“YOLANDA” has been the Pinoy’s latest gauge for a worst-case scenario whenever there’s a super typhoon. Thus, when Florida’s governor consistently reminded his constituents to evacuate from danger zones, the Pinoy began to expect destruction of Yolanda proportions or even worse. But Irma moved a bit to the west side of the state, and Floridians, who evacuated from the east to the west believing the hurricane would focus on the east side as forecasted earlier, must have felt that the hurricane was following them.
There are people who still have to be convinced that the weather’s new normal is due to climate change. Tuesday last week, US radio host Rush Limbaugh even suggested that Irma was fake news. “So there is a desire to advance this climate change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest and best ways to do it,” he said. “You can accomplish a lot just by creating fear and panic. You don’t need a hurricane to hit anywhere. All you need is to create the fear and panic accompanied by talk that climate change is causing hurricanes to become more frequent and bigger and more dangerous, and you create the panic, and it’s mission accomplished, agenda advanced…”
But two days later, he did evacuate his Palm Beach, Florida house and announced, “We’ll be on the air next week, folks, from parts unknown.”
Well, evacuation is one way of saying, Better safe than sorry.
“Storm surge” was often mentioned for Irma. This was the term whose reality and aftermath should have been explained to residents of Tacloban, Leyte before Yolanda hit their city in November 2013. Some Taclobanons even said weather forecasters should have called it a tsunami, because at least they understood what that meant, and it could have alerted them to the urgency of seeking higher ground.
But unlike a tsunami which is caused by an earthquake, a storm surge is water from the ocean and is driven by the mind-boggling strength of a hurricane.
Cagayan de Oro was not prone to typhoons but Sendong, which was not a super typhoon with its Signal No. 2, woke up Cagayanons to the grim reality that severe weather could indeed wreak havoc in the city, with so many lives lost especially among those allowed to live in floodplains.
The view of an ocean, river, lake, or any body of water, can calm the nerves. After a hard day’s work, you go to your house on the beach, and you’re instantly at peace with the world. But that body of water can be dangerous in extreme weather conditions.
Mandatory evacuations were enforced for coastal residents in South Florida which was expected to bear the brunt of Irma. The long lines of vehicles rushing from the south seemed like the pairs of animals entering Noah’s Ark.
Florida’s location at the southeastern tip of the US, with the Gulf of Mexico on the left, and the Atlantic Ocean on the right, has given the state no other choice but to adjust to its vulnerability to hurricanes.
Its tropical weather attracts American retirees who are tired of shovelling snow off their driveways. Its friendly tax laws are also a welcome respite to retirees who can now enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Pinas, with its 7,641 islands, is also used to typhoons, its streets and low-lying areas morphing to rivers when it rains.
But a developing country’s response teams cannot be compared with that of the last remaining superpower in the world. While watching videos of rescue teams in helicopters for Hurricane Harvey in Texas, USA, the Pinoy could only wish his country also has the latest equipment for disaster response especially now that Typhoons Lannie and Maring are in Luzon.
In 2013, Pinas had used up all letters of the alphabet when Tropical Depression Zoraida arrived after Yolanda. The first storm that year was named Auring. I don’t remember if there was a typhoon after Zoraida before that year ended. But if there was, could Pagasa use the name Auring again but with a number to distinguish it from the first one? Say, Auring 2. Hmmm.
Names of the most disastrous typhoons have been retired from Pagasa’s list, never to be resurrected, so, don’t expect to hear of another Typhoon Yolanda in the future.
Parents of newborn babies also tend to shun names of super typhoons. If your name is Sendong, you were probably born before the typhoon made landfall in Mindanao on Dec.16, 2011.
The government’s response to a typhoon can make or unmake a politician and his minions, and that’s how Sendong paved the way for some changes at CDO’s city hall. At the height of Sendong’s political aftermath, the violet and yellow colors were in the informed Cagayanon’s thought bubble and these guided him in his choices during the 2013 election.
Last Saturday afternoon, when it was raining cows and carabaos here in CDO, the first thought that came to mind: Uh, Irma is here.
Of course, it wasn’t Irma. But the rain in CDO did result to some flooded streets, and almost altered our Saturday night plans.
Residents of the islands that Irma battered before reaching Florida probably spent their Saturday night clearing debris and preparing for the next hurricane, Jose. Tsk tsk. There is no rest for the weary.
But by Monday, the Category 3 Jose was expected to remain above the Atlantic Ocean before calming down to Category 1. TV correspondents did continue to report live from Florida via Facebook, giving us a view of Irma’s storm surge.
If you want to know more about extreme weather conditions, the movie “Geostorm” will be shown next month, like as if you need to see more storms after the press conferences and extensive live coverage for Irma. Whew.