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DONNIE JOHNSTON: Disaster seems to lurk everywhere but here
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DONNIE JOHNSTON: Disaster seems to lurk everywhere but here

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MOTHER Nature has been on a rampage during the past month.

Three major hurricanes—Harvey, Irma and Maria—have claimed dozens of lives and accounted for hundreds of billions of dollars in damage in the Caribbean and the United States. A fourth storm, Jose, has been less destructive, but still churns the surf along the East Coast.

Two earthquakes in less than two weeks have rocked Mexico, destroying buildings and killing hundreds. Aftershocks are still being felt.

Almost lost in all this natural destruction were the fires that scorched large swaths of California, Washington, Oregon and Montana.

Wildfires started by lightning are very much a part of summers in western Montana, but this year the state was hit especially hard. Thousands of acres of grass and timber have been lost, as well as some buildings.

Yes, it has been a busy time for Mother Nature. Fifty-two inches of rain from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, 200 mph wind gusts on the island of Barbuda in the Caribbean, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in Central Mexico and Hurricane Irma’s destruction through Florida and Georgia.

Also lost in the recent natural phenomena are the 6.1 and greater earthquakes that occurred in Japan and New Guinea, in addition to the smaller tremors in California that came on the heels of the Mexico quake.

Then there are the swarms of minor quakes that have been occurring in the Yellowstone National Park area, whose basin (or caldera) is the crater of a super volcano that seems to erupt every 600,000 years or so and is about due to explode again.

If you’d like to go back a little further, we can talk about the 700–900 inches of snow that fell last winter in some of the high spots in the Cascades and Sierra Nevada mountains.

And then there is the drought in the Western plains.

No, Mother Nature is not a gal you want to mess around with.

While all these tragedies have been occurring, we here in Central Virginia have been blessed with sunshine and warm temperatures. In fact, with few exceptions, this was one of the best growing seasons in recent memory.

But make no mistake about it, our time is coming. Sooner or later it will be our turn and we’ll get socked in one way or another.

Our greatest advantage, however, is that we live in one of the most favorable areas of North America. We are far enough north that we don’t get the brunt of Atlantic hurricanes and far enough south that we seldom get excessive cold and heavy snows.

We don’t live on an active fault, so earthquakes are rare and there is so much humidity in the air that lightning seldom if ever starts a forest fire.

Where you live is important. If you live in western Montana, you know you will live with the smoke from forest fires all summer. If you set up housekeeping in Southern California, you should expect brush fires, droughts and earthquakes.

Floridians and those who live along the Gulf Coast know that hurricanes are an inevitability. It is just a question of when.

It is the same with those who live along the tectonic plates in Mexico and Japan. The worst is coming someday.

Of course, even here in the East, we’re not immune to disaster. There are tornadoes, tropical storms and an occasional earthquake. But our chances of encountering disaster are slim compared to those who live in other regions.

Hurricane season is winding down, and we likely won’t see another major storm this year. But the seismic activity along the West Coast concerns me. California is due for a major earthquake and according to experts, pressure is building along the San Andreas Fault.

Is the “big one” on the way? Are the big quakes in Mexico and the lesser ones in California—a shallow 5.7 quake hit off the Northern California coast on Friday—and Nevada an indication that the Pacific plate is about to relieve some stress?

As I said, Mother Nature has been a rough old gal lately, and she may not be finished.

Just be glad you live where you do. Others are not nearly as lucky as we are.

Donnie Johnston: djohn40330@aol.com

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