Saturday, 9 September 2017

Harvey and Irma

Irma and Harvey Schluter, respectively 93 and 104 years young.
This week the news has been dominated by the two hurricanes that have caused incredible damage to the USA and the Caribbean. First it was Harvey which caused havoc in Houston, Texas, and then followed hurricane Irma which slammed the many islands in the Caribbean and is close to destroy parts of Florida. As we pray for the victims of these hurricanes, an interesting story surfaced from Spokane, Washington, as an elderly couple, curiously enough named Harvey and Irma Schluter just celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.
Harvey turned 104 in July; Irma will be 93 in November. They vividly remember many of the major events of the 20th century, from her first time spotting an airplane, during the Great Depression, to his wonder at watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. But never before have they seen two major hurricanes bearing their names threaten the United States. “I don’t know how they’ve done that, to have a Harvey and Irma,” Mrs. Schluter said Wednesday. “I don’t know how that worked out.” The explanation is simple. Since 1979, the World Meteorological Organization has alternated men’s and women’s names for tropical storms born over the Atlantic. Six master lists of names are kept and used in rotation, so the minor hurricane names of 2017 will appear again in 2023. Only hurricanes that are costly or deadly enough to be memorable have their names retired. Harvey was first used as a storm name in 1981, and six other storms have had that name. The gale that followed Harvey every six years used to be called Irene. But in 2011, Hurricane Irene pummeled the Caribbean and many cities on the East Coast, so that name was retired, replaced by Irma. Given the ferocity of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017, this will probably be the first and last time the names appear in tandem.
Irma and Harvey Schluter  in 1942
The Schluters, by contrast, have been appearing in tandem since the 1940s, when Harvey was visiting his brother at a duplex in Spokane and ran into Irma, staying with her sister in the apartment below while she attended high school. Mr. Schluter was smitten. The two got married in 1942 and, after a brief stint living in Fort Meade, Maryland, while Mr. Schluter was still in the Army, they returned to Washington. While he went to work as a barber, she found life at home lonely. Both had grown up in big families and it seemed natural to begin to take in groups of foster children, many of them physically or mentally disabled. Over the years they fostered around 120 children. Spokane, in eastern Washington, never sees hurricanes, of course. Mrs. Schluter did not recall ever being seriously affected by other weather events, including snowstorms and earthquakes, which are more common in Washington.  When Harvey and Irma were born, in the early 20th century, radio was a new invention and cable television was decades away. In a new century, after 75 years of marriage, they can only watch as their names flicker across the screen with reports of death, destruction and evacuation. We pray that Harvey and Irma Shulter will continue in fairly good health, and pray even harder that Harvey and Irma will decrease in intensity, besides other hurricanes that may follow.

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