After following the news regarding hurricanes, earthquakes, forest fires and recent blizzards; I thought about my own experiences. We write what we know. Natural disasters come to life on the page if you’ve experienced them. I’ve been around several decades and have been in a few natural disasters.
The truth about Earthquakes
I was in minor earthquakes a few times. Unlike movie depictions an earthquake only lasts a few moments. I remember my mother’s china cabinet rattling violently against the wall as a child. While on a treadmill at the gym a few years ago the earthquake was undetectable.
My husband recalled one sounding like a low flying jet.
My son mistook a more recent quake for a car crashing into the side of his house.
Let me share a few more of my childhood memories. If you’ve lived in desert areas of the U.S., then you’ve been in at least one dust storm and seen a few dust devils. While my dad was stationed at a base in New Mexico, I was in second grade. I walked through a dust storm a few times on my way home from school. I would place my notebook in front of my face and watch my feet as I headed home. Peeking occasionally over my notebook to get my bearings. I often saw dust devils form and spin across our playground. A dust devil is a tornado mini-me. It can cause damage but rarely does. My classmates liked to throw paper airplanes at them and watch their planes lifted far into the sky.
The flat plains of the New Mexico desert is a scary place during a thunderstorm. The lightning appears larger and longer in the wide sky. Ominous clouds span from horizon to horizon. Riding in a car on the flat terrain with clouds that seemed to touch the ground had my sister and me squatting on the floor boards to hide from the monster chasing us.
My husband and I and our children experienced the 500-year flood (referring to a similar occurrence in the area 5 centuries earlier) that hit Aurora, Illinois back in 1996. This flood brought four feet of water to our basement. A basement that had never flooded since it was first built in 1910. My teenage son waded in trying to rescue tools and the like from the waters. My children’s baby books and many precious things were ruined beyond redemption. Styrofoam peanuts from an empty packing box clung to the walls marking the last stronghold of the water before it receded down the drain. Aurora and surrounding communities took weeks to clean up after the unexpected disaster.
Can any of you recall how painful a Tetanus shot is. They were given out free to everyone who waded in sewer water to clean up the devastation. My older home had the water drainage go into the sewer drain. Which reversed directions into my basement during the flood. Yes, EWWW!
I’ve hidden from tornadoes, but they always pass another direction. My sister’s friend lives in Oklahoma where tornadoes are common. She has a storm cellar in her backyard. She sends a text to my sister (who lives in Illinois) whenever she, her husband, and their pets need to hide there. And another text when it is all clear. If my sister doesn’t get a second text, her friend has asked her to call authorities to notify them of a need for a rescue.
On a mission trip in the Philippines, we experienced the cold powerful winds of a monsoon. The palm trees bending almost in half. Chilly water pelting me. While people continued about their business despite the rain.
Growing up in the Midwest, I’ve seen and experienced more than my fair share of blizzards. Snow like hardpacked ice stings your skin. Snow can’t be shoveled fast enough. Garage doors frozen. And if your electricity goes out we wait. Shivering in blankets or snuggling near the fireplace waiting for power to be restored. Have you ever used a Kerasun heater? You can warm water on the top while heat fueled by kerosene warms a room.
Ice and Hail
Ice storms and hailstorms leave their marks on homes and yards. Some ice storms carve lovely designs on your windows. Large hailstones break them.
I’ve not experienced a forest fire but, on a trip out of state our car caught on fire. I was driving. Heart pounding fear doesn’t begin to describe what emotions slammed into me while I pulled the car over to the curb. Hubby and sons poured every can of pop and all the ice in our cooler on the engine and had the fire out before the fire department came. I didn’t realize how fortunate we were until years later we watch a car park alongside a curb in our neighborhood dissolve quickly by the hot flames. Only a skeleton remained by the time the fire department arrived.
Disasters of yesteryear
As a writer of historical fiction, reading about natural disasters in years gone by, present a different picture. Here are a few fascinating facts about earthquakes. Logs were placed across cracks formed by a devastating earthquake in 1906 Los Angeles. They hoped the logs would give residents something to hang on to when the next earthquake occurred. In the early 1800s an earthquake was so powerful it reversed the flow of the Mississippi River.
Because there were no weather reports and special gauges and satellite images to warn people of impeding natural disasters death tolls were higher. Tornadoes came in unannounced and people were swept away never to be seen again. Blizzards trapped families on their homesteads for weeks with no chance of rescue until the spring thaw.
All my memories can aid in creating believable scenes as I craft my stories.
Share with me some of your natural disaster experiences or those that occurred in the history of your community? Have you added any of those memories into your own novels?