Natural Disasters

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I’ve been watching the BBC documentary show, The World’s Worst Disasters, and well, I learned something, which I suppose is the point of a documentary, right?

The snow pictured above was featured on episode 11, entitled Extreme Weather.  Let’s discuss, shall we?


So, that picture up there, was taken by my mom.  See, we had saved money for several years to take a family holiday to Disney World.  My parents had already booked everything and wouldn’t have been able to get money back.  So, school lets out for spring break, we’re packing, and then there’s talk that we might get snow.  Well, my sister and I want snow.

Living in south Mississippi, we rarely get snow; and when we do, it’s generally nothing a northerner would write home about, but everything shuts down here because it’s out of the ordinary for us.

We wake up on the day we’re going to leave and we had winter wonderland snow!  It was the most snow we’d ever seen and it was beautiful.  None of us really wanted to leave on our trip to Disney World, but we had to.  So my mom ran around taking several pictures and insisted that dad drive around the circle before heading for the highway, so that we could savour the snow as long as possible and for her to get in a few more pictures.

Even though we had to leave and pretty much missed out on the snow, it was a great memory for me, and my sister.  All that glorious and beautiful snow.

Disney World was a different matter entirely.  It was damp and bitterly, bitingly cold.  There weren’t throngs of people and it was relatively easy to get into rides with little wait time, but we just hurriedly shuffled from one destination to the next and our enjoyment was measured in how quickly we could gain entrance into a place, and the warmth that resounded there.

When did all of this happen and what does it have to do with a BBC documentary about Natural Disasters?  Well, the date of the snow that my family and I are so fond of was March 1993.  I was twelve and my sister was eighteen.  We remember it vividly and because we had to leave the snow and Disney World wasn’t all that fun.  But, it took this BBC documentary to tell us the reasons.

Our fabulous and large snow fall, and the subsequently abysmal weather in Orlando was the result of a super huge natural disaster dubbed The Storm of the Century or The Great Blizzard of 1993.

Insert our shocked faces here.

We had absolutely no idea.  We might have had some clue if our random snowfalls occurred in November or December, but they don’t.  When we do see snow, it’s mainly because of a weird random happenstance occurring in either March or April.  So, the timing wasn’t all that weird for us, personally.  Sometimes there is snowfall or ice storms in January, but it’s not unheard of for us to have winter weather into spring.

My sister and I do not recall these monikers or even anyone in our area talking about a huge natural disaster at the time.  I had heard the term, “The Storm of the Century” about a decade later, but the month and year were not mentioned, so I assumed it happened in some other region (the mid-west or the north) in the eighties or the seventies.

The night before, any of our local stations were merely mentioning that we’d more than likely see snow, and hurrah!, and how this wouldn’t effect schools as they were already out for spring break.  And being at Disney World and staying in a hotel, if my parents had flipped to the news, no one was discussing the weather beyond, “and the temperature outlook for this week will be chilly.”  No one, this far south, was discussing how wide-spread or disasterous this was, not even when we returned home from holiday.  I’m wondering if everyone was assuming, like we did, that it was a localized and mild winter storm?

Even though people reported the news and there were newspapers and the telly, there wasn’t any social media.  News wasn’t as slow as the 1800s on the frontier or anything, but it was considerably slower than now, where regular people can just instantly upload videos and pictures to tell what’s going on, without the help of official news outlets.  And as a kid, you could have cared less about the news then.

I’m still flabbergasted to know that I was part of The Storm of the Century and never even knew it.  So, if you are unaware, like I was, I’ll briefly say what that natural disaster was.  An arctic high pressure system was building in the mid-west and moved south-east until it hit an extratropical area of low pressure, which resulted in a blizzard.  One that hit Louisiana and kept moving over the lower south-eastern states until reaching Georgia and then pretty much moved upwards and encompassing everything east of the Mississippi River (and portions of Canada, as well as Cuba).  It just kind of made a big giant circle over the middle and eastern portions of the US and Canada.

At least 26 states were effected.  10 million people were without electricity.  Over 40% of the population experienced effects of this storm.  208 people lost their lives.

