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Merciless mother nature

May 12, 2008
“It looks like a war zone. Some homes have fallen in, some homes have lost roofs and some are now just slabs.” -Michelann Ooten, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, as quoted by CNN. So here we are, dealing with diesel ...

It looks like a war zone. Some homes have fallen in, some homes have lost roofs and some are now just slabs.” -Michelann Ooten, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, as quoted by CNN.

So here we are, dealing with diesel prices up over $4 a gallon in the U.S. (in some places nearing $5 a gallon), a sluggish freight environment, a housing crisis, a weak dollar, and $9.5 trillion worth of debt racked up by the federal government. Fleets are also watching health care costs explode, their employees‘ 401 K retirement funds drop in value, and insurance costs cthat keep spiraling upward.

Yet that‘s only all the manmade stuff. Mother Nature is still out there, of course, always ready to land a real heavy-duty sucker punch.

(Formation of a tornado funnel cloud -- a sight you NEVER want to see up close ...)

I got a big reminder about that this weekend after six inches worth of rain dumped on Fairfax County, VA, turned my basement into something resembling the tidal flats out at the Chesapeake Bay. Sheets of water, accompanied by mud and silt, forced itself through over-saturated clay soil, through our cinderblock foundation, and then into our nice (if old fashion) basement. Say, goodbye, wall-to-wall carpeting: we only knew you less than seven months. Not sure if we‘ll ever see your like again down here, either.

Frantically running around bailing water by the minute while hoisting computers, wires, and other perishable gear high above the lapping liquid, I couldn‘t help but realize I had it easy. This same storm system clawed its way first through Oklahoma, Missouri, and Georgia, touching off tornadoes and killing at least 22 people ... so far. Thousands of homes are gone - no worries about basement clean up there. They don‘t even have family photo albums anymore, ripped to pieces by the high-pitched winds. (Oh, but don‘t you worry: the banks will still demand their mortgage payments, even though the houses they are for don‘t exist anymore.)

Truckers are having are hard time of it, as well, with roads flooded out or closed due to falling trees, along with the ghastly irritation of traffic signals gone dark and useless. The whole Northern Virginia area is being choked by worse-than-usual traffic this morning, due to all of those issues and more.

(Trucking in the rain isn't fun ... to say the least.)

Yet this is light stuff, compared to what‘s in Mother Nature‘s arsenal. It‘s not even hurricane season yet, nor have the conditions for wildfires out west ripened, nor twister time really kicked off across the plains. Drought plagued my neck of the woods the last three years - now we‘re soaked with too much rain, tripping off floods of all sizes and shapes.

Look what happened in Burma and China, too. A cyclone roared in from the Pacific killing over 100,000 people in Burma last week, while an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale left a widespread path of destruction and death in its wake across much of central China.

And the real clincher is that all of this damage happens so FAST! Earthquakes, storms, and the like roar up and wreak havoc, causing damage that takes months if not years to repair, in little more than a few hours time. It‘s frustrating and frightening all at the same time.

(Pike Electric crews getting ready to help Oklahoma recover from storm damage.)

Then again, what can you do? The mess never gets cleaned up by itself, does it? So, once I file this story, me and my puny two-gallon Craftsman wet/dry vacuum are going to be headed back to work ... while keeping one eye on the Weather Channel, just in case Mother Nature might try to uncork another haymaker before the day is done.

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr 1 | Senior Editor

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