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E-M:/ Nature prevails

Enviro-Mich message from "Jennifer Tewkesbury" <tewkesburyj@michigan.gov>

NPR listeners talk about how they are coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as well as their preparations and friends' and loved ones' efforts to move from the path of the powerful hurricane.

As a survivor of the outskirts of Hurricane Katrina, right now, this is what I know: 

-- that in Baton Rouge, La., the winds hit 110 miles per hour, and the hummingbirds navigated this wind, which picked up 200 ton blocks of concrete in Mississippi, like a breeze; 

-- that a tree frog successfully rode out the storm on the leeward side of a Mexican fan palm that battered our dining room window; 

-- that though the wind thrashed the web of a writing spider and her egg sac, all three sailed through the storm without damage. 

I am in awe of these micro miracles in the face of such macro devastation: trees down, power lines live, flooding, storm surge and death, even in our fair city. My mother evacuated here from Long Beach, Miss. We hope that she has a house to return to. We count our blessings for our friends and family who made it safely through the storm. We send our blessings to all the people we can't reach and the devastation we can't see. 

-- Marybeth Lima, Baton Rouge, La.

Humbling Images from the Storm

By this time, I expect that many people are having "disaster fatigue" or whatever the word is for being over-saturated by images of Hurricane Katrina. However, I am not one of those people. I have yet to see any TV images because I still do not have any power or phone*. 

[But] what I do have images of is quite amazing, and even more humbling. As the last of the winds and rains were passing at dusk, I saw many ruby-throated hummingbirds coming to visit flowers in our garden. Both had made it through the hurricane. I saw leaves suspended in exquisite webs woven by orb-weaver spiders. The spiders were already back mending and cleaning out the debris. Most miraculous of all, I saw a black swallowtail and sulfur butterflies feeding on the flowers along our street. 

These things, which seem so delicate, are still alive and going about their business as though nothing has happened. In fact, I suspect that to them, nothing has happened. They are so well adapted to life here, which can go from lush sub-tropical to deadly in a day. They survive better by hiding in natural cavities than we do in our high-rise hotels. Their hiding places did not have their windows blown out or fill with water. They are immune to our waterborne disease, and the wickedness of looters. 

As the university where I work fills with refugees from "urban civilization," I have to wonder who is more civilized, we humans or these fragile beauties, who go along at peace with nature instead of trying to control it? We could learn a lot I think, but we have to take the time to look. 

-- Catherine Cummins, St. Gabriel, La.

Jennifer Tewkesbury, Water Bureau
Southeast Michigan District Office
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
586-753-3700 ext. 3789

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