Vocabulary > Earth > Natural / weather disasters
Ash billows from the crater
where the summit of Mount St.
Helens had been only hours earlier
during a huge eruption on May 18th, 1980.
Boston Globe > Big Picture > Mount St. Helens, 30 years ago
May 18, 2010
The ruins of San Francisco,
after the 1906 earthquake,
taken from the tower of the Union Ferry Building,
looking southwest down Market Street.
natural disasters and extreme weather
natural disasters > insurers
act of God
beneath the earth's crust
earthquake warning > California
Biggest quake since 1984 hits Britain
U.S. Geological Survey
U.S. Geological Survey Earthquake Hazards Program
On May 18th, 1980, at 8:32 a.m.,
the ground shook beneath Mount St. Helens in Washington state
as a magnitude 5.1
setting off one of the largest landslides in recorded history
- the entire north
slope of the volcano slid away.
Hebgen Lake Earthquake / Largest Earthquake in Montana
earthquakes: why they happen
moderate earthquake > rattle
magnitude 7.7 quake
a moderate earthquake of between 5.4 and 5.7 magnitude
massive undersea earthquake
an earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter
a magnitude of 6.7
a magnitude 8.1 quake and tsunami
San Francisco earthquake USA
the San Andreas fault
British Geological Survey
U.S. Geological Survey
lie in ruins
be caught alive from the rubble
be pulled from the rubble
search through the rubble of collapsed buildings
seek out life
the stench of death
the stench of decomposing corpses
scavenge for food
active underwater volcano
the volcano's crater
magma / molten rock
cloud of ash
This pair of photographs shows the same location on a street
in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, Japan
on two different dates, March 11, 2011 and February 17, 2012.
The first photograph shows the area today,
and the second shows a tsunami wave crashing
into the street after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake.
Miyako City Office/Handout/Reuters and Toru Hanai/Reuters
Boston Globe > Big Picture > Japan tsunami pictures: before
and after March 7, 2012
Japan tsunami pictures: before and after
March 7, 2012
In this first of three Big Picture posts on the anniversary
of the Japan earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disaster,
we have a series of paired "then and now" pictures,
with the first image taken recently paired with a picture from the same vantage
taken during or in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.
33 feet high
massive tidal wave
the surge of water
killer wall of water
be triggered by a 9.0-magnitude undersea earthquake
off the Indonesian island of Sumatra
swirling ocean swells
the quake's epicenter
at the epicenter
the shorelines of Asia and East Africa
coastal Thailand and Sri Lanka
towns ravaged by the waves
dead are put at 57,000
4,000 people missing
tens of thousands still unaccounted for
the seismological bureau of the country's meteorology department
the tectonic plates beneath the ocean
the use of outdoor toilets
create breeding grounds for germs
the largest relief effort in history
An Indian man cries as he holds the hand of his eight-year-old son,
who was killed in a tsunami in Cuddalore, southern India, December 27, 2004.
The death toll in a tsunami that slammed into coasts from India to Indonesia
as rescuers scoured the sea for missing tourists
and fears of disease grew
as soldiers raced to recover rotting bodies.
Photo by Arko Datta/Reuters
Corpses Piled on Asian Coasts After Tsunami Kills 23,2004
Mon Dec 27, 2004 02:18 PM ET
the Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean region
the giant Burma and Indian tectonic plates
a massive 8.7 magnitude earthquake
ocean / sea floor
Packed With Weather Disasters
Brought Economic Toll to Match
The New York Times
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
this year has not only been lousy, it has been as destructive in terms of
economic loss as any on record.
Normally, three or four weather disasters a year in the United States will cause
at least $1 billion in damages each. This year, there were nine such disasters.
They included the huge snow dump in late January and early February on the
Midwest and Northeast, the rash of tornadoes this spring across the Midwest and
the more recent flooding of the Missouri and Souris Rivers. The disasters were
responsible for at least 589 deaths, including 160 in May when tornadoes ripped
through Joplin, Mo.
These nine billion-dollar disasters tie the record set in 2008, according to a
report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The total damage
done by all storms, tornadoes, flooding and heat waves so far this year adds up
to about $35 billion. The National Climatic Data Center says it estimates the
costs in terms of dollars and lives that would not have been incurred had the
event not taken place. Insured and uninsured losses are included in damage
estimates and are likely to change as assessments become more complete. With
four months to go in 2011, this year’s total amount of damage is likely to rise.
