Julia Spitz: Disasters piling up this year

Julia Spitz

I expect locusts by the end of the week.

A plague of giant insects is about the only disaster that hasn't surfaced recently. Then again, it's possible locusts have leveled 15 states and we just haven't heard about it because there's no room left for another catastrophe in the news.

We've had enough water for FEMA to set up disaster recovery centers around New England. We've had no water, at least the drinkable variety, for many people around Boston.

We've had crazy winds that toppled trees out of the blue. We've seen lives lost in heavy floods in Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi.

We've had a volcano that brought global air travel to a standstill. We've had tornados, earthquakes and an oil spill the size of Rhode Island. We've had someone leave a car bomb in Times Square, and the worst mining disaster in a generation.

Is there any place that isn't in a state of emergency right now?

Prepare for the usual suspects (and you know who you are, al Qaeda, Pakistani Taliban, Pat Robertson and/or Westboro Baptist Church fans) to place the blame on loose morals.

Prepare for another group of usual suspects (and you know who you are, Al Gore and those who support outlawing water bottles) to bring up the connection to global warming.

As for me, I've got no explanation, but I'm scared about what could possibly be next.

Snow in May? Well, we got that one out of the way back in 1977. A giant wall of molasses oozing through Boston and killing people along the way? Hopefully, we'll never have a repeat of what happened in 1919.

Or maybe we already are.

Things weren't exactly hunky-dory back then. The flu pandemic of 1918 was still killing people. A hurricane was responsible for the deaths of 600 people from Florida to Texas. A volcanic eruption killed 16,000 in Java.

Anarchists mailed letter bombs to elected officials and prominent businessmen, then set off bombs in cities in Massachusetts, New York and Ohio.

Benito Mussolini formed the Fascist Party that year, and America enacted Prohibition. Oregon got the pump-shock ball rolling by becoming the first state to tax gasoline.

There were race riots in various cities around the country. More than 80 miners perished in an explosion in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

It was the year Babe Ruth got traded and baseball was tainted by the Black Sox scandal.

It was the year America saw something it has never seen before or since: The price of a first-class postage stamp actually dropped.

Strange times indeed.

But a single year almost a century ago doesn't prove anything, right?

The confluence of events so far this year still boggles the mind.

The Orioles swept the Sox over the weekend, and if that isn't a sure sign of the Apocalypse, what is? Why, it's as improbable as the game back in September 1956, when Boston was leading Baltimore 8-0 and the Orioles came back to win it 11-10.

Then again, those old enough to remember 1956 probably don't think of the peak of the Eisenhower Era as a disaster-prone year.

Unless they happen to remember tornadoes that ripped through six states, including Michigan, leaving almost 40 dead. Or the record-setting 1.23 inches of rain that fell in a single minute, recorded July 4, 1956, in Unionville, Md. Or the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm colliding south of Nantucket. Or the fatal mid-air collision between a TWA and United plane over the Grand Canyon that year.

More than 250 miners died in a disaster in Belgium, Russia invaded Hungary, and the Suez Canal became a global flashpoint in 1956. An earthquake in Afghanistan killed 400, and Greece had to deal with both a quake and a tsunami that year.

The Colombian army was transporting explosives in Cali when an accident happened and 1,000 people were killed. And in New York City, residents were on edge as more pipe bombs left by the "Mad Bomber," George Metesky, were found, including one at a Brooklyn theater.

So was 1956 another bad year of biblical proportions? Not really. Just another 12-month block of time.

As long as the world has been turning, there have been disasters of nature's making and of man's.

It may seem as if we're getting a heaping helping of catastrophes this year, particularly if you've just gotten your basement cleaned out from the March storms and then were caught in a weekend supermarket stampede in the bottled water aisle.

The truth is it's probably no worse than any other year.

But I wouldn't count out the locust just yet.

MetroWest Daily News writer Julia Spitz can be reached at 508-626-3968 or jspitz@cnc.com. Check metrowestdailynews.com or milforddailynews.com for the Spitz Bits blog.