Wednesday, August 31, 2005

What Potential Catastrophes Do You Live With?

 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 for.

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.


screaminremo303 said...

With all due respect to your friendship, Malibu Barbie is an idiot.

suzypwr said...

Topanga Canyon? I wouldn't live there, but it's a great place to visit, briefly....xoxo

jevanslink said...

Not Topanga, but close.  Mrs. L

bluwave9 said...

As a California native, I wish I had a reasonable explanation for the people who choose to live in areas like Malibu or La Conchita (which I pass by every morning during my commute and marvel at the people who are rebuilding their homes).  I guess some people will just put up with anything to have that million dollar view of the ocean.
Of course anyone who can afford an oceanside home has the means to relocate if necessary.  That just isn't the case with many of the people in New Orleans who are being told it's going to take months before they can return to their homes.  If we could all just donate $10 or $20, we can help these people get back on their feet.

jevanslink said...

I have two words for why they rebuilt:  GOOD INSURANCE.  Mrs. L

bosoxblue6993w said...

... and then come the earthquakes

swibirun said...

Let's see, we moved from Florida 5 years ago eliminating many risks.  Here's what I can come up with in East Tennessee:

-minor earthquakes
-rare tornados
-I hear we get a blizzard every 100 years or so but I'll be dead by then
-localized flash flooding (no, that's not a naked man floating by on a raft)
-nuclear criticality or explosion at the Oakridge Y-12 weapons plant
-KKK rallies


salemslot9 said...

One time we didn't have electricity and water...
that's roughing it in my book :(