Superstorm Sandy

By: Jim Virkler; ©2012

For many days we have been forewarned of a weather disaster of historic proportions. Hurricane Sandy, as usual, formed in warm tropical waters and merged with a rare confluence of meteorological factors to produce one of the great weather events of our time. It has affected millions of people in our hemisphere. My recollections of past weather disasters combined with knowledge I’ve gained from study and review of weather and climate issues during our recent series of posts make the present discussion relevant and timely.

All affected citizens will join together in coming months to cope with the long term effects of this superstorm. Some will exploit this disaster to make their points about its cause and effect within the current politically over-warmed topic of climate change. I must resist the temptation to board the agenda bandwagon to reinforce the points we have been making in these blog posts for the past months. Instead, we benefit from the instruction of scripture, personal past memories, and meteorological history to help put this catastrophe in an instructive perspective.

In the summer of 1955 I was preparing to enter Rutgers University in a few weeks. My father was marketing a crop of sweet corn in northern New Jersey as he had done for several years and would continue to do for more than 30 additional years. I recall more than once harvesting the sweet corn after monumental rainstorms. Such harvests were work-laden ventures even in ideal conditions. The rainstorms transformed the cornfields into a sea of mud, not to mention the inconvenience of picking the ears from fallen stalks. These are dimly recaptured memories of several hurricanes which swept up the eastern coastline from 1954 to 1960.

Several years later my father offered the softball field he had constructed on his farm as a venue for the outdoor tent campaigns of the Morris County Evangelical Ministers Association, a gospel outreach popular in that era. One afternoon my father was forced to call a number of his dear friends to help him shore up the large tent which had been erected and was in imminent danger of being blown away during one of the hurricanes. The call for assistance was successfully answered by a cadre of neighbors.

Far more tragic than these events was the August 18, 1955 loss of forty-six campers at Camp David near Stroudsburg, PA during the passage of Hurricane Diane. The camp was adjacent to Pine Brook Bible Conference. Several of the surviving campers were saved by hiking over to the nearby conference pavilion for a service early in the storm. The remaining souls perished and were swept away as rapidly rising flood waters engulfed the cabin where they took refuge. I recall a dear friend telling me years later that she personally knew some of those campers and their families.

At the height of Hurricane Sandy’s fury I watched a national news broadcaster interview Joe Bastardi, a weather expert. He spoke of a well-known fact among those who research historic weather events. Between 1954 and 1960, ten major hurricanes ran up the eastern seaboard, six of them in 1954 and 1955, including the Pocono camp tragedy. Weatherman Bastardi points out that during the 1930s there were also several significant hurricanes. In the next few years we are entering perilous times again, his predictions warn. The Atlantic Ocean is now in a warm stage, while the Pacific is cold. It’s the 1950s and 1960s all over again, and we had best get used to it. Then we will return to more peaceful conditions.

Does our present global warming account for prevailing bad weather? On the other hand, may it account for our earth-sustaining good weather? According to many commentators who may or may not be weather and climate experts, some comment on issues of weather primarily when it suits them, enabling them to advance their agenda. But according to the record, most would acknowledge that CO2 has been on a slow but steady rise since the Industrial Revolution but still comprises only 1/2500 of our atmospheric concentration. It is in the area of assignment of cause and effect where concerned citizens disagree. Global warming is not responsible for Sandy.

To some members of our population, the first part of James 3:5 may be of more significance than the last phrase with respect to the truth of this verse: “Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindles.” Those who focus on the “little fire” may have difficulty crediting the Hurricane Sandy superstorm to a very small increase in CO2 in the face of natural oscillations of ocean temperatures and dozens of other natural factors which vary over decades, centuries, and millennia. The concentration of CO2 is increasing, but there is little rise in earth temperatures. Many other factors combine to produce periodic bad weather events.

We pray for the families of those fatally injured or suffering loss from Sandy’s horrific wrath. We must not be unaware of the hundreds of historic episodes of very good and very bad weather over the millennia before and since man arrived on this planet. Through all of these events, the Creator has provided bountifully for man’s benefit, even faced with contrasting tragedies and triumphs of earth’s climate and life systems described in the majestic Book of Job. Notwithstanding each of these events we are called upon to remain thankful: “No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thes. 5:18 NLT)

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