9. Earth, Wind and Fire


Accompanying any disaster is a set of secondary destructive events.  Certainly, the seas of destruction shocked Americans with their impact.  They were by far the source of the greatest immediate loss of life and property damage.  However, the planet continued to react driven by the forces released.

The earth would not remain still in the vicinity of the undersea event, or for that matter in the center of the country. The winds refused to calm themselves.  Fire was everywhere at first and then suddenly random and unpredictable.  Many were the tales told of oddities and strange events.


When the tsunami hit, the most significant impact was overwhelming flooding.  Everything was bulldozed and covered by water.  When the waters receded mountains of debris were concentrated in some places and utterly denuded land in others.  The Mississippi River unable to follow its previous course had cut a new channel – avoiding what had previously been New Orleans altogether.  The Mississippi also meandered into and through some cities and towns not directly affect by the tsunami waves.

The devastation of the land was further complicated by the chemicals in the water.  As the massive pools of tsunami water dried, salt and toxic chemical deposits were left behind.  Along with the loss of topsoil and the contamination of the ground water, once useable land was rendered incapable of agricultural production.  Essentially, not only were existing crops and fields of farm animals immediately destroyed by the waves and the river spill over, but nothing new could be grown with any hope of success.

The turmoil in the Gulf had been a surprise to geologists; however, the aftershocks were not.  St Louis, well inland, was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake.  Vicksburg, the scene of one of the great battles of the Civil War, was smashed into rubble by another large quake.  The problems reached as far as Minneapolis to the North and Richmond to the East.  Over 100 cities and major towns sustained severe earthquake damage.

The Account of Vivian

“I was driving along the interstate headed toward Blacksburg.  All of a sudden the road just began to roll and twist.  I was fortunate to be near a rest stop and was able to pull off.  Some cars tried the same thing and just spun out of control.

The road on the one side looked up to the Blue Ridge Mountains and on the other down into a valley with farms and forests.  As I looked up the hill, the trees on the mountains began to slide away propelled by an avalanche of rocks.  Cars and trucks were pushed off the side of the road.  Others were buried.  Somehow, everything missed me.

Out of fear of what was coming from above, I shifted my gaze toward the valley.  Houses started to sway and then collapse. Masses of trees began to topple over as if being pushed from below by a great hand. Huge cracks opened in the earth.  People and animals were running everywhere.  Some just suddenly disappeared.

I sat for an hour and prayed.  I had been heading back to college at Virginia Tech, but everything I saw ahead of me was completely destroyed.  There was no way to go forward or back by car.  I eventually got up the courage to start walking away from the worst destruction.  Thankfully, I had not driven too far into the mountains and was able to climb down off the road and avoid injury or death from aftershock landslides.

I don’t know how many miles I walked.  I walked in light and then into early darkness.  At some point I saw some lights and figured that somebody was there.  When I got to the lights, there was a small house.  There was nobody, nothing but an emergency generator that had kicked on.

At least I got some water and a snack.  I decided to wait out the evening.  I stayed outside as the house didn’t appear too stable and more quakes were rattling things.

With the coming of dawn, I again started walking along the general path of what was left of the interstate highway.  The animals appeared crazed and disoriented so I was glad I had taken a shotgun and shells from the house.  I’m not a big woman, and waving the shotgun around seemed to discourage the more aggressive creatures, and some people who were acting strangely.

I tried to use my cell phone, send a text message, or leave an e-mail.  Nothing.  Finally, I found a gathering of people near the intersection of the interstate and another major road.  Together we walked, shared our stories, and prayed.  I reached Richmond after about a week.”

This is a verbatim partial transcript from the autobiography of Vivian Sauter.  She was orphaned a year later as a result of the tsunami’s after effect.  Strangely, she was related to Pierre de Soto.


The wind blew day and night, and carried with it soot, dust and burning ash.  As with the dust bowel in the southwest in the 1930s, dense clouds would suddenly blot out the sun and rush in to limit visibility to a few feet.

Breathing was nearly impossible.  Even supposedly airtight homes were of little use.  The dust found every crevice, and sweeping up became a morning chore.  People began storing clothes and food in plastic bags that could be zippered shut, although that quickly became self-defeating.  With the winds screaming day and night, men, women and children went crazy.

The impact of breathing soot and dust were relatively predictable.  If the lungs became clogged, death by suffocation followed.  If the lungs became clogged with dust and toxic particles, an agonizing but quicker death followed.

Joe knew the horrors of chemical warfare.   He had spent some years of his career working in the area of chemical, biological and radiological warfare defense.  He understood that most people, when asked about chemical warfare, mentioned nerve gas.  Sarin was the quick-acting nerve gas that had been used in the Japanese subway system by the Aum Shinrikyo, a terrorist cult that wished to bring on the apocalypse.

