Tag: natural disasters

When the Earth Moved


In April 1906 San Francisco was “the Queen City of the Pacific,” the largest city in California and the busiest port on North America’s Pacific Coast. It was a city of superlatives, most banks, best entertainment, richest rich, and greatest ethnic diversity. Then the earth moved and San Francisco lay in ruins.

“The Longest Minute: The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906,” by Matthew J. Davenport, tell the story of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. It describes the pre-earthquake city and how it became what it was. It then recounts the events of the earthquake and what followed in the immediate aftermath.

Davenport takes readers into the ethnically-diverse streets of San Francisco of the late 1800s and the first half-decade of the 20th century. Readers visit Chinatown, the Italian, Russian, and Mexican enclaves in the city and the homes of the very rich and very poor.  He shows how San Francisco grew from an obscure Mexican town to the economic dynamo of the West Coast. He shows how rapid growth created a town ripe for disaster. Poorly-built, crowded buildings were common. Infrastructure was neglected. Much of what existed was shoddy.

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We’ve spent the last couple years holding our breaths every time there’s to be a major vote in the Senate . . . our reactions to President Trump range from cringing to whole-hearted celebration . . . and now we are making wagers on who will be victorious in the mid-term elections. Will the Republicans […]

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The latest FEMA “strategic plan” mentions “risking natural hazard risk” but not a peep about global warming, rising sea levels or devastating weather. Alice Hill, a Hoover Institution research fellow focusing on building resilience to catastrophic events, discusses the Trump Administration’s reluctance to utter the phrase “climate change” and where scientific debate stands in 2018.

Americans watched with forlorn fascination as devastating hurricanes laid waste to stretches of Florida and Texas. Hoover research fellow Alice Hill explains how the nation can better prepare for future natural disasters. The key word is “resilience.”

Home Is Where the Wreck Is


There’s no place I’d rather live than the beautiful Gulf Coast beach where my grandparents built a small house and dwelled for twenty or so years. Family and friends huddled in sleeping bags every year so we could enjoy its simple bliss together.

Half the time, the TV was tuned to hurricane tracking. My grandparents knew when they built the place that anything on the coast is temporary. I helped shovel truckloads of sand off the deck after a storm. I helped rebuild the deck and stairs after they got swept away with a surge, and repaired damage left by roof leaks. I watched as twin waterspouts (tornadoes) danced toward shore and faded away. By the grace of God, when a hurricane did finally pick up the house and set it down on the road — as we knew would happen one day — my grandparents had already sold the property (mainly due to taxes). But oh how we wish we could buy it back!

Prep for What’s Likely, not What’s Possible


When my family lived in Phoenix, we didn’t have much to worry about. The Phoenix area is remarkably free from natural disasters: There are no earthquakes worth mentioning, no forest fires, no tornadoes, no hurricanes, no blizzards. Life there was pretty good, right up to the point when the power goes out and the water stops, at which point, everyone there is going to die.

That’s not the sort of thing you can prep for, aside from slapping on a hockey mask and going full Rockatansky.

Katrina Experiences, Part V: Guns Guns Everywhere and Heading Home


DSC028951[Editor’s Note: This is the fifth and final part in the author’s series describing his experiences volunteering on the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago last week. Catch-up with the other parts hereherehere, and here].

Looking back, my experiences on the Gulf Coast affirmed many of my conservative beliefs. Things like personal responsibility, the value of the individual, and the effectiveness and efficiency of private organizations and volunteer groups compared to the federal government. FEMA has taken a lot of criticism — some of it is well deserved — but it’s not realistic to expect a huge bureaucracy with its layers of rules and accompanying paperwork to respond quickly to anything. In contrast, volunteer groups can specialize in specific area of disaster relief and work together to minimize overlap and increase efficiency. The Red Cross focuses on shelters and hot meals. ACTS World Relief can provide aid at the disaster site itself. Different church denominations concentrate on specific areas such as collecting supplies, distributing supplies, providing medical assistance, housing, etc. Moreover, volunteers come-in from all over the country. We literally had people from the Florida Keys all the way to Alaska.


Katrina Experiences, Part IV: An Angel Named Renee and the Chinese Tents


DSC01848[Editor’s Note: This is the fourth part in the author’s series describing his experiences volunteering on the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago this week. Catch-up with the other parts here, here, and here].

In addition to the chaos of the relief station, we needed to get out into the community and help. The problem was time: no matter how hard we worked, there was only so much daylight and we were already pushing the envelope. That’s when God stepped in and sent an angel named Renee and her crew. They had come down from the Atlanta area and set up next to our lot in a camper. Her priority was bringing relief to people that couldn’t get to us. The reason I call her an angel is because that is exactly how so many of the people she helped — many of whom had lost everything — saw her. In short time, and with the help of her small crew, we developed a tremendous partnership.


Katrina Experiences, Part III: Journey to the Coast and From Kansas, With Love


[Editor’s Note: This is the third part in Concretevol’s series describing his experiences volunteering on the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago this week. Catch-up with the other parts here and here].

To give volunteers a break from the blistering heat — and because they were dying to see something other than that parking lot — we started taking groups to the coast to see for themselves what a 20′ wall of water leaves behind. Now, I will try to tell you, or show you, as best I can. Though I’ve never seen a bomb-blasted landscape before in person, I’ve seen pictures and that was really the only way to describe the first quarter mile inland. There was very little left of the houses other than bare concrete slabs… maybe a mailbox, or a post here or there. There wasn’t much debris there, either: most of it sitting on top of other destroyed houses further inland. It was also very quiet, with only the occasional sound of a helicopter flying overhead or a motor grader clearing sand from Beach Boulevard. There was very little talking in the truck on these outings. Just shocked silence.


Notice how the telephone poles all slanted inland.

Katrina Experiences, Part II: Relief Station, Waveland MS


Yesterday, I wrote about my experiences ten years ago setting up a privately-funded relief station in Hattiesburg, Mississippi immediately after Hurricane Katrina had swept through. This installment continues the story — now a week and a half after the hurricane had made landfall — as my team and I headed down to the FEMA “endorsed” station in Waveland, Mississippi. By the time we left, it was supposedly the largest on the coast. I don’t know how accurate that was, but we were definitely the only one I knew of that accepted clothing.

Waveland and neighboring Bay St. Louis had been absolutely slammed by the hurricane, with a storm surge of more than 19 feet. The closer we got, the more apparent the devastation was.

See the gas pumps?

Katrina Experiences, Part I


Hurricane Katrina August 28 2005 NASA” by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the devastating hurricane Katrina that Bush/Cheney unleashed on the Mississippi and Louisiana coast — sorry, couldn’t resist! — and I’ve been thinking about the time I spent down there helping with the cleanup and, really, the basic survival of some of the victims that lost nearly everything.

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The 6.1 earthquake did wake me up here in Sonoma County, CA. The building rolled, the blinds rattled and the cat jumped on our bed and stayed for the remainder of the night. In Napa there were fires, power outages, and scores of injuries but no fatalities that I’ve heard about. Preview Open

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