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The blessing of living in an uninteresting place

Spokane is the nation’s sixth-safest metropolitan area. It says so right there in last Sunday’s New York Times.

The Times put together a map of the U.S. showing the riskiest places, natural disasterwise, to live in the U.S. The map takes into account hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, drought, hail and other extreme weather. The riskiest places were all in the South: Dallas; Jonesboro, Ark.; Corpus Christi, Texas; Houston; and Beaumont, Texas.

The safest places were almost entirely in the Northwest. They are, in order: 1. Corvallis, Ore., 2. Mt. Vernon-Anacortes, Wash., 3. Bellingham, 4. Wenatchee, 5. Grand Junction, Colo., 6. Spokane, 7. Salem, and 8. Seattle.

We’re No. 6!

We’re No. 6!

So, I’m proposing a new civic motto: Spokane – Near Safe, Near Boring.

Listen, there’s nothing wrong with “boring” when it comes to natural disasters. Isn’t this exactly why people move here? Spokane doesn’t have tornadoes, doesn’t have hurricanes, rarely has floods, rarely has (mild) earthquakes and almost never has giant meteor crashes from outer space.

Actually, no, that’s not why people move here, because that’s not how anyone picks a place to live. If they did, Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas would be eligible for designation as wilderness areas. However, Northwesterners do enjoy commiserating with relatives in Florida over their mandatory hurricane evacuations, while smiling inwardly about being protected by our own Northwest Redoubt of Safety. (I use the term “smiling inwardly” because “gloating” is such an ugly word.)

When you really think about it, though, can we really gloat? Are we really that safe?

This ranking apparently does not take into account the one thing that has caused the most havoc here over the decades: wildfires. Try telling people wiped out by Firestorm ’91 that we’re a snug little haven of security.

Apparently, the map also fails to take into account the Cone-Shaped Fountains of Doom that loom over the Northwest, meaning volcanoes. Mount St. Helens has already proved she can out-blast a measly hurricane. Mount Rainier is quietly rumbling and making preparations to wash Seattle and Tacoma into Puget Sound.

And speaking of Seattle, how in hell can it be No. 8? Everybody knows that Seattle is due for a giant earthquake, which will cause the Alaskan Way Viaduct to pancake down on top of Ivar’s Clam Bar and cause the Seattle Convention Center to suddenly occupy the northbound lanes of Interstate 5.

In the small print, the Times says its risk assessments take into account “the relative infrequency of quakes, compared with weather events and floods.”

Fair enough. That’s probably why they ignored volcanoes, too. Everyone knows that Yellowstone will someday blow the entire West into oblivion, but since it only does so every 500,000 years, we can ignore it.

Still, no matter how you measure it, the risks of living in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene (which also fares well) are lower than anywhere in Texas, Florida, the Midwest and the East.

I’m reminded of that old proverb: “May you live in interesting times.”

It sounds like a blessing but is actually a curse.

Here’s a corollary curse: “May you live in an interesting place. Such as Dallas.”

Meanwhile, here we are in good old No. 6, living serene lives, whether we know it or not.

Let’s try this out for a blessing: “May you live in a boring place. And may it remain boring as long as possible.”



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