Thursday, September 23, 2004

Ivan Returns!

Once again, I'm in heavy-duty work avoidance mode... (You should see -- well, actually, it's probably better that you can't see my desk!)

What an amazing, even mystical, weather cycle is playing out right now in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico! Four different major weather systems operating at the same time. There's Hurricane Karl, which, thanks be to God, has not struck land, and appears to be a threat only to shipping; and Tropical Storm Lisa, in the eastern Atlantic, tangling with yet another (unnamed) tropical depression, and so a bit disorganized. (Maybe TS Lisa has seen my desk! Maybe TS Lisa is my desk!)

Then there's Hurricane Jeanne. This weather system devastated the country of Haiti, killing over 1,000 people as a result of flooding and mudslides; and many thousands more people in what is one of the poorest nations on Earth are homeless. The pictures and descriptions don't begin to convey the suffering; yet even these are hard to bear. No official appeal for help for Haiti has come from the Church, as far as I know; but I'm sure that anyone who'd like to send something to help the Orthodox parishes there can contact Fr. Gregory Williams at the St. John of Kronstadt Press.

Jeanne was weakened by her encounter with the island of Hispaniola, and left as a tropical storm. As she wandered in the Atlantic, moving north by northeast, the system strengthened once more, and became a hurricane again; and traveled in a loop, until she crossed over her path, and is now moving slowly to the west, threatening the Bahamas, and perhaps even the East Coast of the United States. Some predictions suggest the storm will resume moving to the northeast, and so away from land; but others predict a landfall anywhere from southeast Florida to Maryland.

And then there's Ivan. I think my first blog about Ivan was on September 9th, as Ivan moved towards Jamaica. This storm moved into the Gulf of Mexico, came ashore in the region of the Alabama-Florida panhandle region of the Gulf Coast, and them moved slowly up the Appalachian Mountains, with winds that damaged buildings and brought down trees and power lines, and heavy rains that caused serious flooding in many states. The storm, having weakened to a tropical depression, moved offshore. It is what happened next that I find incredibly remarkable. Instead of dissipating, or moving into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Ivan moved to the southwest, strengthening again as it was over the water; then moved across the Florida peninsula and back into the Gulf of Mexico; where it grew stronger still. As of about an hour ago, there are tropical storm warnings along the Gulf Coast from Louisiana into Texas, where Ivan is expected to move, once more, onshore, with strong winds and heavy rains!

I can't help but wonder what God intends for us to discern from these two incredibly rare occurrences -- the strange movements of Jeanne, and the even more astonishing return of Ivan. Certainly, it is humbling (I wanted to say, "incredibly humbling," but I fear I've already overworked that adjective) to see how little an impact we have on so much of life, especially when compared to the power of just one of these four active storms. We think ourselves to be so smart, so wise, so strong and mighty -- the lords of the universe! -- and yet how helpless we are before the power of Nature, also nothing more than a servant of the will of God.

Lord, have mercy; and spare all those in the path of these storms, and help us, and save us!