Natural disasters can strike at any given time, with no warnings. Natural disasters in the US are bound to happen because this country is one of the most active seismic areas globally. Undoubtedly, some people think climate change is natural, but many scientists believed human activities have played a significant role in causing climate change.

Natural disasters in the US have been devastating throughout history. The most potent natural catastrophes that took place in the US include hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, volcanoes, tsunamis and wildfires, most of which we will go into further details below. These disasters had a major effect on the number of people affected and the amount of resources required to recover from the disaster.

Also, the safety tips provided in this article will help keep you and your loved ones safe even in the wake of natural disasters.

Top 8 Deadliest Natural Disasters in the US

1. Hurricanes

While 2021 is predicted to be another above-average hurricane season, the details are unknown. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) and Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has revised its criteria of the average hurricane season to include the years 1991-2020. As a result, the “normal” season now features 14 named storms and seven hurricanes, with three of them being significant (Category 3+) hurricanes.

It is difficult to make predictions when and where a storm will hit. While natural disasters are inevitable, there are actions you can take to minimize your risk.

The average number of named storms and hurricanes increase with the general adjustment, although significant hurricanes remained the same. As a result of the changes in what is deemed average, the “above average” season prediction will be greater than past estimates for an above-average season.

The 2021 season began nine days early, with Tropical Storm Ana in May. Still, CSU scientists are forecasting above-normal hurricane activity in October with less than two months to go. According to NOAA data, the Atlantic typically begins to cool after October 15, and the window of opportunity for tropical development ends.

2. Wildfires

It is anticipated that fire has had a substantial impact in California. On December 3, 2020, there were 9,279 fire incidents in California, with 4,197,628 acres destroyed. The August Complex Fire was the first, followed by the SCU Lightning Complex Fire, the Creek Fire, the LNU Lightning Complex Fire, and then the North Complex Fire.

Also, California issued a state of emergency on September 28 in response to wildfires that raged through Napa, Sonoma, and Shasta Counties, forcing tens of thousands to flee. The Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma Counties burnt over 67,000 acres and destroyed 1,555 houses in October. Authorities in Sonoma and Napa Counties ordered at least 68,000 inhabitants to evacuate, including the whole city of Calistoga in Napa Valley.

3. Earthquakes

Earthquakes happen without warning. They are unpredictable and devastating. They can strike anywhere, destroying buildings and killing people. The destruction can be so overwhelming that it’s difficult to even know where to begin. The US is home to some of the most powerful natural disasters in recorded history. Earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires – the list goes on. Each year, millions of people are impacted by natural disasters that happened in the US.

It has impacted people’s lives in one way or another, for example, economically. In the US, a pair of strong earthquakes struck the sparsely populated Ridgecrest City area of California in 2019. A 6.4-magnitude “foreshock” earthquake struck the area on July 4, followed by a more significant 7.1-magnitude quake the next day, as well as a series of aftershocks. The 7.1 magnitude quake was the most powerful to strike the state in 20 years. According to Karen Clark and Co, the insured losses from the quakes are projected to be less than $40 million.

4. Floods

Floods occur when heavy rain causes water to overflow into the streets. They are destructive and deadly. The effects of flooding can be devastating – both to human life and property. They can flood the entire city, town and neighborhood; destroy homes and businesses; cause significant loss of life; and leave thousands homeless. Floods are typically more prevalent during the spring or fall months when weather conditions are more favorable for flooding.

Because these locations are sensitive to storms, much of the severe flooding in the US has occurred along the Mississippi River, Texas, Gulf Coast and Florida, and are the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded. Floods have altered our country’s history, wiped away certain villages, and forced people to start all over again in other parts of the country. Floods are, unfortunately, the most severe natural catastrophes in each state.

The number of natural disasters is increasing. Every year, thousands of Americans face the threat of flooding due to heavy rain, tornadoes, or other severe weather conditions. Last year alone, 2,424 people died in floods, making it the second deadliest natural disaster in the U.S. since 2010. The economic consequences of flooding can be severe. In 2011, U.S. businesses lost approximately $1.1 billion due to natural disasters.

5. Droughts

A drought is an extended period of unusual dryness, often in arid or semi-arid regions. In natural terms, droughts are periods of severe, widespread lack of precipitation. When droughts are coupled with human-made climate changes, the impact can be dramatic.

Droughts are a significant threat to our food supply. These conditions can last from a few months to several years and can affect many people, especially farmers and crop owners as their incomes are usually dependent on the crops produced. Simply put, they do not have any income generated if there are no crops produced for sale.

Besides the economic impact, droughts can have severe effects on our health, infrastructure, and our way of life. Physical health effects include malnutrition, shortage of good quality drinking water, air quality and hygiene. Mental health impacts include a higher risk for the development of anxiety and depression for farmers and their families which can lead to domestic violence, abuse and suicide. This is a severe effect caused by the loss of livelihoods from reduced agricultural activity.

6. Cyclones

Cyclones occur when a low-pressure zone forms over the ocean. It appears when there is not enough water in the atmosphere to keep a low-pressure area from forming. Once the low-pressure area forms, the wind begin to blow in the opposite direction.

The wind blows at high speed and create whirling dervishes of air that leaves the area rapidly (and violently). This often results in large waves crashing into the shore and damaging property. Cyclones are one of the most dangerous natural disasters that can occur in the US. Typhoons affect millions of people each year, with many of them losing their lives. Fortunately, there are several precautions you can take to safeguard yourself from this type of calamity.

Tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the eastern Pacific Ocean and make their way towards the contiguous United States. The Gulf Coast and lower areas of the Eastern Seaboard have received the most rainfall in the country.

