I spent most of the night reading about survival strategies and survival gear online. The recent occurrences in the Philippines and my own personal opinion on global warming have me somewhat paranoid lately about my current prospects of being in and dealing with a near-apocalyptic scenario. I didn’t fare well in the whole Hurricane Gilbert saga back in 1988, and back then I was just a kid, with few or no responsibilities. My mom and my dad were the ones saddled with the superhuman task of preparing our family for the storm.
With winds of 185 mph, Gilbert was the most powerful hurricane on record at the time, and it was set to run right over us. You got the feeling that no matter the efforts at battening down or stocking up, you were never going to be fully prepared for this one. Even so, many were still hopeful that, like many of the storms before, this one would miraculously sidestep us at the last minute, sparing us the full brunt of it all.
Our little band of misfits gathered whatever we could grab on such short notice and hunkered down. Since only the middle section of the house was slab-roofed, that became the makeshift safe room against the storm. I remember seeing the early rain and thinking that this wasn’t so bad. Cozily camping in makeshift forts in the living room, one could hear a steadily increasing din from the storm rumbling outside. When the winds picked up, things began to get scary. The groan of buckling steel and aluminum was unfamiliar to me, and so those noises became vestiges of a humanized monster wreaking havoc outside. I sought refuge under layers of blankets and cushioning, stuffing my ears with whatever I could find to complete the cocoon. I slowly drifted off to sleep in the man-made warmth and silence with the hope that it’d all be over in the morning without event.
The morning brought little reprieve, save for a brief lull as the eye passed over — a chance to see the devastation already wrought. Our lovely stand of coconut trees got almost completely flattened. Though the almond trees had survived they were largely naked, and the power lines and poles were strewn everywhere. Dad suggested that we stay indoors, as there was no telling what dangers lurked outside as a result of the damage. This seemed to be a truth that only we seemed to abide by, however, as people were busy outside collecting loose zinc and salvaging lumber during the lull, while a lawless few looted the bejesus out of damaged stores.
The final round of winds and rain seemed more brutal than the first. The few coconut trees that managed to survive the first round were done away with on the second. What didn’t develop a leak in the first round was suddenly a river in the second. We were running low on newspaper and rag cloth, which was our impromptu method of plugging whatever leaks were developing in the rain. Pots and pans were now full to overflowing from an intact, but apparently porous, roof. At the end of it all we were soaked and tired from our efforts, but we had survived the battering.
Some 49 persons apparently weren’t so fortunate, as they lost their lives in the storm; countless others were displaced. The government of the era estimated the bill from the damage to be somewhere in the region of JA $4 billion. For us, it meant three weeks gathering water and two months without light.
All things considered, I think we were extremely lucky, especially when you look at the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. My heart goes out to the nation in the midst of its devastation, and my prayers go out for those in the midst of the suffering. I think it’s a timely reminder that there is need for constant vigilance and support with respect to disaster preparedness.