different stripes each featuring different weather

Terry from Derry: Strange Weather Indeed


By Terry Boyle

Life these days is full of surprises, though some of them shouldn’t be such a surprise to us.  This year, the planet has endured the hottest summer on record.  No surprise there since scientists have been warning us for decades of what to expect, and, for some reason, we’ve been ignoring it. 

In this year, we’ve experienced the first wave of troubling weather and witnessed the devastation it can bring. Maui, a relative paradise, is devastated by wildfire, and the city of Lahaina is destroyed.  The loss of life by these consuming flames is still unknown.  

Reports of wildfires in Europe have also contributed to our transition into a new epoch of strange weather patterns. The world we used to know, no longer exists. It’s beginning to crumble beneath us, despite what the naysayers think, since they are as smart as those who believe in a flat earth.

Living, as I do, in a desert, I expect the summer to be as hot as hell. The temps are usually over 100 degrees most days. What I didn’t expect to see in the desert though was a Hurricane.  

Hilary moved through the Coachella Valley in a way no one expected. Leading up to the landfall of Hilary, one of our neighbours had advised us to sandbag our home. The idea of sandbagging was foreign to me. 

a flooded road
Floaded road via Canva

Flooding the Desert

It was August, hot as hell, and here we were preparing for an unusual amount of rain.  While the neighbour’s words sounded apocalyptic, my other half was being the devil’s advocate and downplaying the warnings. To stay on the side of safety, we drove with the neighbour to the local fire station to get our bags, and then onto the sandpit to fill said bags.

What I remember of that day is that it was so incredibly hot. I was just over five weeks out of a total knee replacement surgery, and already I’m in the middle of a sandpit digging out sand. The whole thing seemed incredibly surreal.

For some silly reason, it made me think of Noah building an ark and how ridiculous it must have seemed to everyone around. I’m sure it looked equally ridiculous to see a crowd of people huddled around a sandpit while the sun shone, and the temperature was over 100 degrees. 

After digging and filling our sandbags, we went home to wait for the alarms to start.  The blue sky gradually began to fill with ominous clouds. 

When the rains came, I was struck by awe and wonder at how fast and furious the rain came down. There was no letting up on the downpour.

We kept a watch for possible flooding, but we were among the lucky ones who didn’t need to use the sandbags. Our neighbour had some trouble with her atrium, but other than that, this area of Cathedral City was relatively unaffected.

However, when we watched the news, we saw that our area as a whole was one of the worst-hit places. Roads were flooded, some of them costing a fortune to repair. Houses were flooded. Mud and water made the main highway impassable.

After the rain, the wind came up and trees were level to the ground. This was the first hurricane of its sort in over 80 years and I’m sure we’ll see even more strange weather to come.

Word of the hurricane’s devastation spread quickly. I had friends and family call or write to see if everything was alright with us. What struck me was that if we were to simply think about our neighbourhood, the impact was minimal, but moving a little further out, the real effects were plain to see.

climate change protesters with different signs
Climate protesters via Canva

Climate Change

In some ways, it’s a parable for how we see the effects of climate change. We might live in a space that remains relatively free from any serious effects, at least for the moment, and therefore don’t see the larger picture. Just beyond the margins of our narrow worldview lies a greater reality, a true picture of what is in store for all of us. 

The paradise of Maui is struggling to recover. Its main industry, tourism, is severely damaged and it will take years for this small island to recover. Who knows if it can ever recover?  Next year, what will our summer bring?

Remember how as kids we used to look forward to summertime?  Summer was always equated with fun. Now, as the climate patterns of the world change, we have no idea what each summer will hold. The exotic places we once thought of as great travel destinations might well become subject to extreme weather.

There’s no knowing what we have unleashed in our refusal to cut back on fossil emissions. I wish that I could say that we still have time, but we ignored that warning some time ago, thinking that had more time than was predicted. If we thought the scientists were merely scaremongering us into change, we are sadly wrong.  Time is not on our side.

We need to pressure those in power to wake up and act. It’s not enough to believe that politicians will act to correct the wrongs we’ve done to the planet.

Politicians, if left to their own devices, will follow their own agenda. They will only listen to the electorate if they feel their position is at risk. We need to remind them of what we want and that can only happen by voting for the right people.

If a candidate misrepresents the subject of climate change as leftist, or liberal, they should be forced to spend some time in Maui, Greece, or Portugal. They should spend some time in Africa during a time of drought. 

By voting in people who make climate change an important issue, we have people who see the whole picture and not their own neighbourhood. We want to have people in power who have our best interests as a global community and not those whose narrow response ignores the world around them.

Find this column and others from the October 2023 issue here!

Terry Boyle

Terry Boyle

*Terry is a retired professor now living in Southern California. Terry is originally from Derry, Northern Ireland, and in 2004 he took up a position at Loyola University, Chicago where he taught courses on Irish and British literature. Apart from teaching, Terry has had a number of plays produced and has recently been included in The Best New British and Irish Poets 2019 - 2021 (published by The Black Spring Press). He can be reached at: [email protected]

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