Voices from the Future | Greg Kochanowski
The Event: On November 8, 2018, a small fire started in the Santa Susana Mountains’ Woolsey Canyon, near Simi Valley California. But then the Santa Ana winds gusted, and the next day, the fire had crossed the Ventura Highway and was heading south toward Malibu. By the time it was done raging, the Woolsey Fire would burn 96,949 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, along with 1,643 structures. Nearly 300,000 people were evacuated, and for two weeks, they were told not to return to their homes. If their homes remained.
Greg Kochanowski knew that wildfires posed a serious danger to his Los Angeles community. He had lived in the L.A. area for over two decades, worked as an architect and taught about landscape design sustainability. But did he believe that he would ever face them?
Voices From the Future | Sandee Babcock
Dark Clouds Over Paradise
The Event: In November 2018, the Camp Fire erupted in Butte County, California. The deadliest fire in the state’s history began as a brush fire, fueled by hot and dry breezes in extremely dry weather conditions. Ultimately, 85 people lost their lives, and total of 18,804 structures — homes, barns, churches, schools and a hospital — were destroyed.
Wildfires are nothing new to the residents of the tightly knit community of Paradise, California. Nestled in the foothills and canyons of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the town has long been prone to small seasonal brush and forest fires.
Voices from the Future | Max Broderick
The Event: On May 20, 2013, a category EF-5 tornado — the highest rating on the Fujita scale —ravaged Moore, Oklahoma, with 210-mile-per-hour winds. Twenty-four people died, including seven children, who perished under a collapsed school wall. Twelve hundred homes, schools, businesses and a hospital were damaged or destroyed, amounting to $2 billion dollars in property loss in the area, which lies outside of Oklahoma City.
For Max Broderick, the weather forecast in Moore didn’t look good that day. A large, potentially violent tornado was on its way to his hometown.
Voices from the Future | Larry Baimbridge
Swallowed by Water
The Event: In 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas, with sustained 130 mph winds, torrential rains and flooding. Thirty percent of Harris County, which has a population of 2.3 million people, was flooded. Eighty-two people lost their lives.
Police captain Larry Baimbridge and his wife, police officer Wendy Baimbridge, were at work when Hurricane Harvey hit on August 27. “I knew our house was flooding and our two dogs were home,” he says. “Luckily, our neighbors rescued the dogs that had stayed on the bed, when the water started to come inside. We were on a 24-hour shift and couldn’t leave.”
Voices from the Future | Henry Red Cloud
The 100-Year Flood
The Event: In March 2019, overflowing creeks and raging riverbeds flooded the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Caused by a sudden, unusual blizzard that created snow piles as much as 5 feet high. Two days later, that snow melted, causing a 100-year flood. The water destroyed structures, homes, roadways and bridges, and the flooding stranded thousands of the reservation’s 20,000 residents in their homes and shelters for two weeks. Two lives were lost.
In early March, Lakota Sioux tribe elder Henry Red Cloud and his family returned home to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation after five days in an emergency shelter. He was sure the annual flooding season had passed — after all, the muddy waters had risen only knee high — and that it would be safe to return to his compound, which is comprised of five houses occupied by his and his children’s families. But this time, Red Cloud was wrong.
Voices from the Future | Ronnie Scott
The Thousand-Year Flood
The Event: The 2016 West Virginia flood— considered a 1,000-year natural event with a 0.1 percent probability of happening in any given year — ravaged Greenbrier Valley residents on June 23. Torrential rain and thunder, rising 10 to 12 inches in 12 hours, turned quiet creeks into flash floods that ran down steep hills, alleyways and streets washing away roads, houses and entire neighborhoods. Twenty- three people lost their lives, including a 14-year-old girl.
Ronnie Scott returned home from high a school basketball game in White Sulphur Springs, part of Greenbrier Valley, to the house he built by hand for his family.
Voices from the Future | Carol Duncan
The Australian Bushfires
The Event: Close to 200 bushfires ignited in Australia in early October 2019. They torched nearly 15 million acres of land and destroyed more than 2,000 homes in the Victoria and New South Wales provinces along the country’s eastern seaboard. A total of 24 people lost their lives, and an estimated one billion wild animals perished in the flames.
Carol Duncan wasn’t sure if her father would survive. She was in Newcastle, New South Wales, and her 83-year-old father, John Duncan, lived about six hours north, in the small village of Rappville. Continue reading
Voices from the Future | Anjali Ponni Rajkumar
The Chennai Floods
The Event: In 2015, the winter monsoon season brought torrential rains to Chennai, in southern India. Unprecedented floods followed, and some parts of the city of 6 million residents experienced floodwaters as high as 8 feet. About 130,000 people were evacuated to relief shelters, 347 people died, and 3,889 cattle perished in the floodwaters.
The government warning came too late for many Chennai residents. The torrential monsoon rains — the heaviest recorded in more than a century — had overwhelmed the dam. Photographer and artist Anjali Ponni Rajkumar was at home with her family in the affluent Purusawalkam neighborhood when the rains came, but she left immediately to help other residents. Continue reading
Voices from the Future | Reija Nykvist
The Event: In early March 2019, a tropical disturbance was building over the Indian Ocean, close to the southeast coast of Africa. As it traveled, the mild storm grew, and by March 5, it reached its full power as a tropical depression with winds as high as 35 miles per hour. The storm moved inland, pummeling Malawi and producing heavy rains that spawned deadly floods in the southern part of the country. The rains and rapidly rising floodwaters affected more than 45,312 Malawian households, and 226,560 people were displaced, according to the spokesperson for Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management. The country lost 28 people, and 124 people were injured.
“The heavy rains started on Monday,” Reija Nykvist explains. Her family lives in a suburb about 4.5 miles outside Malawi’s second biggest city, Blantyre. The heavy rain was increasing as the days went on, but she thought that was normal. “But there was no mentioning in the news that something unusual was going on.” Continue reading
Voices from the Future | Ntombi Makuyana
A Devastating Storm
The Event: Tropical storm Idai struck the southeastern Chimanimani and Chipinge districts of Zimbabwe on March 14, 2019. The torrential rains caused massive floods, washed away roads and bridges, submerged around 20,000 houses and completely destroyed 700 homes. An estimated 268 people died, and another 200 people were swept away by floods to neighboring Mozambique and into the Indian Ocean. Those flood victims still haven’t been found.
Ntombi Makuyana, a graduate student at Arizona State University, lives 9,686 miles away from her African grandparents. But she has kept in touch with them and her extended family. Recently, Makuyana’s sense of disconnection grew when her grandparents faced the worst — their house was destroyed and washed away by muddy floodwaters in the small village of Chimanimani, at the southeastern edge of Zimbabwe. Continue reading