The drama and hype don't serve us. The help we offer one another does.
When we began to let friends in New England know that we had decided to move to New Orleans, one of the first things they asked us about was hurricanes. The conversation was generally one-sided and usually went something like this: "But what about hurricanes? Did you think of hurricanes? Katrina destroyed everything, and it was a hurricane. What are you going to do if there's a hurricane? I don't think I could move to a place where there are hurricanes." Frankly, after hearing so many horror stories about the Blizzard of '78 (we both came to Boston in 1979), seeing a tree fall onto our neighbor's car in her driveway (twice in the same winter), and shoveling five feet of snow off our roof a few years ago following a string of Nor'easters, the fear of Gulf Coast hurricanes seemed a bit overblown. Besides, no matter where you live, there's going to be something, right?
I figured that among natural disasters, hurricanes and nor'easters have a few advantages. Unlike tornadoes, earthquakes, and volcanoes, which wreak havoc without notice, hurricanes come with sufficient warning and the chance to prepare and/or evacuate. Unlike wildfires that can rapidly engulf huge swaths of land, big storms move relatively slowly. And, too, while tropical storms and hurricanes are potentially very dangerous and destructive, not all that many amount to all that much, and most don't make landfall in the same place. I guess I'm rooting for Team Hurricane. Besides, here in New Orleans, the most common hurricanes are served in a glass.
I have to admit, however, that asking Our Lady of Prompt Succor to preserve all life and property during this hurricane season at every Mass is a bit unnerving. I knew we were moving here during hurricane season, but technically, hurricane season stretches from June 1 until Nov. 1. That's a long time. In the 10 weeks or so since we've been here, though, there haven't been any significant storms form in the Atlantic. Until this week. Tropical Storm Gordon formed over Labor Day weekend. September is the single most active month for Gulf Coast hurricanes.
As long-time New Englanders, we watched the developing weather reports with a good deal of skepticism. The hype about filling your gas tank and buying milk and bottled water was very familiar. The only difference was that there weren't any snowfall predictions. Maps of the probable cone of destruction broke into scheduled programming. Schools were cancelled. We didn't know where some of the locations being reported about were; we just knew they weren't near us. Sandbag pick up stations were announced, and for a whisp of a moment I wondered if I should go out and get some. Then I realized that I didn't even know what to do with sandbags if I had them. After watching an Australian instructional video on YouTube, I checked out the other houses in our neighborhood. No sandbags.
Our landscaper assured me that it would be nothing. He also told me that when a Category 1 Hurricane hits, he still works. That's probably why he showed up on Tuesday to plant palm trees in our back yard. He didn't use sandbags either.
I'm grateful that Gordon isn't a name I'll remember long, and probably not one that many people along the Mississippi or Alabama coasts will either. That's why I can laugh when news reporters say things like "It looks like New Orleans has dodged the bullet." Bullet? It's more like a paintball or cap gun. I'm also glad that our first real tangle with a bona fide Gulf Coast hurricane won't happen this week. By the intercession of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, maybe it won't be this year.
Storms are always predicted, and some of them do, in fact, make landfall where we are. There are a host of things we can do to prepare, but there are few things we can do to stop whatever is spinning our way. The drama and hype don't serve us. The help we offer one another does. Not every storm is a Category 5. Some, however, are. The rains will fall. The winds will gust. We may lose power. Our property and well-being may be threatened; sometimes, even lost. And yet, God is on the throne. He rules the winds and the waves. He guides and watches over us all. And there is no storm that can shake us when we are his.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.