THE PSYCHOLOGY OF STORMS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The news has been inundated recently with reports of Hurricane Florence, which is bashing North and South Carolina. I’ve always wondered why so many people refuse to evacuate when the government tells them to. And why people don’t adequately prepare even when they’re told exactly what to expect.

Hurricane Florence

I read an interesting article on this subject by Robert J. Meyer in the Washington Post on September 12, 2018. He addressed the psychological issues at play when people face an impending natural disaster. The article is called “Why do people stay put during hurricanes? Here’s what psychology says.”

Despite endless warnings and specific information and suggestions about what to do to stay safe, lack of preparedness is responsible for most of the property damage and loss of life in major storms. “…lack of preparedness…is caused by cognitive biases that lead people to underplay warnings and make poor decisions, even when they have the information they need.”

people shopping to prepare for hurricane

Failure to evacuate resulted in 40 drowning deaths in Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Surveys showed that only 20% of residents had a preparedness plan. And that storm was hyped up the wazoo! It hit my area so I know! We even took our boat out of the water and planted it in the parking lot of the marina to minimize the likelihood of costly damage.

What goes wrong in these situations? Here are some of the cognitive biases that lead us astray in natural disasters.

Excessive optimism is the first cognitive bias that kicks in. People understand that many residents of their area will be affected. They just don’t believe that THEY will be negatively affected. Others rationalize that they survived other storms without preparation so why not this one?

Hurricane Florence in North Carolina

Herd thinking also comes into play. If neighbors aren’t preparing then there’s no social pressure to do more than the basics.

Myopia is another key psychological factor in lack of adequate preparedness. People are short-sighted when it comes to spending money or expending energy on preëmptive actions. They focus on the immediate cost and discomfort, not the more abstract future benefit. So they cheap out on preparedness measures and take the easy way out.

Amnesia also colors people’s anticipation of a natural disaster. People tend to remember the facts of a past storm, but forget how awful it felt to live through it. Memories of emotions fade faster than memories of facts. So reminding people how bad it was the last time seems to have limited effect.

Sound decision-making is impaired by inertia and simplification. People who are unsure what to do, often do nothing. That’s the principle of “inertia at work.” Simplification results in people doing just a few of the many things necessary to be adequately prepared. The thinking goes, “I’ve done three out of twelve things to be safe so I should be okay.” In Hurricane Sandy, 90% of residents bought supplies – but only enough for ONE DAY without power. Woefully inadequate and unrealistic! We were without power for six days, and we were lucky!

The article concludes that the key to better preparedness in the future is accepting the reality of these destructive cognitive biases. We can’t change them so we have to work around them. We have to design preparedness plans that accept them and anticipate them. For example, give people ORDERED lists that say “If you’re only going to do three things, these are the three things you should do.”

Science has increased our ability to predict hurricanes and other natural disasters. But science can’t reduce the human and property damage done by these weather events.

Psychology is the key to helping people make better decisions when they are faced with nature’s destructiveness.

THE FINEST HOUR – Marilyn Armstrong

I’m not talking about when Churchill saved England from the Nazi invaders and got their army out of Dunkirk. It’s three o’clock in the afternoon, the finest hour for retired people to have an appointment. The next almost as fine hour is two o’clock.

Why? Because even if you got up late, there’s enough time for coffee, a shower, a check of your e-mail, a pat on the heads of the dogs. It’s before rush hour. Or, as we put it, traffic will probably not be stuck in the middle of Milford.

It isn’t a huge town, but there’s only one road running through. Route 16, which is the only road from where we live and at least three other towns are located, to anywhere. There literally is no other road.

Route 16 is not exactly a road, either. Sixteen is a route. This means it is made up of a bunch of different roads each of which has its own name but are part of the same route.

Exactly what is it a route to? First, it was a horse and carriage route on which they hauled produce, lumber, whatever. Then it was a mail route from out here all the way through Boston out into Lynn and points east. Mostly, for us, it’s the only way to get there from here.

To no one’s surprise, everything you need is either on Route 16 or just off Route 16 on a small side road. Regardless, you have to drive the same good old route 16 to get there.

Upwards toward Route 98

It’s a middle-sized town with one road (Main Street, in town) in each direction. There is parking on both sides of the road. Biggest hospital in the area. Doctors offices. Veterinary hospitals. Restaurants. Medical buildings. Grocery stores and the occasion mini-mall.

Footsteps — mine — from house to road

Everything is on that route. I get tired thinking about it, especially today when we are having torrential rains and our driveway looks more like what it used to be — a seasonal stream.

Which was paved to become our driveway and the driveway of everyone on the south side (downslope) of Route 98.

A repaved driveway would be a really good thing!

It was one of the more brilliant moves by the idiot who built this house. I am told they actually ran him out-of-town eventually, but before that, he built a lot of houses in really awkward, inconvenient locations.

