I’ve never been to the island of Oahu, but like many, have fantasized how idyllic it would be. White sand beaches, turquoise blue waters — what’s not to like? For many, it’s their fantasy dream of the ideal place to live. It’s especially appealing during the cold, windy and snowy winters that freeze you to the bone.
But the last few weeks have been eye-opening. They remind me that even the most idyllic spot can turn from heaven into hell. As the Kilauea Volcano continues to explode and spew lava, I’m captivated watching its power and destruction. Red hot lava flows down the hill and black lava oozes from cracks, swallowing up homes in Leilani Estates, a nearby neighborhood. While I’ve contemplated many natural disasters that could threaten my home, being enveloped by black molten lava was never one of them.
And the worst part is unlike other natural disasters, there seems to be no end in sight. In fact, as the volcano enters its fourth week, there are now lava cams available online that you can watch any time of day and night.
I can certainly sympathize with the angst those 1700 people who evacuated must be feeling. Not knowing whether they will have a home to come back to is the worst kind of feeling. One that I experienced during the Cold Springs Wildfire.
For me, perhaps the greatest hurt came from insensitive people making comments in the local paper.
“What do they expect when they insist on building their multi-million dollar homes up in the forest?”
“Why should taxpayers have to pay to fight wildfires where people shouldn’t even be living?”
“People who insist on living in wildfire zones deserve to have their homes burn down!”
I couldn’t believe people could be so cruel during such a difficult time. But what most incensed me was listening to people’s smug attitudes. The attitude that said a responsible person would live in the city on the plains where no natural disaster would ever befall you. A place where taxpayers would never be on the hook to repair the damage and destruction.
Except…that there is no such place.
Just a year ago in Lakewood, Colorado, a devastating hailstorm dropped baseball-size hail on said city on the plains, causing more than one billion dollars in damage. It also created severe economic impacts, closing the Colorado Mills Mall for six months through the heart of the summer tourist season. In fact, it ranked as the most expensive catastrophe in Colorado’s history, far costlier than any wildfire.
And that doesn’t even factor in the Houston flood, or countless tornados throughout the midwest. If the criteria for the right place to live excluded any place potentially affected by natural disaster, you could throw away the entire state of Florida. And many other states.
Watching beautiful Hawaii spill lava all over the idyllic island lives of people, I’ve concluded there is no place immune to disaster. No matter where you go, a tornado, fire, hailstorm, flood or volcano can find you.
The best you can do is be prepared for how to respond and enjoy the moments of calm and beauty in between.