Took a drive the other day down the beach about fifteen minutes from where our house is. I had hoped that time had erased the damages from the hurricanes of a couple of years ago. It hadn't.
The public beach was fenced off with wire and there were signs that said "Stay on Walkways for Safety." The landscape was changed. Vegetation was attempting a recovery - trees and brush were black.
One of the most significant changes to the landscape was the amount of building that was going on. Condo after condo was going up. One would ask themselves, "Why would people want to live on the edge of a danger zone, especially after the awesome and horrible display of nature's power to destroy?
Well, I'm sure the builders all have enough money to sustain a loss. But what about us homeowners whose insurance has shot up 4,000 to 6,000 dollars more per year? What about our property taxes which are going up to provide amenities and infrastructure to the wealthy who build these highrises that bar our view of the beach and water? Now, instead of enjoying a view for free, we get to spend (and not easily affordable) around $3,000 a week to be 20 stories up with a pool below so we don't have to get that sticky sugar white sand on our bodies.
Already I am longing for the old days of gathering up baskets, towels, lotions, a good boom box and heading to the beach to loll in the sun, play in the water or snorkle, and enjoy family and friends, then head home for showers and laying around recovering from the hot sun, then pulling out the barbecue to make hamburgers. We will have to hunt for these places now.
Here is an excerpt from a study done on one of the storms that lashed through here at 140 mph and 85 mph.
A number of changes were seen on the Key when comparing the before and after pictures. The coastline was straightened in places and massive overwash fans were present at a number of locations. Large scale movement of sand was apparent across the entire study area. Man-made structures were severely damaged during hurricane Ivan; property damage can be seen in almost all the photographs. Wide-spread burial of features such as parking lots, roads, and tennis courts took place. Some buildings were flattened by wind and/or storm surges while other buildings were badly damaged, including missing roofs and/or missing sections of the building. Several boathouses and their associated piers were also damaged.
Now some of the folks from the Wyoming area might say, "What is the big deal, we've had 100 miles per hour breezes a good deal of the winter!" Well, the scientists say it is the pressure phenomena that arrives with these winds that generate over the water (for us, from along the coast of Africa usually) and that build as they get to warmer waters. The wind that was generated by Ivan caused 40 foot waves of water according to the report I read.
The weather can terrify, but the trauma stems also from watching your friends roam a pile of rubble that once was their home, looking for any trinket to hold on to. The trauma is from suddenly realizing that the community you live in is YOUR community, and its wounds are YOUR wounds. Trauma is when you walk out and find your car on its side, a tree through your window, half your roof gone, and you feel lucky. Trauma is standing in line an hour waiting for clean water. Trauma is not being able to reach your family to say, "Mother, we're ok." Trauma is eating army rations because the stores can't get food because of damaged roads. Trauma is when the nurses have to pump the ventilators by hand. Trauma is not knowing if your child made it through the storm alive where they were staying.
Why do we stay? I don't know - maybe Southerners are incredibly tougher than we think. Maybe the love of the coast and the water is worth it all. Maybe it is denial. Maybe where we are is just "home." I dunno. Maybe its the birds that begin their chatter and twirping early in the morning until late in the evening. Maybe it's the dragonflys on a hot still day that hover the garden with the sun glistening off shimmery wings. Maybe its the sounds of blues or jazz wafting from the restaurant you just walked by. Maybe its the festivals, the art shows, the concerts enjoyed from a blanket in the park under the 100 year old oaks. Maybe it is huge waxy magnolias, fragrant gardenias. Maybe it is soft southern accents. Why do we stay?