SIXTH COLUMN

"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Monday, August 16, 2004

Hurricane Charley: Report #2 from Florida

{Our contributor, Portia, is living through the aftermath of Hurricane Charley which veered enough north to hit the Orlando area instead of where she lives on the east coast of Florida. We feel privileged to post her thoughts.}

Human beings in Florida have become very complacent over the past decades. Heck, humans in general have the audacious and erroneous belief that they can tame nature and that the force of the human mind can turn back a volcano, a tidal wave, or even outwit a hurricane. Time and time again we have been guilty of wrong thinking. We live in dread of these forces, and those of us that were not touched often believe that we are beyond their touch. I have seen that look in the faces of some in this area.

An example is that some are complaining to store owners that they are faced with the inconvenience of not having ice for their trips to the beach as ice is now being shifted to the victims. Tempers are frayed among those that merely lost electricity and have to hunt for service stations that have power to pump gas or that can be open for business. On the other hand, we find individuals of great compassion and generosity such as restaurant owners that are preparing meals on gas grills from the foodstuffs that could no longer be kept safe because there is no electric power. Strangers are taking in the homeless and families are becoming closer. Thus, the best and worst of human nature is being brought out.

We are being taught a lesson. Too long have we allowed shoddy construction and inexpensive housing to be built in the State of Florida. The forms that work in other parts of the country are not appropriate for this environment. Even concrete block construction was reduced to rubble. Hurricane-hardened structures must become the norm. Even the infrastructure must be constructed differently to withstand the fury of storms.

The electric grid in part of the state has been completely destroyed. Complete substations disintegrated must be rebuilt from the ground up. Water towers toppled, and treatment plants were severely damaged. Public service, such as fire and rescue, law enforcement have been compromised and public records destroyed. The infrastructure of civilized society was vaporized in the matter of a few hours, not at the hands of manas we imagined it might be, but through the force of nature that we know must not be tampered with as doing so would upset a balance that has existed for millions of years.

Many powerful storms have hit and will continue to do so. Humans must adapt to their environment as they always have. We will find a wiser way to live here.

You may not hear from some of your friends in the Orlando area as two million Floridians are still without power. Several hundred thousand of those are in Orange and Seminole counties. Although most of them are in sound structures, they are suffering the loss of the conveniences of everyday life.In Orange, Seminole, Volusia, and Northern Brevard counties, many homes and buildings are damaged, trapped by downed trees and power lines. At this point there are probably few people that can't get out of their houses, but thousands now have no transportation as their private vehicles are unable to move from homes and parking lots. The Lynx bus system (mass transit) is beginning to run, and probably will have an increased ridership for the forseeable future.

Theme parks have their own power supply. The Disney machine, with its various parks and hotel complexes is up and running, with only Typhoon Lagoon unable to open. Sea World Marine Park has its own power for the goodof the marine life, but life in this huge city is now sad and inconvenient. Life here has been altered. The carefree beach lifestyle in Margaritaville will undergo some changes for the safety of us all, but remember our unofficial state motto: The Rules Are Different Here. The motto applies not only to our social code, but, we now understand how different.

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