Forecasters are already predicting further meteorological mayhem as hurricane
Over the last 30 years, there have been about 108 natural disasters that have
caused $1 billion in damages each, according to NOAA. The total damage from all
natural disasters since 1980 is about $750 billion.
“The increasing impacts of natural disasters, as seen this year, are a stark
reminder of the lives and livelihoods at risk,” Jack Hayes, director of NOAA’s
National Weather Service, said in a statement.
Part of the problem is that more people are living in high-risk areas, NOAA
said. This makes them “increasingly vulnerable to severe weather events, such as
tornado outbreaks, intense heat waves, flooding, active hurricane seasons, and
solar storms that threaten electrical and communication systems,” the statement
NOAA, along with other private and public agencies, is taking several steps to
try to make the nation more “weather ready,” including making more precise
forecasts, improving the ability to alert local authorities about risks and
developing specialized mobile-ready emergency response teams.
The National Weather Service is also planning several test projects involving
emergency response and ecological forecasting. Test projects are to start soon
at strategic locations in the mid-Atlantic region, on the Gulf Coast and
elsewhere in the South. They include improvements to a system in Charleston,
W.Va., for alerts three hours ahead of severe weather instead of the current
The nine weather events that have caused at least $1 billion in damages so far
this year are:
¶Central/East Groundhog Day blizzard (Jan. 29-Feb. 3). This storm was tied to 36
deaths. The losses exceeded $2 billion.
¶Midwest/Southeast tornadoes (April 4-5). Nine people were killed. Total losses
were more than $2 billion.
¶Southeast/Midwest tornadoes (April 8-11). Resulted in more than $2 billion in
¶Midwest/Southeast tornadoes (April 14-16). Caused 38 deaths. Total losses are
more than $2 billion.
¶Southeast/Ohio Valley/Midwest tornadoes (April 25-30). Caused 327 deaths.
Losses total more than $9 billion.
¶Midwest/Southeast tornadoes (May 22-27). Caused 177 deaths. Total losses are
more than $7 billion.
¶Southern Plains/Southwest drought, heat waves, wildfires. Direct losses are
more than $5 billion.
¶Mississippi River flooding. At least two deaths and losses ranging from $2
billion to $4 billion.
¶Upper Midwest flooding. Losses estimated at $2 billion.
Year Packed With Weather Disasters Has Brought Economic
Toll to Match,
of Natural Disasters,
Insurers Brace for Big Losses
The New York Times
By CHRISTINE HAUSER
devastation from the natural disasters that have ripped through parts of the
country this year has been starkly evident. Hundreds of people have died and
thousands of houses have been shattered in a deadly string of tornadoes.
Millions of acres of farms were inundated and businesses shut down by flooding
along the Mississippi River.
Now, as homes are repaired, fields are pumped and factories are cleaned out, the
damage assessments will mount, and another measure of the impact will come into
clearer focus: the cost to insurance companies.
Based on nearly two dozen interviews with farmers, business owners, analysts and
government officials, private insurance companies are likely to experience at
least $10 billion in insured losses this year, mostly associated with the
tornadoes and the flooding along the Mississippi, based on property damage, lost
inventory, business interruption and disrupted crop plantings.
Insurance industry and risk analysis experts arrived at their projections by
adding median damage estimates for the worst of the tornadoes so far. The tally
will rise when private-sector insurance flood and crop claims associated with
the Mississippi River flooding are tacked on and hundreds of other tornadoes and
severe winter weather events are factored in.
“Natural catastrophe losses in the United States are likely to be well over $10
billion by the end of 2011,” said David Smith, the senior vice president of
Eqecat Inc., a catastrophe risk modeling firm. And Robert P. Hartwig, president
of the Insurance Information Institute, said that just one “relatively minor”
hurricane this year could push the total private insurance catastrophe losses in
2011 above the $13.6 billion paid out in 2010.
Whatever the numbers prove to be, analysts acknowledge that the geographic and
economic range of damage is vast. Farmland is still submerged, meaning farmers
must wait until the water fully recedes to determine whether the soil is fit to
replant. Damage assessment teams are still fanning out in tornado zones,
surveying the destruction.