Joe, however, feared mustard gas.  First used by the Germans in WW-I, mustard gas was known as a blister agent.  When contact was made with the skin, pain to exposed parts of the body became excruciating.  Eye damage, including blindness, was common.  However, the real damage was internal.  Breathing in mustard gas caused an allergic reaction in the nose, mouth, esophagus, lungs, – and even the stomach and intestinal tract.  Individuals whose lung tissue was severely affected were sentenced to an agonizing death over the course of a few weeks.  The immune system was also damaged in a manner similar to radiation poisoning.  Infection was a major problem within a week of exposure.  Those who managed to live seldom fully recovered.  Many poison gas survivors of the first Great War were turned into invalids for the rest of what was a shortened life.

The Message from Douglas

“I don’t have much time.  Out of nowhere came this reddish and grey cloud.  Like a sand storm but whirling and twisting.  I stopped under an overpass, – but the winds crushed the car against the beams.  I am pinned in the wreck with the winds howling and growing ever stronger.  Breathing is excruciatingly painful and difficult.  God bless you my family.  I love you.  Doug”

This message was found by a wandering band of tsunami survivors who checked the car for food, water and anything useful.  It was preserved as a solemn testament to all of the lost souls who were never to be identified.


The fires that raged over the Gulf quickly spread landward. Forests and grasslands for hundreds of miles exploded into flame.  Towns apparently safe were suddenly engulfed in the firestorms that jumped miles in a single burst.  There was no way to handle the magnitude of the problem.  It would simply have to burn itself out.

And then there were the random and highly localized toxic and flammable clouds.  Concentrations of these clouds could occur in canyons, ditches, and buildings of all types and sizes.  Spontaneous and unpredictable explosions occurred.  At first these were linked to broken gas lines.  However, the explosions occurred far too often in unusual places, – the entire ninth floor of a thirty-story skyscraper or a storage facility without gas or electric power.

Joe understood what was eventually called “the random explosive” phenomenon better than most engineers.  He had worked with a senior executive who owned an apartment near the World Trade Center in New York City.  After the Islamic terrorist attack that destroyed the World Trade Center’s “Twin Towers,” the executive had been forced to evacuate.

When the all clear was given, he went back to his luxurious city apartment only to find the floors, walls and furnishings covered in a microscopically fine layer of soot and dust.  A cleaning crew was called, and the apartment was cleaned and then certified as safe for occupancy.  The executive decided to move back in after work

To see better, he flipped on the light switch in the entrance foyer.  His apartment exploded and the executive was fortunately blown back out into the main hallway.  Although he suffered no physical burns, the mental scars remained for years.  The apartment building had to be completely gutted.  It took over a decade for tenants to sign leases, and those leases were backed by safe occupancy insurance provided by the building’s ownership.

The Diary Entry of Steven

Monday, September 8 – Another late summer scorcher in Jackson.  Visited Concrete & Aggregate trade show in New Orleans.  Stopped by Environmental Conference to see what is going on.  Kind of dead.  No new clients or significant contacts.

Tuesday, September 9 – Same and same.  Did some internet checking on vacation opportunities in the Caribbean.  Puerto Rico looks like a good bet, but need to compare with British Virgin Islands to see what dollar will bring.

Wednesday, September 10 – Left N.O. and headed back to Jackson.  Strangeness in the air.  Just a feeling but can’t shake it.  Maybe the food was too rich.  Certainly didn’t sleep well.  Dogs are really going nuts all around town.

Thursday, September 11 – Decided to stay home.  Just an eerie and queasy sensation.  Animals just don’t shut up and wife hit a deer in the middle of town in broad daylight.  Deer don’t run in the day.  Kids are jumpy as well.  We all need a vacation and soon.

There were no more entries in the diary.  The earthquake, undersea landslide and dome collapse occurred at approximately 9:59 PM on the 11th.  Fire had quickly raced north and consumed Jackson.  The diary was found some years later by an Army ranger squad searching for anything that might provide some scraps of scientifically and historically useful information.


Life itself is a miracle, and those of faith see the hand of God in everything from the vastness of the universe to the smallness of the quark.  Christians recognize the miracles of Jesus and the biblical truths.   And lest it be forgotten, America is the miracle that changed the world.

It was no surprise, therefore, when rumors of a small group of New Orleans sisters had managed to survive a forty-story tsunami and were now ministering to refugees.  Joe did not need to be told, but he was certain that Savannah Taggart was among the fortunate few.

Joe was once again reminded of the miracle of his co-worker.  How was it possible to have terminal brain cancer one moment and then be cured a split second later?  How was it possible to be cured by a vision and not a medical procedure?  Joe was thankful for miracles, both large and small.  They were the hope of life eternal and an ever-present reminder of man’s place in the universe.  And they would be greatly needed in the years to come.

