Thursday, July 7, 2016

The (Very Wet) Elephant in the Room

I made myself a promise during the drought a few years ago. If it ever rains again, I said, I will utter no word of complaint. I will not even think a complaint. So this is not complaining, folks. Consider it documentation.

Some of this paper’s readers incurred serious damage from the severe storm of May 26-27 and we hope for their speedy recovery.
We, personally, were very fortunate. We didn’t lose a house, or car, or loved one to the floods. We weren’t hit by one of the twisters that passed through.

Before the power died, we’d been watching the storm on radar, somewhat compulsively, I admit. A strange storm, too, the houseguest who wouldn’t leave. Who just sat back on his haunches and grew bigger, instead of moving on.
It gave us three tornado warnings, targeting Winedale specifically, and an aerial bombardment for eight dark hours. I asked my husband if it felt like war to him. But of course, he’d been in an airplane then, with flak coming up at him. Not below where the bombs landed.

Some folks are prepared for tornadoes. Some folks have a basement to retreat to, as the warnings direct. Our house is one room deep. There are no interior rooms.
Once the power went out and we weren’t able to “see” the storm on our phone and computer, we were like our dog, Rosie, adrift inside the flashing darkness, amid roaring rain, with random nearby explosions of sound, and the smell of worry all around.

At one point in the evening, I caught her, by flashlight, looking at me with a mournful expression: Why? She seemed to ask. Why all this falling water and noise? Why won’t it stop?
I suspect it’s a question many of us shared. And we would like an answer better than: Oh, a cooler mass of air has pushed into warm, wet air from the Gulf.

That’s a description, not a reason.
Even the official explanation, isn’t sufficient. The phenomenon was called a “backbuilding mesoscale convective system”, and a similar one caused last year’s Memorial Day flood. It’s a seasonal occurrence in our area, according to the weather guys ( And this year we had two, back to back.

Funny how, in all our thirty years together in Winedale, and my husband’s much longer experience in the area, we don’t remember such oscillations of extreme weather. Nothing remotely so severe. And on the heels of such devastating drought.
The Texas State Climatologist tells us to expect more of this kind of thing, but he doesn’t say why.

A few minutes ago, I happened to check the news. The same thing is happening in France. Yes. The worst river flooding in more than a century. Slow moving low pressure systems, warm air colliding with cold upper air. Evacuations. Immortal works of art threatened. In Germany, several deaths.
So much for thinking local.

But once the larger view is indulged, questions multiply: What about those polar glaciers, calving at a vastly increased rate? Greenland’s shrinking ice caps? The unprecedented intensity of heat in India, and drought in Syria and neighboring countries? Why so many climate-driven disasters all at once—all over the world—and escalating?
The elephant in the room wears a GOP blanket saying, “I do not exist.”

But that is fear speaking. And fear makes it very hard to accept the harsh reality of what we find uncomfortable.
Especially when we can’t see a clear solution to the problem.

It’s so much simpler to concentrate on repairing washouts, rebuilding what has been swept away. Even when we know it will all happen again. Because, hey, maybe it won’t be us, next time. Maybe it’ll be somebody else.
And we hope for that, don’t we—that next time somebody else will bear the cost?

Which may be the most uncomfortable reality of all.
(This appeared as my June column in the Fayette County Record.)

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