By Lynn Ashby 5 Sept. 2011
Right after an earthquake, a hurricane hit New York City, sending Yankees fleeing Irene like evacuees from Katrina. Just as with the Cajuns, the Gothamites, too, had bottled water, cans of Sterno, long lines of cars, bottled vodka, pets in cages, bottled Sterno. Up till then, they thought they were safe from storms, if not muggers, high taxes and the Mets. Did I mention earthquakes?
After the New Yorkers’ return home, maybe they found out what happens to the plywood. Here in Texas before every storm from the Gulf, everyone runs out and buys plywood to hammer over store fronts and house windows. The next year everyone buys more plywood. Where did last year’s plywood go? Did it burn? Was it stolen by termites?
Anyway, we might say the New Yorkers’ flight and plight serve them right, after those many years they ridiculed people along the Gulf Coast. “Why would anyone want to live there, since every couple of years a hurricane comes along and flattens everything?”
The national media, especially the TV networks, are headquartered in Manhattan. Every time a dark cloud appears just west of Africa heading towards America, the news shows go bananas about the impending disaster that might hit NEW YORK CITY! Beaumont could be flooded. Houston is swamped and they can’t find Corpus. But if Manhattan appears even slightly in the crosshairs, it’s a major story. Irene did, indeed, turn out to be over-hyped hysteria as far as the Big Apple was concerned, but it brings up a question: where can we live that is safe? And, of course, it makes us think of Wilmer McLean.
Let’s look at the record. This storm hit much of the eastern coast, a feat which is common. Hurricanes have long slammed into Florida. Key West has been hit ever since someone found the key. Georgia, too. The Carolinas are old hands at running from storms. In Boston in1954, Hurricane Carol toppled the steeple in the Old North Church where, as Sarah Palin explained, Paul Revere kept a lookout for attacking Japanese warplanes.
Towns along the Gulf of Mexico are still recovering from a parade of hurricanes with their death and destruction. IH 10 from Houston west to Columbus has big electric signs announcing evacuation routes. There are contra-flow barriers. Yes, coastal Texans know natural disasters. How about west Texas? How about wildfires? Arizona is safe from hurricanes, but half the state burned down in forest fires this year. Northern Arizona, like East Texas, is one big tinderbox. What’s more, dust storms roar through Phoenix like a tsunami.
Kiss off the west coast when it comes to safety. From Seattle to San Diego, windows rattle as earthquakes come and go. A seismologist on the radio last week said, “It’s not if the big quake is coming to the West Coast, but when.” This brings us to Waxahachie. A main reason the underground Superconductor Supercollider was to be placed near Waxahachie was the location was earthquake proof. In 2009, residents in the area experienced five earthquakes in one week. Where is FEMA when you need it?
Each winter the American north gets blizzards, usually several. If you live in Fargo, don’t. Why would anyone stay in Minneapolis in January? Chicago, like Wichita Falls, is scorching in the summer and freezing with a chance of blizzards in the winter. Living there is dangerous.
People living along the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri rivers annually sandbag their upstairs bedrooms, hoping to keep the water out. It costs a fortune. Floods are hazardous to your wealth. If you like both hurricanes and floods, sometimes together, say hello to the Crescent City. While we’re on hazards, don’t breathe deep in Pasadena and Port Arthur. In Deer Park the kids have a saying, “I shot an arrow into the air. It stuck.” That sounds dangerous. Meanwhile, the Big Drought of ’11 makes all of Texas unsafe.
Which country has more tornadoes than any other? The U.S. records far more tornadoes than any other country, nearly four times more than estimated in all of Europe. We get more than 1,000 tornadoes per year. Second is Canada with about 100. OK, which state has the most tornados? Texas. The 30-year average number of tornadoes per year for Texas is 126. We’re Number One! Oklahoma is in second place with a measly 52. The high number in Texas is mainly due to the state’s size. Over the years, tornadoes have devastated Waco, Fort Worth, Dallas, Lubbock and every place in between, but name the county in Texas that has the most tornados. Harris County, which is Houston and then some. From 1950-2007, Harris County reported the most tornadoes in Texas with 212.
Besides weather, what else makes for a dangerous place to live? El Paso is right across the Rio from Juarez, the bloodiest city on earth. You know when Baghdad wins the silver and Kabul wins the bronze, Juarez is not the place to vacation. Yet El Paso is statistically one of the safest cities in the nation. I blame global warming, but some credit landmines. Still, El Paso is too close to Juarez to be safe.
All of this brings us to Wilmer McLean. In 1861, he had a farm, Yorkshire Plantation, in Manassas, Virginia. Yes, the same Manassas, aka the First Battle of Bull Run. That first major land battle of the Civil War took place on his farm. Rebel officers took over his house as HQ, and a cannon ball went through his chimney.
McLean decided to move because his business activities were centered mostly in southern Virginia, and the Union army presence in his area of northern Virginia made his work difficult. No doubt he also wanted to protect his family from another battle in his front yard. So he moved to, uh, to Appomattox Court House. Duck! So, in seeking a safe place to live, we might consider the McLean Rule of Safety: there isn’t one.
Ashby is hiding at email@example.com