Like ours.

As you can imagine, it took us a while to add enough French drains, sumps, pumps, et al to keep our basements from filling up with water every time we had heavy weather, snow melt-off, or both.

For me, then, getting a 3 pm appointment in Upton — on the other side of Milford, but slightly north — is a winner. The receptionist knew it, too. She said “I think I have the perfect appointment for you. How about 3 pm on Friday, the 31st?”

“The WINNER!” I said with enthusiasm. It just doesn’t get better than that. Even on a snow day, it’s perfect because by that time, unless we’ve had a major blizzard, they have finally cleared the roads. Even ours.

Three pm. Forget the blue hour. Think three o’clock. It the senior circle’s finest time to do absolutely everything.

CHASING CARROTS … by Sue Vincent

It has been hot in England recently… hotter than usual, even for summer. There has been no rain in my part of the country for weeks now and the ground is parched and cracked. Harvests are being brought in early, fields are already shorn and neatly dotted with straw-bales, and the human population has been slowly wilting in the scorching, heavy air. So, it was with some eagerness that we awaited the promised rain and thunderstorms.

They didn’t arrive… The forecasters shifted their predictions to the next day, then the next… and all we had seen was a spot or two of moisture accompanied by a distant, lazy rumble of thunder. When the rain finally arrived last night, it was no more than the briefest of light showers. The dog and I, nevertheless, headed outside to enjoy the fall of water, watching its instant evaporation on the superheated concrete of the paving, but glad of the momentary respite.

Although the weather is a national preoccupation in England, we generally don’t suffer too badly from its vagaries. Ours is a temperate climate. Summers are generally warm, winters cold but not glacial… but whatever the weather is doing, we will soon be complaining about it. On the odd occasion, we do get a severe winter… by English standards… or an unusually hot summer. We are prepared for neither, and both can bring the country to its knees at temperatures other nations would consider mild. We don’t cope well with what we consider extremes of anything… be that weather or behaviour…

There is a ‘normal’ for everyone… parameters within which we are comfortable because they are familiar. They do not have to be good, or what we would choose … they are just our accustomed and accepted standards of normality. Step beyond their boundaries and, depending upon your temperament, you are in a zone of unease, or one of excitement. Such boundaries shift and change with time and circumstance… and the adaptability that is one of humanity’s greatest assets can also be its greatest handicap, as we learn to accept a new ‘normal’ very quickly and alter the parameters to suit the moment.

I was talking to my son about this as we headed out to the local farm shop on Saturday. Because of the changes in his life and capabilities caused by the brain injury, he has been redefining his ‘normal’ on a regular basis. He tends to forget where he has come from, and what he has endured and achieved to get here, and the latest version of ‘normality’ takes a great deal of the journey for granted.

We took the country lanes back to my home after we had done the shopping, stopping by a field gate so he could get out, lean on the gate, and watch the fast-forming clouds race in. It is a simple thing, but I remembered the first time he was able to do that a few years ago… and the wonder we both felt at that achievement.

This time I watched as he lost himself in the moment, seeing emotions on his face shift from bright to dark and back again, like the cloud-shadows on the land. The wind was getting stronger as dark clouds raced in. The little bit of rain had enhanced all the colours, turning the dry grasses to gold and illuminating the green of the hedgerows, where blackberries glistened amongst the wildflowers. The changing weather and the experience of beauty lifted him out of his normality and allowed him to see what he might otherwise not have noticed.

Continue reading at The Silent Eye

EXPECTATIONS AND THE LACK THEREOF – Marilyn Armstrong

Everything is weird.

The weather is weird. The government is even weirder. Maybe our government is the weirdest of all. Between one thing and another, I feel like I’m living on a different planet. I have no idea what to expect — in the most literal sense. If rain is predicted, I don’t know if it will actually rain. It might be cloudy and then again, the sun might shine. If they tell me it’s going to cool down, it might be swelteringly hot.

Or not.

Yeah, whatever. At least we got the hell out of 2018. – The New Yorker

Maybe I am living on a different planet. Maybe the reason I don’t know what to expect in these surreal circumstances is that I’m still expecting stuff.  I expect the news to be true and weather maps to actually show real weather. It’s as if the weather is lying too.

The president lies. He says the media lies. I know the media is not lying, but apparently, the climate is lying.

How can the weather lie?

Is that what climate change is about? That we have no idea what to expect and the maps don’t mean what they seem to mean. It’s all a jumble.

Nothing means what it should mean and I think my next move is to stop expecting. Anything. Give up all expectations. Whatever happens, happens.

That’s downright zen of me, isn’t it?

THINK IT’S GONNA RAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

#RDP 47: CLOUDS

I wasn’t going to post again … but I looked outside and it’s as dark as night. I guess we are getting some rain today. Finally. It’s about time!

