My girlfriend in California and her husband -- he's looking at the waves hitting the windows of the restaurant. I can't imagine what she's doing.
For years the
residents of New Orleans, like those in Florida and other gulf states,
have lived with the threat of hurricanes hanging over their heads. Camille and Betsy
came through and scared the poop out of everybody, but didn't make direct hits. All
this time people have known something like Katrina could happen. Not
enough to do something about it. Just enough to know it could happen.
Living in low lying New Orleans has meant living with a hum of anxiety
making white noise in the background of their lives.
But New Orleans is small potatoes
compared to some other places in the country. I have a girlfriend who
lives in Malibu, California, another IT'S JUST A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE
A DISASTER HITS town. She left the relative safety of Chicago's
environs for the excitment of Tinseltown. Excitement she didn't bargain
Her punishment for that has been
the following: The fires that raged through the Santa Monica
mountains a decade or so ago burned her dream house to the ground. To
add insult to injury, there was a working fire
hydrant on their property, but none of the fire trucks driving up the
hill would stop to help save her house.
Meanwhile, while the fires burned,
there were dozens of fire engines from all over California lined up
along the Pacific Coast Highway. They were just sitting there, doing
nothing. How come they weren't putting out fires? Because they had no
idea where anything was. Nothing had been done to coordinate the out of town
firefighter resources with directions to get to where they were needed.
Following the fire my friend and
her family moved to a beach house for two years while her other house
was rebuilt -- this time without any wood. The spray from the ocean
left a film of salt on everything, prematurely rusting anything with
metal or working parts. Plus the only way to get out of their garage was to
back out into 55 MPH traffic on PCH.
While living on the beach in a house on sticks, a huge earthquake hit the area.
Aside from the fact that her
husband leaped out of bed and ran outside stark naked only to realize
he'd left her behind, my friend made her way out to discover a huge
boulder had come crashing down the side of the hill and stopped only
about ten feet from the house. Had it continued rolling, the entire
house could have been pushed into the ocean.
Over the years mudslides have
rendered one of the two access roads to her newly rebuilt home impassable.
The other road winds around the mountain for two and a half miles, while
clinging to the edge of a five hundred foot drop into a canyon.
But fires are her biggest concern.
September is fire season in LA. Every year the Santa Anas start
blowing their ill winds and my friend starts getting antsy. Once you've
been through a disaster and survived with only your life and what you
could take in your car, you never really recover from the experience.
So for the next couple of months
she will be on edge, watching the ridge of mountains across from their
house for any signs of smoke. Until the rains come.
Fortunately, the rest of the year she only has to worry about earthquakes and mudslides.