Ike, Katrina, Andrew – these are all names of hurricanes which strike the fear of God into the hearts of anyone who has lived through the incredible impact a strom of this intensity can bring and the havoc they wreak.
It is impossible to imagine the forces behind hurricanes, until you have lived through one. Years ago, I remember people telling me about big storms that used to come in off the Atlantic. Storms whose mere forecast drove fishermen home, storms which made townsfolk batten down their hatches and wives and mothers pace tirelesssly, their eyes constantly turning seaward, until their loved ones returned.
Storms which struck ice cold fingers into the hearts of anyone listening to the shipping forecast whose loved ones were out at sea. When these storms struck finally, their ferocity was felt all along the coastal areas, with rivers bursting banks, windows which were not protected smashing and boats which had not reached harbour being tossed like small, insigificant morsels on huge waves.
Those storms were scary but nothing prepared us for what was to come in the form of a hurricane force storm. This storm made the preceeding ones seem tame. It smashed boats in the harbour as if they were match sticks- something for the storm to toy with. It brought down branches which had withstood other storms for hundreds of years. Coniferous forests were flattened, reduced to rows of timber and houses were torn apart – chimneys, roofs and walls simply ripped from their standings like cardboard.
This strom left 8 people dead and an eerie silence across our small island. It gave us an inkling of what other countries go through year on year during hurricane season.
How do you give a name to anything so terrible? Well, not all hurricanes have their own name -or should I say not all have distinctive names. In the southern states, storms which hit in the hurricane season are given names to distinguish them – hence Ike, Andrew, Katrina. But those which stroke off season- though they do just as much damage as some of the great storms- are all called Alice.
Why? It sems the southern Americans are not without their sense of humour and givng all of them the same name is their idea of making each one as important, or less important then others. It is a way of saying that it does not matter what name you give it or how you define the force – grade 5, 4, 6 or whatever you like, all hurricanes do damage, all are terrible and all deserve the utmost respect.