7. Hailstorm

Hailstorms are caused by strong winds that picks up dirt and debris from surrounding areas. These storms can cause flooding, damage to buildings and vehicles, and power outages. Also, these are most common in the spring and summer months, with peak activity occurring between March and April.

A hailstorm is a storm that can produce hailstones more giant than three inches in size. Hailstorms can occur in both rural and urban areas. The National Weather Service issues a warning when severe winter weather is imminent. Signs provide information on potential flooding, road closures, power outages, and the safety of traveling in affected areas.

The US has been experiencing significant severe weather events over the past few years. Hailstorms in the US are common occurrences in April, May, and June. These storms can cause considerable damage to homes and cars. They can also disrupt flight schedules or delay trains and can cause significant power outages.

8. Tsunami

A tsunami is a sudden, powerful wave that can move a large amount of water in a relatively short amount of time. There are two types of tsunamis: destructive and constructive. A deadly tsunami occurs when an undersea fault or geological fault line is breached, causing water to rush into an area.

A constructive tsunami occurs when an earthquake results in a vertical displacement of water above the seabed, causing waves to travel upward towards the land. The exact causes of tsunamis are still being researched. Some scientists believe that earthquakes cause tsunamis, while others believe that changes in sea level led to tidal waves. Either way, the damage caused by tsunamis can be devastating. Tsunamis kill more people each year than earthquakes and volcanic eruptions combined.

The US is not left untouched due to the devastating occurrence and impacts of tsunami. A tsunami’s mind-boggling force is a terrifying spectacle, as the world witnessed in 2004 and 2011. Those calamities instilled in people throughout the globe heartbreaking visions of water-borne sorrow.

How to prepare for natural disasters

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The REDiPlan is an emergency plan created by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The program is designed to help families, businesses, and individuals prepare for and respond to natural disasters and emergencies. The REDiPlan is divided into four components:

  1. Get insured
  2. Familiarise yourself with disaster warnings and alert systems
  3. Understand your numbers
  4. Prepare yourself emotionally

You can even use the checklist provided here to develop an emergency plan and design your survival pack. Alternatively, you can download its Get Prepared app to gain access to all its emergency tools.

1. Get insured by obtaining an insurance

Make sure that an insurance policy covers all valuable liabilities. This includes your house, valuable materials, automobiles, and, most importantly, you and your family. Your insurance policy should also cover natural disasters.

2. Familiarise yourself with disaster warnings and alert systems

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology and Standard Emergency Warning Signals (SEWS) are valuable resources and methods for staying informed about potential environmental dangers. Listen for the SEWS siren to be transmitted on radio and national TV stations or visit the Bureau of Meteorology’s website for the most up-to-date information on climate conditions.

Furthermore, never disregard Emergency Alert SMS messages your local government gives and always heed their warnings or recommendations on evacuation procedures.

3. Understand your numbers

  • 911 – This is a number that most people should be able to recall off the top of their heads. If you or your relative is in a life-threatening situation, don’t hesitate to call 911.
  • 1-800-222-1222 – This is the helpline number to reach the American Association of Poison Control Centres
  • (888) 426-4435 – This is the number for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Centre
  • 112 – This is the international standard emergency phone number (If you require an interpretation, dial 131 450)

4. Prepare yourself emotionally

This is essentially critical because it allows you to maintain control and carry out emergency plans properly. It is also helpful in reducing psychological anguish and long-term mental health issues that can arise from trauma.

The Australian Psychological Society recommends three easy steps (AIM) to be mentally prepared for emergencies:

  • Expect that feeling scared or frightened is a normal and natural reaction to any potentially life-threatening event.
  • Identify any specific physical sensations related to your anxiety and whether you have any extra thoughts that may exacerbate your present concerns.
  • Using the controlled breathing technique, you may manage your reactions.

Additional protocols that you should follow

Always listen to local radio, NOAA radio or local TV stations

These will include the most up-to-date information on the path of the storm, fire, or whatever is heading your way. It’s a good idea to identify these channels ahead of time so you’re not trying to tune in at the last minute.

Stock up on non-perishable foods, water and medications

Make enough supplies to last at least a week. Fill plastic bottles with water and stock up on canned items that can be opened without using an electric can opener. You’ll also need bread, nut kinds of butter, and other snacks. Don’t forget about prescription medications as it may be the most important.

How to cope after a natural disaster

natural disasters in the US
Photo Credit: Trong Nguyen

Surviving a life-threatening event is a traumatic experience that should not be overlooked. Fear, worry, and even trauma can result in mental diseases such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), survivor’s guilt, and others.

The following are some organizations you can contact for post-disaster help and assistance:

  1. Helplines: The Beyond Blue (hotline 1300-22-4636) offers emotional support and assistance to survivors.
  2. Mental health professionals: Discuss your condition with your nearest doctor, counselor, or therapist.
  3. Financial assistance: Call Services Australia (180-22-66) to see if you qualify for government relief funds following a natural disaster. You can visit the website to learn about the various recovery payments available.

Natural disasters are traumatic events that occur regardless of human actions. Even as the globe develops diverse disaster-response systems, no amount of technology advancement can avert natural calamities. The best thing we can do is prepare for it and decrease casualties and fatalities as much as possible.

Here we have described the natural disasters, particularly in the US. We have also mentioned the emergency and life-saving protocols that will help you cope with such uninvited events. There’s one essential thing to remember when it comes to natural disasters: you should be prepared. While natural disasters are unpredictable, they happen every year in the US. You should be aware of these dangers and their effects to be prepared when an emergency arises.

Being prepared can help save your skin, as well as your bank account.

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