Snowfalls were phenomenal.  We, I’m sure saw about 3 – 5 inches of snow.  Birmingham, Alabama which is far to the north of us, received about 16 inches; and I include them because they were included in the documentary.  Both of which are huge for these area’s, though it’s not unheard of for Birmingham to receive snow.  Northern states received anywhere from 18 – 44 inches of snow!

I’m well aware that I was on the tail-end of this, so nothing was damaged this far south, and it was really just lovely winter weather for us, but it’s strange to know that something so happy for me was so terrible for so many others; that it was this major natural disaster and here we were just really cold at Disney World!

So, here are our lovely, beautiful pictures of snow, which I’m glad that my mom thought to take on the morning of our departure; the 12th of March.  I’m sure Northerners will laugh, but these pictures of snow are a huge deal for us living in the extreme south.  This is A LOT of snow to us.

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One more thing I would like to add, but also pertains to this documentary.  So, I also watched episode 2; When American Shook, which is about all of the worst Earthquakes in America, and they did mention Northridge Earthquake of 1994.  That one did get a lot of coverage and I did know about it.  The 6.7 magnitude earthquake happened in Reseda, California, just north of LA (and did impact LA) on 17. January 1994 at 4.31 AM (PST).

I had forgotten why I had seen all about it, until this documentary mentioned that it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  No one this far east remembers exactly when it happened, just that it was 1994.  But having the day off from school for a 13 year old makes sense as to why my telly was inundated with this news and I was able to see it.

The weird thing is that in the middle of the night, I was sleeping, like you do; and I woke up with a start.  I don’t remember dreaming anything alarming, I just woke with a start.  I always check the clock to see what time it is, to know if I have hours more of dark or if daylight’s not far away.  It’s just something I’ve always done if I awaken in the night.  So, I’m sleepy and wondering why the hell I woke up, I look at the clock and it says 4:31 and I go back to sleep.

When I wake up the next day, this earthquake is all over the news and all they keep saying is 4:31 AM, 4:31 AM, 4:31…  I realize that my 4:31 is completely different from their 4:31, considering I am Central Standard Time (CST) to their Pacific Standard Time (PST) and that they are two hours behind me, time-wise.  But isn’t that a bit weird?  I could have woken with a start and the clock could have said 12:02 or 2:29 or 8:50, but no, it had to say 4:31.

Why would I wake with a start and at that time?  I might could see a point if my sister were already living out there (she wouldn’t be out there, in LA, until 1996) and somehow there’s some sort of cosmic connection between my sister and I and the Universe were telling me that she was in danger?

But, in 1994, I had no connection to California.  Sure, some aunt that I don’t remember lived there and my grandpa went out there to visit his sister when I was a baby, and my dad was out in that state for Marine boot camp ten years before I was born, and that’s it.  That aunt didn’t live in LA and was already dead by the time this earthquake happened, and so was my grandpa for that matter.

I don’t know.  It really spooked me out that day and I called all of my friends up to tell them, but they didn’t seem to think it was spooky.  It’s still rather spooky to me to this day.  I suppose it was the feeling.  The waking with a start feeling which felt weird anyways, couple with the time, and then having something on the opposite side of the country, that I couldn’t possibly feel, happen at the same written time.  It’s just weird, man.  It’s just weird.

To make matters even spookier, when I did go and visit my sister while she was living out there in LA, she took me to Ventura.  We were driving down this portion of highway with an underpass and I screamed, “Oh my god!!!” and she was angry, nearly having wrecked from my screaming.  The reason I was so freaked out, is because I’d been there before.

I might not have really been there in that exact place, but I had a car chase dream and this is EXACTLY what it looked like.  To a T.  The hill to the right, us on an elevated highway, the underpass coming up on the left with lower hills and a view of ocean beyond.  It was exactly the same.  I say a car chase, but I was pretty much in the position where we were that day in the car, watching the super speeded up car chase.  I was watching it happen, not in the actual car chase, so could take in the surroundings better.

What the hell, indeed!

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