And there is also uncertainty about what insurance policies will cover, a
question recently on the mind of Austin Golding, a 25-year-old manager in his
family’s barge business in Vicksburg, Miss. Like other business owners along the
Mississippi, Mr. Golding took pre-emptive measures when the river started to
rise, moving equipment and staff members to portable trailers on higher ground
and putting the main office on blocks, a costly operation that he said saved the
insured building from water damage.
“I think we are probably going to try to recoup what we spent in trying to avoid
a total replacement” of the building, Mr. Golding said. He added that they would
at least try to negotiate a decrease in the premium.
The Mississippi River areas that were flooded include two million to more than
three million acres of farmland and pasture, said Michael Cordonnier, a
consultant with the Soybean and Corn Advisor, an information service for the
commodity industry. Houses, ports, casinos, hotels, grain elevators,
infrastructure, fisheries and other facilities are among the sources expected to
generate claims from damages.
In addition to the flooding, some of the worst tornadoes in decades have struck
this year. As of Wednesday, there have been at least 518 fatalities from
tornadoes in the United States, just behind the 519 in 1953, the highest number
since official record-keeping started in 1950, said Gregory Carbin, a National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist.
Just the tornadoes that affected Alabama and neighboring states in the last week
of April, and Joplin, Mo., in May, could produce insured losses of $4.5 billion
to $8 billion, said Mr. Hartwig of the insurance institute. Eqecat Inc.
estimated insured losses at $2 billion to $5 billion in the April week and $1
billion to $3 billion for Joplin. AIR Worldwide, a risk modeling and consulting
firm, said it estimated $3.7 billion to $5.5 billion in insured losses for
tornadoes and other severe weather events, including Alabama’s, in just one
week: April 22 to 28.
Catastrophes are defined in the industry as any single event with $25 million or
more in insured losses. The biggest catastrophe to hit the industry’s insurers
was Hurricane Katrina, which generated $45 billion, adjusted for inflation, in
insured losses for houses, businesses and vehicles.
While many in the industry, and those clearing out their homes or pumping out
businesses, say it is too early to put a figure on the damage, private insurance
companies will not be alone in bearing the cost.
The government will cover most of the losses related to flooding for insured
homes and small businesses through the National Flood Insurance Program.
Officials said the flood insurance program was already $17.7 billion in debt to
the Treasury Department, mostly because of Katrina. They added, however, that
the program still had $668 million in cash reserves as of April 30 and the
ability to borrow nearly $3 billion more from the department if needed to cover
this year’s claims.
Farmers Insurance, which is one of at least 90 private insurance companies that
pays out the flood claims losses using the flood insurance program’s funds, has
received about 300 claims for flood losses as of May 30, said Jeffery W.
Hinesly, a manager of the program for the company. He said that each claim
averaged $20,000 to $30,000 for property damage. “I do not expect much more than
the 300 because many do not own flood insurance,” he said. The major loss
exposure that private insurance companies will have using their own funds for
flood losses is for automobile insurance, which is not covered by the flood
insurance program, he added.
For crop insurance, the government’s Risk Management Agency shares the payments
for losses with the 15 private insurance companies that it regulates. William J.
Murphy, the administrator of the agency, said he expected crop-related losses
from Missouri south through the Mississippi River basin to be in the $700
million to $800 million range. The amount paid by the private companies depends
on individual contracts with farmers, but it is expected to be in the hundreds
of millions of dollars.
“We are waiting to see the extent of the losses down there,” Mr. Murphy said.
Meanwhile, along the river and in tornado-wrenched towns, residents, farmers and
business owners are struggling to adapt.
Bobby W. Armstrong, 79, and his wife, Barbara, moved into a Days Inn in Joplin
after their three-bedroom home was damaged, but they considered themselves
fortunate that it was not destroyed.
“We heard sirens going and so we went into the hallways and sat down next to the
linen closet and huddled up there on the floor,” said Mr. Armstrong, a Marine
Corps veteran. He said a “wild guess” was that the house needed a new roof,
siding, gutters and other repairs, but they had yet to see a claims adjuster.
“We have turned in the report on it, and it will take time before they get out,”
Farmers, too, must wait, and with commodity prices at recent highs, the delays
can be costly. The floods wiped out investments in fertilizer, labor and seeds.
