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Don't fool with Mother Nature - Bob Paslay

Doesn't it seem like Mother Nature has let loose on the world with a vengeance? We had hurricane after hurricane pummel the nation. Then the tsunami which was like hell on earth devastated whole regions and we may never know how many people lost their lives. Under the sea, acres of coral were also flattened.

On the heels of this, mudslides in California are creating the most phenomenal pictures of people being swept away and houses and buildings just falling down.

People are always astonished at the wrath of Mother Nature when she turns loose. We are a society in which we think we can control everything. We have spent two years trying to convince ourselves that we can control terrorism by taking our shoes off at airports. We think we can control what people watch by censorship. We think we can control what our kids are watching and doing by having parental controls. We think we can control the drug use by selective busts and arrests.

And whether we can control any of these is questionable, but we have convinced ourselves that we can. Then along comes Mother Nature and she doesn't respect any of our controls.

She doesn't care if the state is a red state or a blue state. She doesn't care if the state has already been hit by recent devastation.

I have covered my share of natural disasters and I never get over the power and force of these events.

A geology professor I had in college who also did work for some geological companies told us that there is a fault line running through the Savannah River nuclear site. One day, he cautioned, the big earthquake is going to hit and all of these containers of spent nuclear fuel and other horrors are going to break open and turn South Carolina and Georgia into a wasteland. A big earthquake in Charleston from this fault did major damage.

I walked through a small Southern city some years ago where a tornado had roared down Main Street. I looked at a building and it had been untouched and then I walked a little farther, the building was flattened but yet the next one untouched. The tornado had hopped like a pogo stick.

Someone who had heard the roar and herded a group of kids into the basement just as the tornado flattened their building again said it sounded "like a freight train." With my weird sense of humor, I always wanted to interview someone at the scene of a freight train derailment and have them tell me "it sounded like a a tornado."

The stories at the scene of natural disasters are spectacular. Hollywood script writers can't write dialogue like that.

One of my reporters rushed to the scene of a small twister that tore through a mobile home park and this woman ran from the tin structure just as it exploded behind her. She wrapped her arms around an oak tree in her front yard, locked her fingers and her feet were flapping in the wind as the tornado moved over. "It was just me, the tree and God," she told my reporter.

I pause for one of my favorite jokes: What does a redneck divorce and a tornado have in common? Somebody's going to lose a trailer.

Those who think too long about things probably have reasons for this bad run of weather. But historians who I trust more will tell us that this is nothing new.

What is new is that more and more are building in areas where they shouldn't build. A landslide wipes out your snooty California home. You collect the insurance, bulldoze away the mudslide and build back. Now what happens this week? The mudslide wipes the house out again.

I am watching cars sliding into each other in the icy, snowy North and celebrating the fact that I don't have to fight those elements. It is interesting to watch if you are not in it. It's like people slipping on a banana peel. It is funny if you aren't the one slipping.

Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor for the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or at bpaslay@news-daily.com .