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Being scared

Lessons from Everyday Life by Theodore Lewis

Bridgman, MI--This Mawar Typhoon that just passed through Guam (more than 3,000 miles west of Hawaii) had me on pins and needles. I have several friends there and the projections were for either a strong category 4 or category 5 storm when it was expected to hit Guam head-on.

Before a hurricane or typhoon makes landfall, there is typically a calm before the storm and with the weather tracking skills available, there is usually plenty of time to prepare.

There's also more than enough time to worry, fret, and to be downright scared.

During my life, I've had several times when I was really scared. Some of these experiences I've shared with my readers. There was the time I escaped death when I rolled my first car, a Ford Maverick (see the Pacific Island Times - The Freudian Gilt). Then there was the time I escaped an almost plane crash landing in Hong Kong (see the Pacific Island Times - Hong Kong Heart Attack).

I can say from experience that a car crash and a heart-stopping aborted jet landing, while scary, don't give you a lot of time to speculate and think about the danger you are in. These events just happen quickly and there is no time to analyze what is happening, and therefore no time to worry.

Part of the reason for worrying about the safety of my friends on Guam with an approaching Mawar was that I had experienced a Typhoon there when I was working at the Guam SDA Clinic and knew firsthand the psychological fright that can occur with being in the pathway of an impending Typhoon. The island is about 30 miles long and about 14 miles wide and is way out there in the south Pacific. If you're on the island when a storm hits, you're stuck with just 225 square miles of land, and there is no evacuation route to escape the storm. Because of that, the island has learned to build strong reinforced concrete buildings to withstand 150-200 mph winds.

My wife Sharon and I were there on the 7th floor of a housing unit on Agana Beach with a gorgeous view of the ocean and western horizon, when a warning developed of an approaching Typhoon. Typhoon warnings are not uncommon on the island paradise of Guam, although direct hits from Caragory 4 or 5 storms are rare. My landlord had given instructions on how to hook up the metal Typhoon storm shutters over the bedroom window and balcony sliding glass door.

As we prepared for the approaching storm, we battened down the hatches and stocked up on food and water. We then hunkered down for the storm. The wait, however, was nerve-wracking.

As Sharon had never lived anywhere outside of Maine she was really getting frightened. I used the reassuring statements of friends and provided my own logic that we were high enough to not have to worry about storm surges (as if that was all there was to worry about).

Needing to calm Sharon's concerns helped me keep my own fears from soaring. But, when it came right down to it - I was really scared!

Fortunately, the island didn't catch the brunt of that storm, but there were sustained 95 mph winds (with gusts over 100mph) and torrential rains.

Our shutters kept much of the driving rain out. Yet, the strong winds forced enough rain in through cracks that I had to make constant trips to the sink sopping up the water on the floor with towels and rags. At least the need to keep active sopping up water kept me from the contemplation of what an increase in the intensity of the storm could really do.

Even though there were only occasional gusts over 100mph, the howling and sounds from this storm in our apartment were frightening and I still remember them vividly.

So, as I thought about what my friends on Guam were going to experience with the dangerous Mawar approaching, with 140 mph winds, I remembered my fears with excruciating detail.

On Tuesday evening, May 23, 2023, Eastern Standard Time, I checked the latest posts from Guam and the Weather Channel. Guam is 14 hours ahead of Michigan (on the other side of the international date line), so at 10 PM Tuesday in MI, it was already 12 noon on Wed. Guam time. The approaching Mawar was only 40 miles from Guam with the eye's path headed for the middle of the island.

From reading Facebook posts, everyone on Guam was being very brave, and those stateside (like myself) with friends there were offering best wishes, prayers and messages to "stay safe". Telling someone to "stay safe" when they are stuck on an island with a 140 mph Super Typhoon ready to pounce on them and you are half a world away,

feels disingenuous. However, saying nothing to your friends is insensitive. So I did the best I could to offer my support and prayers, as shallow as they were, 9,000 miles from harm's way.

Before retiring, in my prayer that night (albeit with great anxiety), I, along with thousands of others, asked God to spare friends and all the good people of Guam from harm with the apparent looming disaster.

After awaking Wed. morning May 24 in Michigan, I checked email, Facebook, and the Weather Channel. Although winds and torrential rains were still hammering the island, the bulk of the storm had passed Guam and was headed on a pathway toward the Philippines.

Incredibly the eye of the storm, just before barreling into the middle of Guam, took a sharp right turn, and although it clipped the northernmost tip of the island, the most destructive portion of the storm evaded Guam.

The island suffered extensive damage, with trees bending in the wind like toothpicks, autos being flipped, and many building exteriors being torn off. However, there were no fatalities.

In our morning devotional reading for Thursday, May 25, from Benda Walsh's moments with God the text was from 1 Peter 5:7. "Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you."

I said to myself, oh ye of little faith!






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