Watch the sky… and the cat.

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Ariel Fana’afi Ioane

Centuries ago, before satellites and meteorological departments, some people predicted the weather by looking at the sky. 

Everyone knows this one:

“Red skies at night, sailor’s delight

Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning”

Rhymes about animal behavior were common and used to indicate what might happen in the span of 24 hours. Some examples are:

Before a rainstorm, cats will clean and mew more.” 

“Flies will swarm before a storm.”

And of course, how we see ‘Atafa’ – frigate birds, flying above land…a rare sight in fine weather in our Islands. Plants were used as indicators too. 

“Mosses dry, sunny sky. Moss wet, rain you’ll get. “

For thousands of years, humankind relied on observing local occurrences, legends and folklore to record the weather. These sights and the dawn of philosophers and scientific reasoning made it a more precise art, and the field of Meteorology was birthed. (The word “meteorology” actually comes from Aristotle, Greek Philosopher, referring to the four basic elements- fire, earth, water and air.)

Nowadays, with satellites in space, along with machinery and people who are trained to predict weather activity, we have weather forecasts and warnings ahead of events of importance to us. Meteorologists look at air pressure, humidity, wind speed, temperature, and other factors that might reveal the truths of our mysterious skies - not very far from Aristotles big 4!)  Some parts of the earth are more interesting in their weather than others!

One weather “phenomenon” our country experiences nearly every two to three years are cyclones/hurricanes/typhoons. 

Yes, these three different names are actually the same thing! The difference is that they occur in certain areas. The word hurricane comes from the Central American god of evil named “Harucan” which meant storm. You might’ve guessed that these storms occur in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific. 

Storms in the western Pacific and China Sea are called typhoons, from the Cantonese word “tai-fung.” Translation? Great wind. 

Then there’s the good ol’ cyclone. These are the ones that bug us, along with Australia and India. Though the Aussies call them “willy-willies” too (well, they do kind of give you the willies!)

These are probably the most powerful storms on earth. High winds, incredible rainfall and battering storm surges can devastate entire coastal areas, destroying everything in their paths, killing people in the process. It has been estimated that during its life cycle a hurricane/cyclone/typhoon can use as much energy as 10,000 nuclear bombs. 

If I look outside my room’s window now, with the sun shining through, making my eyes squint, you’d find it very hard to believe that a little more than a week ago we were under the threat of one of these powerful tempests. 

Cyclone Amos was a new experience for me, mainly because it was the first cyclone I  actually experienced. Unlike most people, I wasn’t here for Cyclone Evan in 2013. The idea of being hit by a category 3-4 cyclone was frightening, especially after I recalled the damage I saw after watching footage on TV in New Zealand and praying fervently that no lives be  taken. The streets looked alien to me, with roads flowing like muddy rivers, and huge trees upside down, their roots naked, exposed.  If Evan was THAT bad, category 4 Amos would probably blow down every tree and house on our islands!

That Saturday, before the storm approached my family scrambled to buy supplies of canned food, batteries, “moli matagi,” kerosene, candles and trash bags. Some of our trees had to be trimmed so the heavy branches wouldn’t fall on the house, if Amos was given a chance to fall on us. By nightfall I was exhausted. 

That translated in to falling quickly into a deep sleep! I was asleep the whole night long. I don’t remember a single thing from it! But my Mother, Father, Grandpa, Aunty and brothers stayed up. They told me about flashing lightning, rolling thunder, and the trees swaying wildly to an unnatural beat outside our house. The vi tree outside rained down its green fruit in torrents on our house’s tin roof. It was extremely fearful, apparently… (I was too busy snoring to have any feelings…I was quite placid that night!) 

What was amazing though was having to sleep through a swelling storm, and then waking to a peaceful, normal Sunday. The weather looked nothing like a cyclone aftermath. Outside, we did have some fallen papaya trees, and scattered vines and branches from our tall trees… stoic friends who bore the brunt of Amos’ lashing. But it wasn’t even near the calibre of horrible and terrifying cyclone that we had expected. It seemed to have been pushed away from us, out to sea, even before it had rode out its fury.

Many people have their own explanations as to why this occurred, but I believe it was God’s Grace. Miraculously, we were saved from a great disaster. It isn’t something we should forget so easily, but humans are fickle, unfortunately, and we have the tendency to do so. Storms come and go. A week later we are busy with our lives. 

My siblings had just learned a Bible verse at school earlier in the week, which I quote here:

“He will cover you with His feathers,

And under His wings you will find refuge;

His FAITHFULNESS will be your shield and rampart”

Psalm 91:4

It’s great that it’s HIS faithfulness that keeps us safe, not ours.

So instead of relying solely on our technology and knowledge, (and watching the cat..), we should trust in His guidance as well, and thank Him!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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