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Thoughts About Hurricane Matthew
The whole experience of the storm is a perfect analogy with what we are faced with in our financial lives. The idea of an economic storm approaching is a common metaphor or simile that is used by many
writers and observers. But is strikes me as something more than a metaphor.
In both financial and weather storms, there are people who are completely devastated and lose everything. There are others who by luck or preparation escape serious damage.
The forces at work are uncontrollable; and while certain aspects can be foreseen and forecasted in general terms, the exact location, timing, and extent of damage cannot be predicted with certainty.
I review below my experience with Hurricane Matthew with this in mind.
The formation of Hurricane Matthew was observed at a distance. Estimates were made concerning the force, severity, path, and time frame of the storm. Certain aspects of it were known from observations of measurable and observable facts about it, and widely reported. But despite computers and all the technology at our disposal, the future path and impact of the storm could not be predicted with certainty more than a few hours ahead.
As the hurricane developed, warnings and predictions became more specific. The hurricane began to move and the impact of it began to be observed in a few faraway places that were in the path of the storm. It was devastating for those in the path of it…many lost everything, some lost their lives.
The alarms became louder and more urgent. The path of the hurricane still could not be known with certainty, it could only be observed hour by hour, and the damage reported was shown as it occurred.
Emergencies were successively declared in areas that appeared to be in the path of the storm.
People reacted to the warnings in a variety of ways; some followed official warnings, some did not.
Some people took precautions and prepared for the worst, others did not.
When the storm actually arrived, many were overwhelmed even though they had taken precautions.The storm was so powerful that those who had prepared were overtaken by calamity despite any reasonable measures they had taken to protect themselves. Many who had taken no precautions at all were unharmed, because the storm missed them, or because they were just lucky otherwise. In many cases those who took no precautions wound up in an identical situation as those who had prepared:
Seeing the devastation in Haiti and other places, one realizes that if a storm is strong enough, no preparation can prevent calamity and guarantee your escape from it.
My own reaction was moderate. I decided that in the event of official notice to evacuate, I would ignore it. I am not very near the ocean, and there was no place within 200 miles where I felt I would be better able to cope with the likely effects of the storm. So I decided to stock up on fresh water, batteries, candles, and food; I filled my vehicles with gas; and I selected a place to store my vehicles in the event of flooding. At a local store, I got the last radio that can be operated without corded power.
As the storm approached there was no official clarification of what to expect. But as the skies turned darker, services and businesses were closing and events were being cancelled. The rains and wind started to increase. Groceries and pharmacies were closed, even the ones that advertise 24/7 service.
I lost my internet service; then I lost power. The is no serious danger from flooding at my home, but many local roads do flood. But I did not need to go anywhere, and was prepared to wait it out.
While without internet and power, I became very reassured by physical things within my possession. Enough water and food. Enough currency and cash, including silver coins. Tools and batteries and supplies and other things I could get my hands on became comforting.
It struck me that if I needed money, no bank account was going to help if the banks were closed and the ATM was out of cash or there was no power. And having stock in CVX or XOM was not going to help if I needed gas.
After 24 hours, the skies cleared. Internet and power are restored. Everything is back to normal.
Driving around the neighborhood, there were some trees knocked down and a lot of debris from the wind, and the ponds are full of water from the run-off. Nothing too serious.
But next time…who knows ? And there will be a next time. The hurricanes keep forming. They come up towards us with regularity. Storms like Katrina and Sandy and Matthew do not happen everyday, but they happen; and it is foolish to suppose that a bad storm will never hit me. When a storm comes, the authorities will not be able to predict it accurately very far in advance, and they will not be able to prevent it from doing damage.
So I think is best to take reasonable precautions to protect myself, and make reasonable preparations in advance. What each person considers reasonable will vary.
One person may go farther than I do…they may install an electric generator, a 500 gallon underground gas tank, and keep more cash on hand than I think is necessary.
Who am I to say that person is wrong ?
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