The Road to 65, Mile 131: Typhoons

April 8, 2015, Prescott-  It was cold all over the place today.  Snow was reported on the East Coast, and we shivered a bit, here in northern Arizona. North America is past being ready for warm weather.

It’s time to consider that warm weather has its price:  Storms happen, as anyone in New Orleans or Miami can attest.  Tornadoes have already swiped Oklahoma and Arkansas, this spring.  Even Dubai had a wicked dust storm, last week.

Typhoons, though, are in a league of their own.  Being cyclonic in nature is bad enough, when the storm is an Atlantic or eastern Pacific hurricane.  In the islands of the western Pacific, from Borneo and New Guinea to New Zealand, and on up to Japan, the deadliness of a Category 5 Typhoon, hitting a low-lying island community, seemingly from three directions at once, defies the imagination.  The Philippines have had two such killer storms, this year alone. Vanuatu, which used to be called New Hebrides, is slowly inching forward in recovery from a massive typhoon, a few long weeks ago.  Small countries nearby, named Kiribati and Tuvalu, also got hammered by the monster.  These are not places with an unlimited store of resilience, but they will come back from that one.

Word has reached us, this evening, of yet another Category 5.  This one is hitting Micronesia, a vast federation of atolls, stretching nearly 1,000 miles from east to west.  There was a civilization in western Micronesia, when Europe was shaking from the Dark Ages. The villagers of the  low-lying islands had much to impart to the Spanish and Dutch, who came seeking a quick route from China to the Americas, in the Sixteenth Century.

We used to have an image of Pacific Islanders, as happy, carefree dancers and singers, who were always glad to see boatloads of tourists.  There was a warrior segment, also, of course, but they got reduced to an entertainment contingent as well- savagely tattooed and grimacing, to the delight of the squealing audience.

It was never thus.  South Sea islands, to my mind, are harsh places, in terms of having enough fresh water; in terms of surviving monster waves, tides and gale-force winds; in terms of not being forgotten by the wider world.  We who are concerned with rising seas, point to places like Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru, in the Pacific, Anguilla in the Caribbean, and the Maldives and Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean, as victims of climate change, “in the not-to-distant future”.  This year’s experience, though, suggests that the world had better keep an eye on nature’s “dry runs”- the three Category 5 typhoons that have leveled the homes of good-hearted and long-struggling human beings.  Mankind is one, after all.

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