Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hurricane Angst

This is one of the reasons I am glad I don't live on the Texas gulf coast anymore. During the 15 years I lived in the Clear Lake area and worked at NASA and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, there was not a single summer that I didn't worry and obsess about hurricanes. That is just a routine part of your life when you live on the Gulf Coast.

One year, we weathered a Category I in our one story house, which fortunately did not flood. We evacuated to Dallas for a Category 3 another year. Many times, we just watched anxiously as various hurricanes tracked north or south of us along the coast.

All of Texas along the Gulf floods at the slightest opportunity. Geologically it used to be part of the Gulf not that long ago. It doesn't even take a hurricane most of the time--just some heavy rain--for the Gulf to reclaim the land.

The University I worked at in Galveston is on a small island connected to the mainland by one major bridge. Galveston was the site of one of the worse natural disasters in the history of the US-- the hurricane of 1900 -- that killed between 6000 - 12000 people then; and most of the city had to be rebuilt. Cooky Oberg, a journalist and close friend of mine wrote this article last week on the lessons we could learn about Katrina from that disaster. Galveston, interestingly, is also the site of the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in the U.S., second only to New Orleans.

One of the things I most certainly don't miss since we moved to Ann Arbor, is the yearly angst related to tracking hurricanes; preparing for hurricanes; and even thinking about hurricanes.

Hurricane Rita which is just now hitting the Florida Keys, has a projected path in the next few days whose exact center at the moment is Galveston.

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