Strange Tales

Mankind has longed believed in odd things – UFOs from outer space, the Abominable Snow Man, or Atlantis.  And, there was always just enough truth to spur inquiry using the latest and greatest scientific tools.  After all, no one of substance could forget that the fabled city of Troy had been found.

It was, therefore, not unusual that a new set of curious stories arose from the Gulf’s cataclysmic event.

Probably the most profound tale was the disappearance of the moon and its replacement by a cold and colorless star.  While this happened for only a few minutes each night for about a year, the common assumption was that something supernatural had happened.  The astronomers had no explanation.  The moon was obviously there but how could it change?  And stars are not cold.

There were, of course, numerous tales of ghostly images and people apparently moving in and out of time.  This latter set of stories was similar to the famous Philadelphia experiment.

As a young man, Joe had worked at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.  The story goes that the US Navy, as part of a WW-II experiment, had modified the Destroyer Escort USS Eldridge to see if a cloaking or invisibility field could be built around a large solid object.  This would obviously be of great use in naval warfare.

The experiment was based on Albert Einstein’s Unified Field Theory that suggested that the electromagnetic and gravitational forces could be uniquely related to each; other thus allowing light to be bent around an object.  The experiment involved the use of large ship installed electromagnetic generators.

Testing began in the summer of 1943, and apparently one test, on July 22, 1943, resulted in the Eldridge being rendered almost completely invisible, its image being replaced with a ghostly greenish cloud.  The experiment was considered successful – until a number of very odd things happened.

First, departing crewmembers complained of severe unrelenting nausea.  Then an onboard inspection revealed the worst aspects of the experiment.  A number of sailors were horribly mangled, embedded in the steel decks and superstructure of the ship.  Others found within the bowels of the ship were violently insane.

Over time, a number of the apparently healthy crewmembers became part human and part ghost, moving back and forth between the physical world and some unknown and inexplicable parallel universe.  Some of these unfortunates disappeared never to be seen again.

The experiment was reconfigured and then repeated on October 28, 1943. The Eldridge then vanished and reappeared almost immediately in Norfolk, Virginia hundreds of miles away. The Eldridge was seen in that location by men aboard the SS Andrew Furuseth before it then again vanished, reappearing back in its original dock in Philadelphia.   From the available data, the Eldridge was not only teleported hundreds of miles but traveled both forward and backward in time.  Unfortunately, the human problems experienced with the July testing were repeated and even amplified.


Some of the shipyard’s old timers swore that the Eldridge experiments were the basis for the stealth technology advances some 50 years later.

There was no lack of strange tales.  People mentally and emotionally unstable saw what they wanted to see, or what they did not want to see.  If such instability was severe, the people involved became aimless wanderers.  Unfortunately, there was little time for pity or compassionate acts.

In the Moment Lies the Truth

The government could not control the winds or put out fires that covered thousands of square miles.  It could not reconfigure the devastated landscape and wave a magic wand to replace the lost cities and towns.  As with the Gulf oil spill, which sacrificed the marshes to nature, the government was forced to accept reality, protect what could be reasonably saved and abandon the rest to nature and the goodness of man.

In an attempt to resuscitate the nation, the government solicited the help of the heavy industrial base of the nation and the world.  The irony was that the industries needed had long been derided as dirty, unsafe and politically incorrect.  The hated oil companies, the dirty shipyards, the land destroying mining companies, the earth defiling skyscraper builders, and thousands of businesses used to dealing with heavy industrial problems were the only ones with anywhere near the capabilities needed.

The environmental movement tried to reassert itself but the politicians, and more importantly American citizens, would have none of it.  To even begin the process of recovery, if it was possible, required the suspension or elimination of anything that got in the way of clean up and restoration.  Essentially, the “niceties” of politics and government were suspended in light of the dire national emergency still unfolding.

The question of how any of this was going to be paid for was left hanging.  The dollar was virtually worthless, or at least unable to be assessed as to worth.  The most innovative payment idea was payment in kind.  An industrial concern or group of individuals was given a devastated region or destroyed city as payment for clean up.  This was similar to the old British land grants given prior to the American Revolution.

Joe knew that the rule of law was sacred to the founders, but he also knew that the Constitution was not a suicide pact.  There were times in the past, such as the Civil War, when the Constitution had rightfully been suspended in the interest of the nation.  There were also times when the Constitution had been wrongfully suspended, and this had resulted in the internment of American citizens simply because of their heritage or race.

The American people were now challenged by the wisdom of the founders.  Government cannot consume too much and choose too arbitrarily.  It must be limited to allow individuals to find their way and their own solutions to the greatest of problems.

About Robert Warren

Research, Development and Engineering Consultant; Marine Accident Investigator; Author and Lecturer; CEO of Expertise, Inc.; Doctorate
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