Now that we’re in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike’s tiptoe through the tulips stomp through the Houston-Galveston metropolitan corridor in seven-league jackboots, a thought occurred to me (sound of dull thud).
I found myself thinkin’ about all of the various random and chaotic forces at work that ultimately brought a storm like Ike to this particular spot on the globe. I mean, back when it was just a glimmer in the local weather guy’s eye, who would’ve given odds it would eventually end up right here?
At first, it was just what they call a “tropical wave”, heading west off the African coast. It was much too far away to really think about; at least for us. “Hey (we said to ourselves), it’s half a world away; we can think about it later.”
But after a few days it changed from a mild-mannered warm front into a tropical storm (winds +45 mph – 72 kph), and not long after that, a hurricane (+65 mph – 105 kph). Projected tracks had it heading towards Florida, but with a turn to the north; grazing the East Coast of the U.S. Those of us in the Gulf Coast area said to ourselves, “Hey, nothin’ for us to worry about,” we said with somewhat misplaced confidence (sound of big sighs of relief). “It may not even make it into the Gulf.”
(In the meantime, Hurricane Gustav scored, right between the goalposts of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, wreaking havoc across a broad swath of the Deep South.)
But then the picture changed a bit. Ike’s projected track suddenly switched from the eastern side of Florida to the western side. That meant it would enter the Gulf of Mexico – never a good thing when the water temperature that drives these storms is so warm and full of energizing power. Still, it wasn’t headed here – or where Gustav just hit – so again, big sighs of relief all around. (Understand; it’s not that we wish it on anyone else, mind you…)
But even as the majority of predictive models showed a northern track, there was still this one possible path that pointed our way. But hey, it was only one out of 8 or 10 models, and the weather folks assured us it was “not the most accurate one anyway”. Hrm; should we be concerned? Well…
The next morning, everything changed and just like that (sound of snapping fingers), every weather model had our little buddy Ike pointed to a spot just west of Houston, Texas. Huh? How’d that happen? Alas, it seemed an unexpected confluence of high- and low-pressure areas was conspiring to drive Ike pretty much right at us. Suddenly the prospect of a strong (and steadily getting stronger) storm became all too real.
As the old saying goes, “What do you mean, ‘don’t panic’? Bubba, this looks like the perfect time to panic!”
Well, you know what I mean. Now it became a guessing game as to just how far to the west it would hit. Too close, and we’d get the worst of it. Far enough away, and it’s at most only heavy rains and some windy spells. For a day or two there was far too much uncertainty to know which scenario would ultimately win.
Finally, Ike turned and took aim at Galveston. Lemme tell ya, serious battening down commenced! Or, as the news media became rather fond of saying, we “hunkered down” for the hammer blow. And what a blow it was!
At the last minute, Ike strengthened even more, and with sustained wind speeds clocked at over115 mph (185 kph) it whanged into the Texas coast with the force of multiple nuclear blasts. (Think I’m kidding? You’d be amazed how much energy is contained in a storm the size of a hurricane.)
Don’t Mind Me, I’m Just Passin’ Through
Almost as if following a map, Hurricane Ike traveled right up the main traffic corridor of Interstate 45, across Galveston Island and right through Houston and beyond. As it passed, it knocked out the power to virtually the entire corridor – which amounts to about 2.5 million people’s homes and businesses.
High winds caused many power transformers all over the place to literally explode, igniting many fires across the city. One area on Galveston Island saw an entire row of houses burned down. Fire fighters were powerless to do anything in the midst of the storm; they just had to let it burn.
Within hours of crossing the coastline, the eye (now about 25 miles wide) passed over the eastern half of the Houston area, bringing hurricane-force winds with it. Over the course of the next 12 hours Ike finally lost enough strength to become “just a storm” again, then finally a big rainmaker as it continued its course up through Tennessee and Illinois and even beyond.
The Story of My Life
Ya know, the story of ol’ Ike seems almost like the story of my life. No, don’t laugh; I’m serious. (Especially you in the back with the purple suspenders and pink, fuzzy slippers on – you ain’t got nothin’ to laugh about.)
I mean, when I think about it, it’s easy to see that the course of my own life (and I would venture to guess, yours too) has pretty much been dictated by a combination of forces that directed me to what I’m doing now. For instance, when I was still just a kid (that’s human, not goat), two events set the course of my life. Oddly enough, they both involve my grandmother.
One was the discovery of a huge pile of science fiction magazines in my grandmother’s attic. The other was when she helped me make a decision that would influence me forever; she pointed my active little mind towards what would become a lifelong fascination with space, adventure, and science.
These experiences were kinda like that warm front leaving the coast of Africa; by the time that happened, Ike’s future was set. In the same way, those two episodes essentially set the tone for the rest of my life.
Along the way, various weather fronts, along with the shifting shape of the jet stream helped tickle and jiggle Ike’s eventual course. Again, in a similar fashion there were plenty of other influences making measurable impacts on my life.
I mean, besides the “whole life” experiences (if you get my meanin’) of becoming a Christian, as well as meeting and marrying Mrs. MZM, there were all kinds of obstacles and epiphanies and career goal reevaluations. Not to mention the many places I’ve had the privilege of visiting and/or working in. They all conspired to direct me toward where I am (and for that matter, where I’m going) right now.
When my career settled down and I got into Project Management, it was like Ike entering the Gulf and powering up. Although I’ve been doing engineering work for some time now, I really enjoyed the work and all. Still, there were a few things I wasn’t sure of – like, did I want to stay in Project Management forever, or was there yet a more interesting career path available.
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to switch over to the consulting side of the engineering business. Finally, it all seemed to come together, and it feels like my life’s course is set for the remainder of my career. Ever since I finished my third degree, there were certain, well, things, I wanted to get into – I just didn’t know how to break into it, if you know what I mean.
But now I’m able to take a bead on some of those goals and aspirations with some measure of confidence that I’ll actually, you know, get there. Talk about exciting! It’s given me a new lease on life, so to speak, and supercharged my thinking. And, just as Ike strengthened right before storming the beach like the Allies at Normandy, it feels like I’m finally hitting my full stride.
After Hurricane Ike plowed through Galveston Island, some parts of the coastline that were changed forever. Some of it washed away, some of it even grew bigger – hey, it happens. But whatever else you can say about it, Ike has surely left a mark, both on the land, and in folk’s memories, that won’t soon be forgotten.
Unlike Ike, however, instead of wreaking havoc and leaving a trail of devastation and destruction, I plan to leave a trail of, you know, positive results in my path. In other words, I’d like to leave a mark on this ol’ world – but in a good way, of course.
So What About You?
OK, I hope I haven’t been too guilty of waxing eloquent here (a term that roughly means to lay it on thick and polish it to a nice, shiny finish). Yeah, I can hear the snores now. Sorry ’bout that. But it sorta begs the question, doesn’t it?
So tell me what you think, here. Am I off base? Do I make a good point, or should I go back to my old job as a crash-test dummy?