Wednesday, September 21, 2005

No Real Story Except Hurricane Rita

Image hosted by Photobucket.comIf there is another story that takes a headline away from Hurricane Rita during the next week it will probably need to be something close to being as important as the Second Coming of Jesus!

Today, Rita became the 3rd most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record...a Category 5 with sustained winds of 175 miles per hour.

If I were on the Central Gulf Coast of Texas or even in Houston today, I would be packing my bags and heading for New Mexico, Oklahoma or even Louisiana as quickly as possible.

According to one story, scientific weather watchers on the barrier islands near Padre Island, who had settled into observation areas especially built to house them during hurricane observations, have already abandoned their positions and fled inland to places very far away.

Modern North American civilization has had very little experience with storms of this magnitude. It is uncertain what will actually happen should it remain a category 5 hurricane when it whips through or near Galveston late Friday night. One speculation is that the mighty Galveston seawall will successfully defend against the initial storm surge (although vast amounts of water will spill over the top) but a "back-side" storm surge from the unprotected back of Galveston Island could probably result in great damage and massive flooding.

Houston is also a mystery. Much, if not most of the central city is at virtual sea level, linked to the Gulf of Mexico by a shipping channel. Heavy rains several years ago flooded much of the city and the coming rain, channel surge, hurricane winds and miscellaneous tornados could render the city almost as uninhabitable as New Orleans in the next several days.

It is hard to imagine that the costliest natural disaster in United States history could be followed by an even costlier one within a matter of weeks.

The oil industry is also at great risk. The number of oil refineries in the Galveston/Houston area is three times greater that in the areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Approximately 1/4 of our nation's refining capabilities are located in the projected path of Rita.

It is ironic that the state (Texas) and the city (Houston) that extended the warmest and most gracious hospitality to tens of thousands of evacuees from New Orleans may now find themselves in the position of seeking aid, comfort and refuge from others.

If Jesus' Golden Rule has any true reciprocity built into it, then the generosity that Texas has shown to its neighbors ought to be repaid many times over by us all.

One can only pray that God, in his mercy, will see fit to spare these folks and our nation the awful tragedy that now looms so darkly, moving inexorably forward upon the face of the deep.

Perhaps, in our pride and our arrogance, we, as a nation, need to be knocked to our knees at least this one time more before we actually "get it" which I mean that we understand that the technologically sophisticated "Tower of Babel" which we have built in our attempt to be like God is as vulnerable as the Empire's "Death Star" and as fragile as the "Titanic."

America, despite its greatness, is not the measure of the world.

Apart from God himself, the measure of the world for at least the next few days will be a hurricane named Rita.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.