Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Hurricane Katrina: A Long, Hard Road Ahead
Published in The Signal, 9-4-2005.

Darryl Manzer, 2005     I love looking out over the ocean waves on a calm and sunny day. I've watched flying fish and dolphins alongside a ship or surfaced submarine for many days at a time. I've been through storms that caused my submarine to roll violently when we were 300 feet under water. All that time, I gained great respect for the power contained in those waves.
    Because I've served in or worked for the Navy the entire 37 years since I moved from Newhall, my homes have always been located within 20 miles or so from an ocean, be it the Pacific or the Atlantic. And at each home port, the weather was directly affected by the sea.
    While the Santa Clarita Valley has Santa Ana winds — often with associated wildfires — when we lived in Bremerton, Wash., there were winds so strong, coming off the North Pacific, that they caused the floating bridge over the Hood Canal to sink.
    In Connecticut we had dense fogs and winter ice storms. Winter's hurricanes, called nor'easters, come from sea up the East Coast and impact New England every winter. The wind howls and temperatures drop below freezing.
    When we lived in Vallejo and Benicia, Calif., we also had our share of dense fogs and high winds.
    Hawaii had other problems from the sea. There is always the threat of a tsunami, and a hurricane, too, is possible.
    Southeast (or Tidewater), Va., also has the winter threat of a nor'easter and the summer threat of hurricanes. I've been through both. The strongest hurricane was only a mid-range Category 1 — nothing compared to what just hit the Gulf Coast.
    When Hurricane Isabel blew through Virginia almost two years ago we were without power for about six days but never lost water or sewer services. The next day we could go to a grocery store and get food. Gasoline for our generator was hard to get until the third day after the storm. We didn't lose natural gas service, so we even had hot showers with the lights not working. Inconvenience? Yes. Catastrophe? No.
    There is one township in the area that had some severe damage and is still being rebuilt. But most of the residents there are back living in their homes, even if the repairs aren't completed.
    Those of you who remember the 1971 Sylmar and 1994 Northridge earthquakes also know what it is like to live without electricity, natural gas and municipal water services. Most of you had your homes intact and safe within a few weeks, at most. I know some homes were destroyed by earthquake and fire, but by and large, recovery was pretty fast.
    By now you know of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast. That is one coastline I've only visited and have no desire to live near.
    Whole towns have been swept away by wind and waves in three states. New Orleans is flooded and may not be dry again until February. The number of dead is climbing into the hundreds.
    "Disaster," "catastrophe" and all those other words cannot describe what has happened there. The earthquakes of '71 and '94 were bad — but nothing compared to what the ocean has done this time. Thousands of people are homeless, jobless, and lack the basic necessities of food, shelter and clean water. Help is on the way. Slowly — but it will be there.
    I love living near the ocean. Any ocean. (I wish it were the Pacific and not the Atlantic right now.) The price I pay for living near an ocean are the extremes of weather that the ocean causes.
    I can't tell you the fear you feel as you track a hurricane heading toward your home. I can only imagine how those folks on the Gulf Coast felt. I've never been threatened with a storm of such intensity or size. I do know I would have left town. Some couldn't do that along the Gulf Coast. Other could, but were just stupid.
    I've learned to appreciate earthquakes. Dangerous? Yes. Last long? No. Can you predict and track them? No. They just happen. A few minutes of terror, and then calm. Maybe some strong aftershocks. You can go outside within minutes after the shaking stops. (If you are in a building that is strong enough.)
    Imagine watching a storm approach for days. Imagine hearing winds so loud, you swear you're behind a jet airplane — and the noise lasts for hours. Fear isn't a strong enough word, either. Imagine a similar storm hitting the SCV, damaging or destroying every home in the valley. No electricity, natural gas, sewage disposal or clean water. Roads are impassable for any help to get into the valley. City, county and state government agencies try to assign priorities for the relief effort but are overcome by the size of the disaster.
    If you can imagine that, you know what it is like on the Gulf Coast right now. It may not ever return to "normal." Many folks will never return to those areas. But for those who remain and will return, imagine if they didn't get help from the "outside." I know of no word to describe how I would feel if I knew there was not assistance coming.
    But this is America. We love to help those in need. We give great amounts of time, talent and treasure all over the world. Now the need is with those in and on the Gulf Coast. Please give whatever you can to help them. Pick your favorite organization, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, whatever it is, and give to them for Hurricane Katrina Relief. Whatever the amount, it will help. Give unto others as you would want them to give unto you.
    Most of all, pray. Prayer heals all wounds as all prayers are answered. Of that I am sure. Ask me to explain that sometime.

    Darryl Manzer lived in the Santa Clarita Valley oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s as a teenager. He now lives in Virginia.

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