Hurricane Andrew in Florida
The worst natural disaster I’ve endured was Hurricane Andrew, during a brief visit to Florida in the 1990s. The destruction was like something you’d see in a Hollywood movie – just unreal. I felt very fortunate to not be a resident of the state at the time, but my heart went out to the countless families and businesses impacted by the storm. The destructive power of nature is something you truly never forget.
Tornadoes In North Carolina
When I first moved to North Carolina, I didn’t realize how many tornadoes there were. Moving there from Philadelphia, the concept was totally new to me and one that I didn’t even think to prepare for. After the first tornado warning, in which we had to take shelter with our neighbors since we didn’t know what to do, we realized we needed to create an emergency preparedness plan. We are now very prepared for tornadoes and are able to respond quickly and get to safety, and our home has never been damaged, but every time the alarm goes off, it certainly causes serious internal panic and stress.
Ice Storm in Quebec, Ontario, and Northern New York State in January of 1998
On January 4, 1998, the ice storm began. It would take down the entire power grid in Quebec, much of eastern Ontario, and northern New York State, as well as hitting Maine and much of the Maritimes provinces pretty hard. My parents in Montreal were able to flee the city before they shut down the bridges. They were without electricity in the middle of the cold Canadian winter for almost a month.
In Ottawa, I was one of the fortunate few who did not lose electricity. But we were housebound. People were told not to venture out because trees were falling and electricity posts with live wires were falling from the weight of the ice. On the plus side, the outdoors photography was beautiful, and I happened to be in the last house on a street that ended in the woods.
Wildfires In California
Living in California, I’m unfortunately no stranger to wildfires. We have a regular wildfire season now. The wildfires of 2018-2019 were particularly horrible, however. The entire northwest was covered in thick smoke for weeks as the fires raged on. Even living closer to the coast wasn’t a guarantee that you could get a break from the smoke. It seemed like a new fire would start each week in various parts of the state. It was grueling and miserable.
Super Typhoon Rai in the Philippines Last December 2021
It was December 16, 2021. Super typhoon Rai, locally known as Bagyong Odette, hit the Philippines and unfortunately, my city was one of the few that had it worse than others.
The wind started blowing at around 7pm. By nine o’clock, the wind was so strong, it sounded like a howling wolf. It was so strong, the mango tree that’s been in our yard for two decades toppled over, cutting our power lines in the process.
As far as I know, our home was the first casualty when it came to power but all the houses in our city eventually had their power cut off. The only exceptions were those who were fortunate enough to afford generators.
Two hours later at eleven o’clock at night, the wind still kept getting stronger. I had shut myself in the corner of my room, fearing that the coconut tree right beside my window would fall over just like the mango tree, crushing me and my dogs in the process.
It didn’t fall, but at that moment, the fear was real and it was only made worse by the sounds of tin roofs getting blown away, other neighboring trees being uprooted, and the sound of terrified children crying for their lives, as well as their parents trying to calm them down.
Early the next day when the storm had left, I quickly went outside and found the entire property in chaos. Our all-metal gate was blown wide open and there were fallen trees and branches, tin roofs, and cut wires everywhere I looked.
I then went outside to check on the neighborhood only to see the traumatized faces of my neighbors. Many of them had no more homes to take shelter in and no more food to feed their families.
I drove around the city with my GoPro attached to my helmet to record the aftermath and it was the same thing everywhere I went: trauma, destruction, and anguish. No restaurants were open. No bakeries. No banks. No gas stations. Nothing.
About a week after, some establishments began to open again but a good majority of the province still had no power and running water, including our own. So, we had to rely on generators and cars for supply. As a result, the gas stations had the longest lines I have ever seen and the price of fuel doubled. On each occasion where I had to refuel, I had to wait in line for 4-7 hours.
However, we could only afford a small generator as the prices skyrocketed, because the supply had become very limited. As a result, we couldn’t power our fridge, and the groceries I had shopped for before the storm eventually went bad. That food would have lasted me and my family a good month. There were even a few times when we were forced to eat hotdogs and meat that had already gone sour because we had nothing else to eat.
Banks were also running out of money so the very few ATMs that still had cash left were packed with people. Again, waiting in line for hours became normal just to withdraw the few bucks I had left in my account.
This struggle went on for exactly two months. February 16, 2022, was when the linemen finally fixed the power in our little town. I could finally get back to work, earn money, and buy food that we can store in the fridge. This also meant that the water pumps worked again, so we had running water.
It was a terrible experience, especially since I was the only one in our household who knew how to drive and the only person capable of earning money. My mother is a retired senior citizen, my wife is abroad (and banks for wire transfers weren’t working then), and my houseworkers relied on me for their day-to-day.
We’re all back to normal now but that was the toughest two months I’ve had to endure in my adult life.
The most horrible man made disaster I endured was two years of covid lockdowns and preventative measures.
Our response to covid has led to a downturn in the economy, the inflation that was all experiencing and paying for today, two years of lost holidays and events with family and friends, a worse business climate and economy, etc. This was probably somewhat dependent on where you live. I live in Chicago where we had these measures up until just a few weeks ago, though I would regularly travel down to Florida to get away, and down there life seemed pretty much back to normal.
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