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Katrina & the Waifs
2005 09 06
Just over a week ago a hurricane struck the Gulf Coast of the southern part of the USA.
There are seven 'basins' around the world where these storms (hurricanes/typhoons/cyclones) originate and each year about a hundred occur. The southern states of America are frequently affected by the hurricanes that form in the Caribbean Atlantic.
Hurricanes are categorised 1 to 5. Katrina was a category 4 storm with wind speeds of 131-155 mph and risk of flooding to anywhere 10' or more above sea level, up to 6 miles inland. Gilbert in 1988 which hit Yucatan and Andrew in 1992 which hit Florida were both category 5 storms.
New Orleans is 6' (2m) below sea level and the city is usually kept dry by a system of dykes (levees), canals and pumping stations. Katrina breached the levees and huge flooding ensued, inundating the city and rendering 80% of it under water within a day or so.
A week later and people are still being winched to safety from their homes as finally one of the levees has been repaired and pumping has begun.
This is the most extensive hurricane damage experienced by the US. It's the most severe flooding in a metropolitan area ever in the US. As a city roughly equivalent to Birmingham has been almost completely evacuated, we've seen the largest displacement of people in the US since their Civil War and the biggest evacuation in their history.
Yet amidst all this destruction and the lawlessness and anarchy that resulted there has been hope as people have opened their schools, sports centres, churches and even homes to the refugees as they pour into other regions of the States. Having lost everything, they've been shown real kindness and support. People doing for others what they'd hope would be done for them in similar circumstances.
Often though, after such a severe natural disaster, people ask why God caused or allowed it to happen. The death and suffering is all laid at his door.
What turned this disaster into such a tragedy was not the meteorological phenomenon itself but the failure to prepare for something inevitable.
This area is frequently hit by hurricanes and gales and as the drama has unfolded more information has slowly come out about the number of reports published over the past years warning that this day was coming. One man on a TV news broadcast yesterday said they've been expecting this for thirty years. Yet the levees hadn't been strengthened, other preparations and defences put in place or adequate plans made to deal with such an eventuality. The long term plan was only to defend against a category 3 storm which of course wouldn't have sufficed on this occasion.
Storms happen, especially in a hurricane region yet it seems people just blindly hoped this one wouldn't.
It's foolishness to live in a world where there are storms and pretend they won't happen, then blame God if they do.
Storms come, not just hurricanes but storms in our lives - troubles. We're just as foolish if we live hoping to never know difficulties [John 16:33 In the world you will have tribulation].
Just like the people of New Orleans we should be asking ourselves what is there in our lives that can withstand the storm when it comes and not be swept away. What is there that can be a rock and high place of refuge?
Jesus, in his life on earth, was caught up in storms yet he wasn't overwhelmed by them. Jonah too was in a storm (that God was behind) yet his faith and trust remained firm even while in the midst of it, knowing that his Rock would hold firm against the tempest and preserve him from the deep.
Heb 6:19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.
Ps 46:1-3 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
We can be encouraged by the example of others' selfless giving to those caught up in the events of the last week. We can be challenged to consider how generous we would have been or are to those around us caught in their storms.
We might also stop and look at what's under our feet, what we're building our lives on and, certain in the knowledge that one day there'll be a storm, ensure the Lord truly is our Rock, our firm foundation and refuge for times of trouble.
© cag 2005