Natural storms are the new norm

Natural storms are the new norm

Tim Eggert

The tumultuous winds and torrential rains that racked the shores and communities of our neck of the woods Tuesday were heightened, if not irregular, weather patterns for this time of year. To most people, 40 mph winds and 24 consecutive hours of rain probably seemed like natural disaster level conditions.

I hadn’t experienced an environment like that before, at least not in this state, and my unfamiliarity with it did conjure a feeling of world-ending anxiety,  but it didn’t cause natural disaster level damages.

Meteorologically, the gale force storm qualifies as a natural process, but less so as a natural disaster. It’s tragic that citizens were swept off Black Rocks and peninsula-wide power outages are unfortunate, but, relatively speaking, the harm done wasn’t that bad—flooding was minimal and downed trees were manageable.

Neither peninsula of our Midwestern state is known for experiencing natural disasters. Sure, an anomalous tornado may touch down, or abnormal flooding might occur, but this isn’t a hotspot in Tornado Alley nor a home for hurricanes.

When an event does affect Michigan, its impacts are hurtful, but not always heavy. Some areas of the U.P. were hit harder than others, and the effects were legitimate for closing schools, roads and businesses.

However, considering the recently extinguished wildfires in California, which killed more than 20 people and destroyed over 5,000 homes and structures, life could be worse, much worse. Fortunately, for those in the U.P., it isn’t.

California’s fires were the most destructive in the state’s history, and Tuesday’s storm may have been “worse than the one that sunk the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
Although the two disasters differ in objective intensity, they’re similar in one way: people.

When a community is centralized in an area prone to natural processes—hurricanes, earthquakes, avalanches and the like—their effects become more serious due to population distribution and infrastructure planning.

Simply, building in a floodplain or at the base of a mountain will result in exponential destruction. Interminable rain and inevitable avalanches become natural disasters when people live in the path of the natural process.

Yet, there’s a certain ignorance toward positional planning and the amplified impact on a population from a natural process. Why would a city be centered on a fault line? Perhaps specialized technology and disaster theory didn’t exist in the time of certain communities’ origins.

Despite this, the continuous development of a population at risk of a patterned natural disaster seems foolish. An earthquake isn’t preventable and a whole island can’t be moved to avoid a hurricane, but their fated forces can be prepared for.

As weather and climate become increasingly uncharacteristic, being able to adapt to more frequent natural processes and atypical patterns is essential for established populations to be sustained.

While we wait for technology to catch up to the unforeseeability of storms, we should be aware of their potential for devastation and be empathetic of those affected.

The real estate cliché “location, location, location” appropriately applies here: don’t unknowingly live in a location primed for natural disaster. If you do, then don’t be surprised by the destruction, or at least, be conscious of its possibility.