access to food and safe water and temporary shelter. We did, however, need money.

One thing people found surprising after the fire is that my parents still had to pay the monthly mortgage on our house … the house that was now nothing more than two smoke-stained brick chimney stacks and shin-high ashes.

My mom still carried a balance on a department store credit card for clothes we no longer had.

Our disaster was localized enough that family, friends and neighborhood businesses could help us financially. My out-of-state grandfather gifted us $5,000. Family friends let us live in their vacant house for the summer. What was then Robinsons-May department store issued everyone in my family a $100 gift card. The Red Cross pitched in, too.

It all made surviving our disaster, well, survivable.

That’s not always the case. Some disasters are too expansive. Some are too remote. Some are too severe.

I heard a radio news interview of a Puerto Rican woman last Friday. No electricity, she said, means no credit cards and no ATM withdrawals. She told the reporter she is living on her last $20 in cash and doesn’t know how she’ll survive.

Yet, I still heard resolve in her voice. That resolve has reverberated in me for more than a week.

Will I have it in the wake of a natural disaster? Or, more importantly, will I have my resolve before it hits?

Noah didn’t build the ark when it was raining. He built it when the skies were clear and the ground was dry. Whether you believe the story is fact or fiction, its lesson carries weight: prepare now.

Even though you have work to do, kids to feed, homework to help with, lawns to mow and pets to walk, prepare now.

Be prepared. Have a plan. Let the next disaster be Frazier. We’ll be Ali.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: katdayton@gmail.com | news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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5 Comments

  • youcandoit October 1, 2017 at 10:14 am

    I agree we should be prepared. In the meantime I don’t understand why the mayor of Puerto Rico didn’t have back up generators on the hospital now she’s freaking out at the President when they knew the hurricanes were coming. Now the supplies are there and the military is helping. It is good to get prepared however for a lot of people can’t afford it.

    • bikeandfish October 1, 2017 at 4:00 pm

      Even if they had backup generators those take fuel which runs out fast when running an entire building for a week. And its not even certain some of the places in PR could afford such infrastructural improvements.

      They knew the hurricanes were coming but they were recovering from a previous one already this summer. It takes capital to prepare unless the federal government opens up it coffers with a state of emergency designation. They are freaking out now because of the relatively slow response. They need tens of thousands of people to help according to the military commanders on the scene. They need help clearing and rebuilding roads. She is freaking out because a massive dam could fail and kill thousands of people. She is freaking out because half of her citizens no longer have drinking water.

      This is an American territory. Should they have to beg in such a way for the federal government to respond in the proper way? They hadn’t sent the military hospital ship yet, a week out, which a common response to coastal cities. They deserve better and she was doing her job.

  • youcandoit October 1, 2017 at 10:15 am

    Oh I forgot to ask did your parents home owners insurance cover the cost of anything?

  • DB October 1, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    I’ve traveled to Puerto Rico dozens of times on business. Puerto Rico is indeed part of the USA (a commonwealth, as opposed to a state or territory) but is in essence a ‘third world country’ in most ways. The liberal media is trying to turn this into Trump’s ‘Katrina’. Media is disappointed that recovery efforts went well in Texas and Florida, for the most part. San Juan’s Mayor is is holding a photo op whining while standing in front of tons of food (Goya, you can even read the labels). I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt by assuming the real problem is being able to distribute it.

  • youcandoit October 1, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    We are spread thin as a nation someone or whomever should be doing their jobs long ago to get those problems fixed before another hurricane hits. I know how generators work do like the farmers do and keep big barrels of gas on hand. I feel bad for the people especially the ones hospitalized.

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