Column: Irma’s destruction potential hard to comprehend


I will spend more time that usual in front of my TV this weekend.

I’ll have my phone and my computer turned on, too.

The first week of fantasy football and the NFL’s first Sunday of the season is pretty far down on my agenda of things to watch. So is the Saturday football game between Ohio State and Oklahoma.

Golf on Sunday?

I’m not sure, but probably not.

I have a lot of friends in Florida who are going to be on my minds this weekend.

I’ll be keeping an eye on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, hoping to see photos or comments from them, letting others know they’re alright.

I’ll be watching the Weather Channel and other news shows as I keep an eye on the devastation that everyone seems certain is going to happen in Florida and further north.

It’s hard to grasp the amount of damage they’re predicting.

I’ve not experienced a hurricane in person.

The Galion area was hit with bad weather Monday night. But as bad as that was, and as many people as it affected or displaced, no one died.

Unfortunately, what happened in Houston last month, and what is happening in Florida this weekend, is beyond comprehension.

I can’t imagine what it feels like when someone goes home — after days, or weeks away — and, well, there is no home to return to.

There’s only a pile debris, made mostly of timber or mud or bricks or broken glass.

I see people on the news going through that mess looking for pictures, or jewelry, or souvenirs. They are hoping to find some type of memento of their former lives.

Often times, their searches come up empty.

All those memories … gone forever.

That’s too sad to imagine that.

Reporter Erin Miller spent parts of Wednesday and Thursday in Crestline, taking photos and talking to those affected by Monday’s storm. I’ve chatted with her via Messenger.

She has mixed feelings about her assignment. She is horrified by what those folks have gone through, and are going through. But she also is very impressed with at resiliency and their need to carry on … to bounce back.

I wonder if I could be that strong.

There are storage containers in my basement that have not been opened in 10 years. I’m not certain what’s in them — although I did find a missing AC unit in one really big one two summers ago.

But I’m certain there are things in those storage containers that just by seeing, will bring a smile to my face, or take me back to a former time in my life.

There may be a lot of junk or old Christmas ornaments or old clothes and dishes and pots and pans. But there also are a lot of memories.

But I can go down to that basement anytime I wish and sort through those storage containers.

There is comfort in that.

However, if my home was destroyed by a flood, or a hurricane or a tornado, I would be devastated by the fact those memory triggers are gone forever.

I’ve watched news reports of long-time Floridians telling reporters they’re not afraid of Irma, that they’ve survived hurricanes in the past.

And they’ll survive this one.

I have a feeling I might be one of those who would stay behind.

I’ve lived a pretty good life. It’s been far from perfect, but I think starting over from scratch — because everything around me had been destroyed — is a fate I’d rather not face.

I wonder if that is what’s on the minds of those who plan to remain behind in Florida, despite the dire warnings of the past few days.

You also see news reports of young people planning to ride out the storm with hurricane parties. It’s kind of a macho thing, a story to tell your kids, or grand kids … if you survive.

Perhaps at one time, I’d have done that, too. Because I was too foolish to know better.

But those I’m talking about are in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond.

They’re not running from Irma.

I worry about them. But I don’t. You see. I think they’ve accepted their lives for what they were, what they are and what they might be … or might not be.

They’ve made their peace. And they’re going to be OK.

A neighborhood near Crestline was pretty ripped up by Monday’s storm, as were some homes and barns near Leesville. The north end of the Village of North Robinson received a lot of damage.

But in those cases, you can drive a few blocks and everything seems pretty normal again.

There are no signs of Monday’s storm.

That’s little comfort too those who were affected by Monday’s tornado.

However, can you imagine mile after mile after mile of that type of devastation?

Seeing it from the air is one thing. Seeing it through the lens of a TV camera must be heartbreaking.

Seeing it in person … I can’t imagine what that would be like.

I mentioned in a previous that I hitched a ride on a C-130 after Hurricane Katrina. I rode as far as Hattiesburg, Mississippi where my pilots, with the 179th Airlift Wing of the Ohio National Guard, dropped off guard members and supplies and then we turned around and came home. I saw a little damage two hours from the ocean, but mostly it was just flattened trees and some missing shingles.

Two weeks later, Capt. Carl Richert, who then was with the Ashland County Sheriff’s Office, sent me about 100 photos via email of damage nearer the shore. He’s spent a week down there as part of a relief team.

I had no idea.

The photos showed block after block after block of rubble. And that was only in one community, Mobile, Alabama, I believe, far from much-harder-hit New Orleans.

The damage one of these storms can do is unimaginable.

It’s difficult to comprehend that much destruction.

I really don’t want to think about it.

But I will be thinking a lot about my friends in Irma’s path.

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Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer. Email him at rkent@aimmediamidwest.com with comments or story ideas.

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