Monday, August 29, 2005

Can't Sleep

It's hard for me to go to sleep tonight.  I'm watching old sitcoms on Nick-at-Nite, and flipping to CNN during each commercial break.  CNN doesn't have much to say about hurricane Katrina, but they're saying it anyway.  Pictures -- from earlier in the day -- of clogged highways travelling in a single direction (away) and soggy newscasters shouting over the din of the winds.  The hurricane hasn't hit yet, but the preparation is itself the big story.

And I know that I'll go to sleep to one world, and wake up to another one.

One, perhaps, without New Orleans.

Which is to say, if the worst case scenario hits, we're talking about: massive flooding; buildings collapsing in the winds; windows, trees and cars flying around; many low-rise buildings completely destroyed; and the whole place without power and (potable) water for weeks.  And up to as many as 50,000 dead. 


The last time I felt like this was during (well, immediately after) the Northridge Earthquake.  It hit around 4:30 in the morning, and even out in Pasadena there was a good deal of shaking.  My first thought after an earthquake ends is:  where was it centered?  Once you get over the initial shock of it all, you want for the earthquake to have been centered directly beneath you.  Because the farther away it was, the stronger it was, and the more damage it caused.  So I turned on the TV to get preliminary reports on the center of this thing.

I turned on the TV before local newscasters got their acts together.  Most were showing their overnight programming and it took a few minutes for them to put someone on camera and start putting things together.  It took way too long for this to happen.  (I joked to myself that I could walk to CalTech faster and get the information.)  But eventually, a local station put a newsguy on, and the newsguy ran the camera around their office (in Burbank, I think), and I could see the sort of damage caused there -- big file boxes fell off shelves.

And I knew nothing that heavy had fallen off my shelves, so I knew Burbank was closer to the center of this thing than I was. 

And then phone calls started pouring into the station, and the newsguy (who probably wasn't a newsguy at all, but whoever happened to be in the station at the time) started reporting what I had already figured out -- that this was big.

I watched for about an hour.  By that time, they'd gotten a camera out to a bit of the Santa Monica freeway that had collapsed.  They showed a view from underneath the freeway, where there was a concrete pier reinforced with metal rods inside it, and the pier had collapsed to the point where you could see the metal rods within all bent like spaghetti.

And this was pretty much the only picture of the destruction that the TV reporters could get their hands on, so they kept coming back to it.

And I kept thinking -- this wasn't the center of this earthquake.  There's a lot more damage farther north and we don't know what it is.

And the news wasn't coming fast enough.  After watching for an hour or so (and reaching my family by phone and confirming we were all alive), I realized I would just have to go to sleep and wait for the news to sort itself out.  And I turned off the TV and went to sleep, knowing that I would wake up to a world with a hell of a lot more destruction than one little freeway pier collapsing.

And that's how I feel now.  Of course, the difference is, with the earthquake, the destruction had already happened (we just didn't know the scope of it), while with Katrina, we know it's coming, but it hasn't yet hit. 

But still, I'm going to sleep with the same sort of dread.  Even with the best case scenario (CNN just downgraded Katrina to a category 4), I still know the world I wake up to tomorrow is going to be an awful lot worse than the world I'm going to sleep in tonight.  And I guess I'm thinking that by postponing going to sleep, I can somehow stave off the inevitable.

1 comment:

gabreaelinfo said...

I have survived 7 hurricanes now. The worst part for me isn't the storm it is doing without electric and water so long.

Take Care,