It's a sunny Gulf Coast Thanksgiving Day today. The air is still and warm on the eve of the Texas and Texas A&M game. The scent of candle wax, sage stuffing and roasting turkey fills the house. And it's less than a month before I see my daughter again. It's a memorable day, and I'm genuinely thankful. It's a good day to be a pilgrim.
A year ago, I celebrated Thanksgiving surrounded by the wrack and ruin of Hurricane Rita. My roof was fixed, but my fences were tossed hither and yon, five old trees were splintered and uprooted, three bay windows covered by blue tarps, my yard was a muddy bog of tractor skids and broken limbs, my chimney was three feet shorter, and my life upended. And last Thanksgiving, there were still six days left in the hurricane season, and my friends and I sat down to give thanks for survival, for not suffering as much damage as many others, for having a place to sit down and eat ... but with some apprehension about a monster hurricane season, worse and more real than any monster you imagine under your bed.
When June 1, 2006, rolled around, the new hurricane season began. It was predicted to be as big or bigger than the last. Our stomachs churned for two months before and almost six months after. We watched intently every swirling breeze off the coast of Africa; we came to know a map of the Caribbean better than we know the map of neighboring Louisiana. Do you know what it means to be able to plot to location of every weather buoy in the Gulf of Mexico?
But nothing happened. Oh, nine storms were named ... Alberto to Isaac. But that was merely a third of last year's named storms, barely half of what forecasters had expected. Time and time again this season, a low-pressure system would show signs of brewing a tropical storm or hurricane, but time and time again, they were shot down like carnival gallery ducks before they swelled into something truly dangerous. Time and time again, the threat of catastrophe was averted, not by science or prayer or technology, but by atmospheric providence in the form of -- pardon my Weather Channel-speak -- "upper-level winds."
These high-altitude tempests literally decapitated storms as they grew, chopping off their heads before they could grow into killers. These upper-level winds had not been expected, so they were not factored into the dire predictions for this year. They were unexpected gifts from God, from El Nino, from global warming, from the simple turning of the earth ... I don't know, and today it doesn't matter. They saved the Gulf Coast from the grief and destruction of another monster hurricane season. They comforted me. They calmed nerves as much as any guardian on any fortress wall. This season, they were heroes of a sort, protecting us from a terror I've witnessed first-hand.
Today, among many other things, I am thankful for upper-level winds.