Monday, September 11, 2017

Chicago fortunate when it comes to coping with wrath of God-type acts

Those of us paying attention to weather reports in recent weeks have noticed the hurricanes that wrecked their wrath on Texas and now are taking aim on much of Florida. Those with a broader vision will see that those hurricanes also hit Cuba and Puerto Rico, along with the earthquake that has killed dozens in Mexico.
Many a Chicago schoolchild has seen this diorama depiction at the Chicago History Museum of the greatest disaster to impact our city -- the Great Fire of 1871. Photographs by Gregory Tejeda
All of which makes me feel fortunate these days to be in Chicago.

A LAND WHERE we don’t get hurricanes and the possibility of being impacted by an earthquake would be a geological anomaly of historic proportions.

We in the Midwest, of course, always face the possibility of tornadoes causing death and destruction. Yet we in Chicago have only 13 tornadoes known to touchdown within the city limits during its not-quite-two-century history.

And only one of those, back on May 6, 1876, hit the area now considered our city’s downtown. Two died and 35 were injured in that incident that damaged the then-Cook County Hospital, along with the Palmer House Hotel.

Coming just five years after the incident that, to this date, is the most significant disaster to impact Chicago – the Great Fire of 1871 – maybe it seemed at that point in time that Chicago was a doomed site.

ONE COULD ARGUE, of course, that the Fire shouldn’t be counted. Is it really a disaster the equivalent of Mother Nature having a hissy fit to have much of the city destroyed by a fire caused by (depending on which account you want to believe) that damned cow kicking over a lamp or some guy named “Peg Leg.”

Besides, we’ve managed to go another 140 years without significant devastation to our city.

We haven’t had a significant tornado touchdown in Chicago since 1967, and that one did most of its damage (33 dead, more than 500 injured) in suburban Oak Lawn – with some damage managing to cross over into the Southwest Side near Midway Airport.
Maybe it's a sign of how fortunate Chicago has been to be spared natural disasters that we can name a shopping center for one of the few structures NOT damaged in the Great Fire
And no, I’m not trying to downplay the tornado that whacked suburban Plainfield back in 1990. That is one of the few disaster-type incidents that I had a hand in covering as a reporter-type person.

BUT THAT ONE lies on the fringe of what could be called the Chicago-area. My point being that we in the city truly have been fortunate. One of the screwiest-type “flood” incidents we had was in 1992 when the Chicago River sprung a leak into the sub-basements that exist beneath downtown buildings.

That one can’t be blamed on nature – that one was pure man-made technical error. Or carelessness, if you prefer to think of it that way.

My point is that in watching these news reports of recent days, I can’t help but feel fortunate about where I live. It’s almost as though I was fortunate enough to be born and raised in one of the safest places in existence – something to keep in mind the next time some political crackpot wants to go off on a rage about the homicide rate of Chicago and exaggerate it into us being the deadliest place on the planet.

It makes me wonder about actress Jennifer Lawrence, who recently made comments about “Mother Nature’s Rage and Wrath” against the people who backed Donald J. Trump for president and who question the legitimacy of “global warming.”

WHICH IS A blatantly absurd thought to have. Although my understanding of the context was that she was trying to mock the individuals who go around thinking of natural disasters as “God’s punishment” against society for tolerating homosexuality.

That is a blatantly ignorant thing to say or think, and is a thought worthy of being mocked.

So what does it say that Mother Nature doesn’t seem to get all that upset about Chicago? Does she love that we don’t try to fool her that often?
Because we all (or at least those of us old enough to remember) know that it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature – even if it’s by passing off Chiffon margarine as real butter!


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