As as the thunder rolled, the rain started pouring down.
Photo: Garry Armstrong, taken as the weather began to close in.

And now, it’s raining. Hard. It’s still very dark outside. Maybe we’ll get that cooler air they’ve been promising.

2018 BOATING SEASON BEGINS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

2018 BOATING SEASON BEGINS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

We got our boat in the water right on time this year, in early May. But the weather wasn’t acting like spring. It was rainy and cold a lot. Tom didn’t care. He’d go sit on the boat in the rain. He says, “It’s a boat. It’s waterproof!” That’s not for me. I stayed home while Tom went and sat on the boat in the lousy weather.

Now it’s feeling like summer and I’m getting into the rhythm of boating. Some days we just go to the marina for a few hours, often without the dogs. But when there are several nice days back to back, we pack up the dogs and move to the boat. It’s like going to a floating beach house.

Living on the boat feels like a vacation. We’re only a half hour away from home. So in some ways, it makes no sense that we feel like it’s such a big and positive change from our everyday life.

But there’s something cozy and fun about living in a mini house. The small kitchen and bathroom are challenges – but fun challenges. Cooking on the small three burner stove often has to be done in installments because I can’t fit three pots on the stove at once. I can’t boil pasta, make sauce and cook meatballs at the same time as I do at home.

Creative juggling gets the job done – eventually.

We grill a lot at home. But we aren’t allowed to use a grill on our boats at the marina. Instead, there’s a communal grill for each dock. You often have to wait your turn to get to it, so we don’t rely on grilling too much on the boat. We tend to order out or go out to eat more. It’s part of the sense of being on vacation when you don’t have to cook as much as you do at home.

Since we are all living in a smaller space on the boat, we end up spending more time together with the dogs than at home. At home, the dogs spend a lot of time outside in good weather. And they love to go from room to room, sofa to sofa. On the boat, there’s only one sofa for them to crash on. And that’s where I spend most of my time.

While we do similar things on the water that we do at home, such as reading and writing, it feels different on the water. Among other things, the dock is a more social environment than in our rather isolated house in the woods. When boats go out or come in, everyone rushes to help. It’s dock etiquette. There is a very strong current in the river at the marina, so getting in and out of our slips can be a tricky affair.

After helping a boat in or out, the people on the dock hang out and chat. The same thing happens when we walk the dogs. We end up chatting with people on their boats as we traverse the dock to get the dogs to the parking lot and the dog walking area.

Then there are the invitations for drinks and the time spent relaxing on each others’ boats. Most things are impromptu, spur of the moment affairs. You never know who will be on their boats when you’re there.

We recently had a wake-up call, reminding us that boat travel can be dangerous. Our good friend took her boat out in bad seas. She got banged around so much, her swim platform literally broke in half and her radar unit broke away from its hinges. If the swim platform had come off ITS hinges, the boat would have started to take on water and sink in the middle of Long Island Sound!

She was lucky and dodged a major bullet!

imagine a swim platform, like this one, split in half, lengthwise

My friend was very shaken, as were we. When you are alone out on the water, you are dependent on weather and water conditions. And there can be lots of unpleasant surprises. The key to boating safety is knowing when to leave the dock and when to stay put. The go or no-go decision is the most important thing a Captain does.

But no matter how careful and conservative you are, you can get caught in unexpected and dicey conditions. It’s happened to us but we never suffered as much damage to our boat as our friend did. We have had some very rough and scary trips. We’ve reached our destination with things flung all over the boat – furniture, contents of drawers, anything not tied down! I’ve had to crawl along the floor to keep a chair from heading off the boat when our gate broke loose!

Fortunately, I’m very happy on the dock! I don’t need to go somewhere in my beach house in order to enjoy it. I like hanging out at the marina and taking short day trips. Our friends and family are happy with this routine as well. So this is what we do most of the time. It’s not what all boaters do, but it’s fine for us.

STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND – Marilyn Armstrong

Stranger in my own strange land

If you think this is going to be political, it’s not. It is me and me, today. There are days when my body doesn’t fit me. This is one of those days.

How can that be? A doctor long ago told me I will never die.

“Why not?” I asked.

“You have so many chronic ailments, they will keep you alive.”

I thanked him for that. It’s one of the days when no part of me fits any other part. It’s like my physical me is just a bunch of mismatched old parts, clanking around an aging pickup truck.

AND the television people are coming while it looks a bit like rain may fall. I need to get through the day alive. Lucky that I was functional yesterday.

This day would have been a real humdinger if I felt then as I feel now. Yoicks.

Gibbs

I actually have not one but TWO copies of “Stranger in a Strange Land” in this house. An old hard-cover copy and I have it as an audiobook. When it was written, it sounded completely outlandish. I’m not sure how it’ll sound these days, but I think maybe I’ll reread it.

Waiting is.