Don’t trifle with Mother Nature
Common GroundBill KightGlenwood Springs, CO ColoradoWhen I was a kid my family traveled from eastern New Mexico to central Oklahoma every summer. One trip I will never forget.We were a few miles west of Brownsfield, Texas, when a huge ugly black storm cloud east of us spawned a funnel-shaped creature with a life of its own.Pulling off the highway we became witnesses of the fury of a full-fledged tornado. The swirling spicket was traveling faster than a person could run. It seemed to dance along the ground as the massive middle swayed back and forth.Three farmhouses with outbuildings and the attendant farm equipment were in the direct path of the black monster. Yet the twister literally wove its way between the buildings, sparing their owners the loss of their livelihood.It was such a powerful experience that it became a movie in my mind that when replayed is as vivid as the day it happened.We pulled back on the highway and were soon in the town of Brownsfield. We saw people crash their cars trying to flee the path of what they thought was certain destruction.They were spared Nature’s fury yet fell prey to their own folly.These memories were brought back to mind when the tornado struck Windsor a few days ago. A friend of the family, who graduated from UNC this May, lived to tell us about her experience.She works for a bank and with no time to spare took refuge in the vault along with fellow workers, kids and their teachers from a day-care center across the street.Another miracle or mere luck? You decide. Either way, anytime you escape one of Mother Nature’s natural occurrences and live to tell about it you’re one fortunate human being.Hundreds of thousands of people have perished recently in far-away cyclones and earthquakes, unable to get out of harm’s way.Every spring Mother Nature has her way in our mountains. The dangers may not seem so spectacular or destructive but they can be just as disastrous for those who are unprepared.Rushing mountain streams swollen with cold water from melting snow can be more than hazardous to cross, they can be deadly.Sturdy hiking bridges may be washed out. Instead of turning back, people try crossing wet and slippery trees that have fallen across streams. Or they wade out into the rushing water fighting the current and hoping to win.Maybe it’s the adrenaline rush but some hikers forget to loosen either the chest strap or waistband and when they slip or fall the weight of their pack keeps them from escaping.Other outdoor hazards this time of year include either slick snowfields across trails or muddy trails where you can easily lose your footing.Did I mention having proper gear when the weather unexpectedly turns wickedly wet and cold?Have fun this Memorial Day but remember that the mountains have their own deadly hazards, and Mother Nature will have her way. Are you prepared?With more than 30 years experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories with readers every other week.
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