One needn't live in the Midwest river valleys to appreciate the havoc natural disasters can wreak. Even a milder natural disturbance, such as the ones that have visited Howard County this spring and summer, can inspire awe and fear at the unpredictability and power of Mother Nature.
First came the earthquakes. A total of 14 tremors have shaken Howard since mid-March; the most recent, albeit minor ones, occurred July 9 and 12. Seismologists have trooped to the county in the hopes of better understanding the root of the tremors centered here.
Then, last week, Howard suffered severe damage during a thunderstorm that toppled trees and left more than 4,000 homes without electricity -- practically twice as many as any other metropolitan jurisdiction.
Said landscape worker Graham King, "If the storm had lasted two hours, there would be no more trees in Columbia."
Fortunately, no one was injured, although the fallen limbs did crush parts of homes and cars. However, except for residents having to collect dry ice to save frozen foods, or perhaps stay with relatives to wait out the outage, hardships were minimal on the whole. Electricity was restored by early Friday morning, some 33 hours after the storm.
Real devastation has occurred elsewhere in the country. In the Midwest, scores of people have been killed and thousands more have lost their homes as the Mississippi, Missouri and other rivers have flooded farms and towns. Drinking water has been in short supply. Communities have massed to hoist sandbags atop makeshift levees and still the rivers seem unstoppable.
In the East, searing temperatures earlier this month rendered another kind of catastrophe. With the heat index consistently rising above 100 degrees, many cities recorded numerous deaths, particularly among the impoverished elderly. The substantial crop loss will be reflected in grocery store prices in the coming months.
It may seem that nature has turned suddenly and violently against us. The reality is we are only bearing witness to things beyond our control. The residents of Howard County should be thankful that their clashes with nature this year, while unsettling, have come at comparatively minor cost.