You've probably all heard about the Great Storm we had in the Netherlands this last Thursday. The 18th January 2018 will go down in history as the 7th worst storm in Holland since records began in 1901 and maybe even the worst so far this century.
Here's a video of what it was doing in Zeeland not far from the crumbly cottage:
What is interesting, though, is that according to weather experts, we've generally had quite a peaceful time since the nineteen seventies and eighties. Apparently, bad storms were more frequent back then, and the last really serious one countrywide was eleven years ago. Oddly, however, it's seemed to me that we've had an increasing number of serious weather events in the last few years, but now I wonder if that's just an illusion created by the growth of our communications network; in other words, the internet.
Perhaps we're all inclined to think things are much worse because we see so much more; it's all over social media like a rash. The point is, I didn't really know how bad our storm on Thursday was until I saw all the footage on Twitter and on the news sites when I got home. As far as I was concerned at the time, the worst thing about it was the fact all the trains stopped running due to trees falling on the line. It was simply inconvenient because I had to take a very round about way back from work.
I will admit I got blown sideways by the wind when I was walking through the campus and nearly ended up in a pond (not quite as bad as in the video below, but you get the idea). The thing is, it's always bad at the university; the buildings tend to form wind tunnels, so even then, I wasn't really conscious we were having a record breaking day. But once I saw all the images, and all the damage it had caused, I was mighty impressed. Suddenly, it was something to be shocked about.
The best thing about the social media coverage was the way people helped each other get home. On Twitter there was a brilliant initiative to offer stranded train travellers lifts by connecting through the hashtag #stormpoolen, a really heartwarming and useful way of using our modern technology.
Here's another video of news footage about the storm:
Of course, in the last year, there have been some of the worst hurricanes ever recorded, and weather wise in general, the last twelve months have been horrendous, haven't they? But I can't help thinking that without all the excitement caused by instant messaging, instant videos and instant images, most of us wouldn't be half as awe-struck by these extreme weather events unless we were personally affected by them. Or would we?
I was in London during the Great Storm of 1987. Now that was impressive, it really was, and even without social media. I remember the wind positively screaming round the flats in Woodford Green where I was staying with my small daughters. I also remember going into my eldest's bedroom and finding her window ripped open and banging against the outside wall while the wind howled through her room like the proverbial banshee. I was horrified and rushed to haul the window back in place, which was no mean feat, I can tell you. After I locked it, I checked on my child. She hadn't even woken up, bless her. The next day, though, we had to climb over numerous trees that had come down in the streets around Woodford. There was debris everywhere and everything was in chaos; it was almost apocalyptic.
Since I've lived on the Vereeniging too, we've had a few other memorable storms that even resulted in fallen trees across my bows, but they remain in my memory because they actually affected me. Had they not done so, I probably wouldn't have noticed given that these events were before the age of Facebook and Twitter. I may or may not have read about them in the paper (I didn't have TV even then) but I doubt if they'd have made all that much of an impact on me – not the way the trees did!
So what do you think? Are we more alarmed, impressed and worried because we see and hear so much more? I'd be interested to know what you think!