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Thursday, September 09, 2004

The lull between Frances and Ivan

Early this evening I called to check up on one of my friends in Asheville, to see if she was good after what was left of Hurricane Frances came through the state yesterday. By the time it reached this far inland much of its strength had been sapped away without anymore warm moisture from the ocean to feed upon... but there was plenty enough punch left in the system to thrash things from the mountains on east. There are some places here that saw streets completely covered and some falling debris, but that was nothing compared to what it did further west: Black Mountain had 17 inches of rain and one person said that Old Fort "looks entirely washed out." My friend in Asheville said that the French Broad River (which I had my apartment overlooking from the west side) was 17 feet above normal and had water reaching the bottom of the windows on most of the warehouses on the other bank. The Biltmore Village area is completely flooded, the same for Swannoa and she said that as of this evening much of Asheville was without power or running water. I've heard that the side of town east of Tunnel Road has been completely dark ever since yesterday. It gets worse further west: the towns of Canton and Clyde are under curfew and severe mudslides have been reported in the area.

Meanwhile, I've got family in Florida, between Palm Bay and West Palm Beach and however we've been seeing it on television, the situation sounds much worse. They didn't even know 'til the other night when we told them that there was another hurricane on the charts headed this way: Ivan is now a Category 5, and maybe the third strongest since records have been kept. It now looks poised to tear into the western side of Florida sometime later this weekend and however much Frances kicked the slats out of the place, it very well might prove to have been a prelude to a far worse catastrophe.

And yet... I must admit that there is something horribly fascinating about a hurricane. As much devastation and death as they cause, their structure and strength really does make them a miracle of nature worthy of not just our healthy respect and fear, but our awe. And they do play a much-needed role in God's design for our planet: hurricanes are the "release valve" for our oceans' accumulated heat. Were it not for the thermal energies that hurricanes absorb and then redistribute, the ocean temperatures would be considerably warmer than we know them to be. For all the curse that hurricanes have become of late, we might do well to be thankful that in the larger scheme of things, they stand in the way of our having to face a much more severe climate.

But in the meantime, I'm going to keep saying a prayer for the people of Jamaica, and Cuba, and Florida, and anywhere else that Ivan may be threatening over the next few days.