Travel Blog 6: Natural Disasters

The beautiful thing about natural disasters is they don’t care about your race, ethnicity, social and economic status, sexual orientation, or political beliefs. Natural disasters remind us that we are all in the human race and must come together. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a natural disaster for people to bond together. 

My personal history with inclement weather spreads far and wide. Growing up in Chicago, snow storms have canceled school, shut down roads, and trapped people in their homes. Snow is common across the world so we don’t consider it a natural disaster. My first taste with a true natural disaster would be the tornado I drove through during my college years. Riding in my buddy’s orange Mustang in the Illinois farmland, I remember saying, “Ummm look at the green sky spiral behind us,” challenging him to drive faster. That night, my college dormitory forced all residents to sleep on the ground level to keep us safe. 

In 2014, the Kingdom of Tonga was hit by a category 5 hurricane named Tropical Cyclone Ian. While my original plan for Tonga was to set up tent on the beach, an Australian couple invited me to help work on their coconut factory. Days later, the radio informed us to prepare for massive impact. I sat on their balcony watching calm sea waters turn to rippling waves as coconut trees were ripped out of the ground, cars were flipped over, and boats sank. Several islands were completely flattened, but thankfully their home had minor damage. During our 40 hours of concern, we made pasta, watched movies until the power went out, and put a serious dent in their homemade whiskey barrel to help weather the storm.

2017 is when the wildfires began following me. I experienced my first true wildfire in South Africa on my January drive to Cape Point. Ash rained from above under an eerie orange sky. Later that year in September, I woke up in Sonoma, California to a friend informing me, “there’s a fire to our north, south, east, and west. We need to evacuate immediately.”  

In 2019, during my drive to Alaska, I experienced wildfires in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and two in Alaska, one of which almost blocked me from exiting the Kenai Peninsula. 

2020 has been a year of Mother Nature telling humans to open our eyes as volcanoes have erupted in New Zealand, tornados have torn through properties, wildfires have reshaped landscapes, and hurricanes have set records. While driving across southern Louisiana, the effects of Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Gamma are very evident with piles of trees, bags of trash, and basketball backboards filling people’s front yards. Trees are now home-decoration styles as they have smashed right into houses and cars. Louisiana is currently preparing for Hurricane Zeta to strike landfall, being the record tying 6th hurricane to reach landfall in the USA. 2020 is also a record breaking year with 29 named Tropical Storms to form in the Atlantic hurricane season. 

Natural disasters are no joke and anyone that has felt their effects personally have been forced to reevaluate the important things in their lives.  They are a devastating part of life and leave a lasting impression. Many times, we remember our years based on which disaster came through. It’s a fascinating part of life. We can’t get mad about them, but we must prepare. 


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