It’s hurricane season, and that means freakish weather even thousands of miles from the eye of a storm. Trace back the ripple effects of hurricanes, and you’ll find a lot more than just rainy days. Just a few degrees away from Katrina and Jimena are stories about humanity: displacement, re-invention, evolution, art, and even bureaucracy. Here is one trail of Web breadcrumbs that has billowed in with the storms.
The East Coast is just now seeing the sun after a spate of rains pushed in by Tropical Depression Danny, but another hurricane is bustling up behind it. Hurricane Jimena is motoring towards the continent with winds topping 135 mph and heading straight for Mexico’s Cabo San Lucas, ready to ruin the vacations of beach-goers and provide much needed rain to an area so parched that cattle are dying. But in Maine, locals are still mourning the death of a 7-year-old girl who was sucked out to sea after a wave from Hurricane Bill slammed into an ocean-viewing platform in Acadia National Park (seen below, via NYTimes.com).
Down south, residents of the Gulf are remembering their own tragedy: the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. As President Obama promises to speed up the wasteful, lagging efforts to rebuild (video below), stories of displaced residents are just now beginning to show the ripple effects that radiated through the country.
The Dallas Morning News tells one story of a New Orleans resident who fled to North Texas with 66,000 other refugees, and was so affected by the scale of loss that he began a soup van to help feed the area’s poor, serving Cajun chicken noodle to five or six hundred mouths a day. A story in the Miami Herald tracks the fate of over 1500 cats and dogs that were rescued from Katrina areas and adopted by families in neighboring states.
But the cities and towns that suffered mass evacuation are facing a census crisis in 2010. Area officials are lobbying Congress to pay extra attention to the way it catalogs people in the southeast, so that census-takers distinguish between residents of those states and refugees from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Should the hurricane-hit regions not register enough residents, they stand to lose parts of $300 billion in federal money that will be disbursed this year for roads, schools, and hospitals.
Chronicling the entire mess–from landfall to the diaspora of New Orleaneans, and their fates–is a graphic novel about Hurricane Katrina victims called Riders of the Storm. Every month, creator Josh Neufeld adds chapters to the book, updating the progress of its subjects.
But what is a hurricane, anyway? They’re created when a storm moves across the ocean sucking up hot air and pushing cool air out the top, eventually “breathing” its way up into a stronger and stronger vacuum. While category four hurricanes like Jimena can produce winds as fast as 200 mph, they’re nothing compared to hypercanes, prehistoric storm events the size of the continental US that were created by large volcanic eruptions or other catastrophic natural events. In fact, it’s said that the extinction of the dinosaurs might have been thanks in part to a spate of hypercanes set off by an asteroid’s impact with earth.
While hypercanes may have sealed the fate of prehistoric animals, researchers in Montreal may be bringing them back from oblivion. A Canadian paleontologist plans to engineer embryonic chickens to develop instead as dinosaurs, in the hopes that mankind will finally be able to get a look at a phenotype we’ve never seen.
Though the paleontologist says it will be a long time before his lab can actually hatch any prehistoric creatures, the resurrection of the dinosaur is enough to make any human being curious about his own prehistoric ancestors. According to evolutionary scientist Elaine Morgan, those primate ancestors lived not in the plains, as we once suspected, but in the water.
Should new climate change research prove correct, the several-degree rise in earth’s temperature over the next 100 years could displace hundreds of millions of the world’s residents because of flooding. Coastal cities like New York, Miami, and New Orleans will be under water–and no amount of water-borne ancestry or hurricane reconstruction will be able to save them.