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Steve Hansen: Destructive hurricanes are nothing new

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Posted: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 11:44 am

Hurricanes in Texas and Florida have been catastrophic this year.

Some think the magnitude of recent weather events is unusual — perhaps due to so-called “climate change.”

But history tells us quite a different story. Destructive hurricanes are really nothing new.

For example, the Last Island Hurricane of 1856 had winds of 150 mph and storm surges of up to 12 feet high. This is equal or greater than anything we had this year. Two hundred people lost their lives in that Louisiana tragedy.

There was also the Cheniere Caminada, Louisiana storm of 1893. It created 16-foot surges and killed more the half of the island’s residents. The hurricane then moved to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, wiping out a total of around 2,000 people.

Back in 1900, there was the calamitous Galveston Hurricane. It turned the entire town into a pile of rubble and killed 8,000 people. How about the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926? It wiped out most of Miami and the Bahamas. This Category 4 storm also hit Alabama and Mississippi. By the time it was finished, 500 people were dead.

Oh, yes. We can’t forget the Florida Keys Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. This was a Category 5 with 185 mph winds and 20-foot surges. It basically eliminated civilization from the face of this island chain.

How about Hurricane Audrey of 1957? It disrupted oil drilling, had 125 mph winds, 12-foot surges, spawned two tornadoes and killed over 400 people.

These are just a handful of past hurricanes affecting America’s Gulf states. Many others, too numerous to mention here, have also wreaked havoc on the Atlantic seaboard.

One of the worst was the Great New England Hurricane of 1938. It destroyed around 57,000 homes and killed somewhere in the neighborhood of 682 people. It’s considered one of the must powerful storms in New England history, only topped by the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635.

In 1944, the Great Atlantic Hurricane was a nasty one as well. It left a trail from Canada to New England with additional destruction along the Mid-Atlantic states. Some at the time compared it to the 1938 Long Island Express with its 145 mph winds and several hundred fatalities.

In 1954, I personally experienced Hurricane Hazel. This beauty hit North Carolina and wiped out most shoreline dwellings. It also affected other states from Virginia through New York with 100 mph winds causing huge amounts of property damage. It even led to severe flooding as far away as Canada. I recall our electricity being out for almost a week.

So the debate in the media goes on, but the big question remains: Are storms this year really a result of what is believed to be human-created climate change?

And if so, do people have the power to control these weather events, or are we simply being delusional by believing in future climate predictions based on unreliable data assumptions?

Of course, people are going to believe what they want to believe no matter how the facts present themselves — especially when issues become politicized.

But the bottom line is simply this: Mother Nature really doesn’t give a tinker’s dam (not a dirty word) about what people believe, feel, think, or say with regard to this subject. This watery windbag has been around for about five billion years. Throughout history, she’s been known to do her own thing with bluster far greater at times than “normal.”

The old gal was whipping up storms long before humans inhabited the Earth. No doubt, she’ll be creating many more amazing and powerful events long after our species has passed into eventual extinction.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.