When Disasters Strike Part 1

| October 17, 2013 |

Disaster Strikes




Depending on what part of the country you live in, you are most likely to be very familiar with the typical types of disasters that could strike. For example, if you live on the west coast you’re aware of and hopefully prepared for an earthquake. If you live in the mid-west, you’re aware of and fairly prepared for a tornado. If you live in the south you’re aware of and fairly prepared for a hurricane. These are disasters that are a part of your everyday life.

Even if you don’t live in those parts of the country, you’re probably aware that these disasters can and do happen. They often don’t feel as disastrous as they should because we get used to them. We become desensitized to the nature of these events.

Unfortunately this desensitization can put us in a state where we’re wholly unprepared for other types of disasters that can and do strike. Let’s start by discussing the different types of disasters that can happen. The point is to open your eyes to what a disaster can look like.

Awareness is the first step towards proper preparedness.

Types of Disasters

There are two types of disasters; man-made and natural. However, sometimes natural disasters are made worse by man-made situations. In times of disasters, the first line of business is to recognize what’s really happening so you can do your best to survive.  Each type of disaster requires a different type of action.

Natural Disasters

Below is a list and description of the different types of natural disasters.

1. Earthquakes

An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the earth’s crust that creates seismic waves. In layman’s terms, when an earthquake happens the ground moves in waves. It’s not unlike being in the ocean during a particularly wavy time of the day. But rather than the water moving around, it’s the ground. People that experience an earthquake often describe it as a rolling feeling.

2. Droughts

A drought is when a region experiences a long term deficiency in its water supply. This typically happens as a result of low precipitation or rain in that area which is what helps keep the water supply replenished naturally. Droughts can last a few days, months or even years. A drought can be defined as such in as little as 15 days.

3. Extreme Heat

Extreme heat is often categorized as a heat wave. It’s when a region experiences abnormally high temperatures for an extended period of time. It’s tough to say with any certainty what abnormally high means because it can vary according to the region. If you live in a state where summer temperatures regularly reach the 100’s, then abnormally high would be well above that mark. However, if you live in a state where summer temperatures don’t go too much higher than the 80’s, abnormally high would be considered normal in another region. Essentially, any time your region experiences a heat wave that lasts longer than a few days, you may be experiencing an extreme heat situation.

4. Floods

A flood occurs when a rush of water submerges an area of land that is typically dry. Floods can happen as a result of an extended period of rain. They can also happen when a body of water is affected by another body of water. For example if a river experiences a time where there’s an overflow of water, it can cause lakes and ponds that get water from the river to overflow and flood. Floods can be gradual or they can be sudden. Sudden floods are called flash floods and can develop without the help of rain or with it. While not more or less dangerous than gradual floods, flash floods are virtually impossible to brace for because they come out of nowhere. They also tend to be very fast moving.

5. Hurricanes

A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone that forms in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and eastern Pacific Ocean. Typically a cyclone of this kind is accompanied by thunderstorm and when it’s in the Northern Hemisphere by counterclockwise circulation of winds. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November and peaks from mid-August to late October. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30.

6. Landslides and Debris Flow

A landslide or landslip is defined as the movement of rock, debris or earth down a slope. The earth will gradually move over a period of time. Some landslides are slow and can happen over a long period of time through gradual erosion while others are fast and can happen in a matter of minutes.

7. Severe Weather

Severe weather is a fairly loose term that applies to all forms of weather that goes beyond what is typical. These means that determining whether the weather is indeed severe can vary according to region. When in doubt about whether a weather occurrence is severe, take notice of what’s happening around you. If things seem to be outside of the normal scope of the type of weather your area typically gets, you could be in store for some severe weather.

8. Space Weather

As odd as it may sound, our weather or environment can be affected by things that happen outside of the earth’s atmosphere. When space weather is more active than normal it can affect important aspects of earth’s infrastructure, namely the electrical grid.

9. Thunderstorms and Lightning

Thunderstorms and lightning can go hand in hand but don’t always. However, when the two are combined, it can definitely ramp up the danger level of the storm. Most of us are familiar with thunderstorms and may not consider them a disaster. But if a thunderstorm is severe enough it can lead to other disasters like tornadoes and floods. If you add in lightning, you run into the possibility that a simple thunderstorm could kill you. People tend not to consider lightning a natural disaster because it doesn’t wreak the same amount of havoc as the larger disasters but there are about 25 million cloud- to-ground lightning strikes in the United States every year. In the United States, an average of 54 people die every year due to a lightning strike but that doesn’t count the people that are struck and survive having to live with pain and possible disability.

10. Tornadoes

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that is in contact with both the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud. In some rare cases, the tornado will be in contact with the base of a cumulus cloud. Tornadoes are also occasionally referred to as twisters or cyclones. Most tornadoes have speeds of up to 110 miles per hour but extreme tornadoes can go up to 300 miles per hour. Tornadoes have been observed in every part of the world except for Antarctica but the vast majority of them take place in Tornado Alley in the United States. Tornado Alley is a region of the United States which is the area between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains in the region where the land is largely flat.

11. Tsunamis

A tsunami is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water and typically take place in an ocean or a large lake. Tsunamis don’t look like a typical wave because their length is usually much longer. When a tsunami is taking place, it typically looks like a rapidly rising tide which is why they’re often called tidal waves. They’re usually created by earthquakes, landslides and volcanic eruptions that often happen under water.

12. Volcanoes

A volcano is an opening or rupture in the surface or crust of a planet which allows hot magma, volcanic ash and gases to escape. Volcanoes are generally found where tectonic plates are diverging or converging but this isn’t always the case. Volcanoes can also form where there is a stretching and thinning of the planet’s crust. Volcanoes can experience periods of activity and dormancy but it can be tough to accurately predict when those periods will be. Just because a volcano has been dormant for centuries, doesn’t mean it will stay that way. A volcanic eruption can be a disastrous event that will negatively affect everything above and surrounding the volcano. The eruption of hot ash and gases are hazardous to planes or other aircraft flying above. Once the eruption has subsided, the hot magma that may flow from the mouth of the volcano can cause further destruction.

13. Wildfires

A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire in an area of flammable and combustible vegetation. Wildfires typically occur in a wilderness area or across the countryside. What separates a wildfire from your average fire in the woods is size and speed of it. Wildfires can go quickly from a small area to a really large one in a matter of hours. Wildfires can jump across gaps, bridges, rivers and other spaces with relative ease. If not extinguished quickly a wildfire can burn for days on end. In the United States there are anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000 wildfires a year and they may burn anywhere from three to 10 million acres of land.

14. Winter Storms and Extreme Cold

Winter storms happen every year in many regions in the world whether it’s a light dusting of snow, an ice storm or a blizzard to name a few. However, in some situations, the winter storm turns into an extreme cold situation. Extreme cold can vary depending on the region. If your winter temperatures regularly drop below zero degrees Celsius, extreme cold will look much different than if your winter temperatures don’t go much lower than 30 degrees Celsius. The key to dealing with an extreme cold disaster is understanding your environment.

Read Part 2 – Man-made Disasters

 

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