Crop insurance might cover only 50 to 75 percent of the value, depending on
average historical yields. In addition, there are seasonal issues. It is too
late to replant corn, but soybeans may still take root if the topsoil is in
John Michael Pillow, a 41-year-old farmer in Yazoo County, Miss., watched in
dismay when the river spilled over onto his insured farmland, destroying about
3,000 of the 4,000 acres of corn he had already planted.
“I am really hoping we can plant soybeans,” he added, “so we will be able to get
out of this year without a complete loss.”
In Wake of Natural Disasters, Insurers Brace for Big
Losses, NYT, 1.6.2011,
quake rattles northeastern Nevada
RENO (AP) —
A strong earthquake shook rural northeastern Nevada Thursday, causing at least
one building to collapse and forcing a truck stop to evacuate, authorities said.
magnitude of the quake, initially estimated at 6.3, was later revised to 6.0 by
the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center in Golden,
Colo. The quake was centered in a sparsely populated area 11 miles southeast of
Wells near the Nevada-Utah line.
pretty bad," said Jane Kelso, who answered the phone at the Motel 6. "Everything
in our whole building shook. "We have cracks in our walls."
The temblor was felt across eastern Nevada, Utah and as far away as Southern
California. In Twin Falls, Idaho, residents reported severe shaking and items
falling off shelves.
"Definitely a lot of people felt this, and if they were sleeping, they were
awoken," said USGS geophysicist Carrieann Bedwell.
Elko County Undersheriff Rocky Gonzalez said there were reports of some damage
to buildings. At least one building collapsed, he said, and a Flying J truck
stop was evacuated because of a propane leak, he said.
There were no immediate reports of serious injuries, but a manager at the truck
stop said the store was a wreck, with groceries and goods scattered. One woman
was reportedly injured when cigarette rack fell on her.
6.0 quake rattles northeastern Nevada, UT, 21.2.2008,
Earthquake Hits Solomon Islands
April 29, 2007
Filed at 3:33 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (AP) -- A moderate earthquake toppled several
houses Sunday in the Solomon Islands near where a quake and tsunami killed 52
people earlier this month, an official said.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported that a magnitude 5.4 quake struck
mid-afternoon local time, 25 miles southeast of the region's main town of Gizo
and 6 miles beneath the earth's crust. The quake was too small to pose a tsunami
Provincial government member Danny Kennedy said there were reports of houses
being toppled on the island of Mono in the western Solomons, but he said Gizo
appeared to have suffered little damage. There were no reports of casualties.
''It certainly shook us quite a lot,'' Kennedy said.
A magnitude 8.1 quake and tsunami on April 2 killed 52 people, including 33 on
Earthquake Hits Solomon
Islands, NYT, 29.4.2007,
Earth tremor hits southeast England
Sat Apr 28, 2007
FOLKESTONE (Reuters) - Southeast England was hit by a small earthquake on
Saturday that brought down power lines and caused some structural damage.
Kent Police said they were working closely with emergency services in the
coastal town of Folkestone -- the area worst hit by the tremor -- in dealing
with more than 100 emergency calls. But there were no reports of serious
"Sussex police's helicopter is helping us with a view of the area, while the
Kent police marine unit is out as well," said a Kent police spokeswoman.
Experts gave differing estimates of the earthquake's strength with the U.S.
Geological Survey measuring the tremor's magnitude at 4.7 on the Richter scale
while the British Geological Survey put it at 4.3.
"It's similar to ones in 1950 and 1776," said Dr Roger Musson of the British
Geological Survey (BGS). "We're quite fortunate that it's as small as it is."
The earthquake brought down power lines with several thousand homes affected,
but EDF Energy Networks said service had been quickly restored to customers in
the Folkestone and Dover areas.
After the earthquake, local residents called television stations to report
feeling the ground shake, cracks appearing in homes and chimneys being brought
"It woke me. It felt like an explosion and my bedroom started shaking backwards
and forwards. It was a violent, violent rattle," Alison Reiney told Sky News
Witness Lorraine Muir said chimneys had come down, gas and electricity supplies
were off and people were being evacuated from their homes by the Salvation Army.
"We've been evacuated ... we've got no gas or electricity at the moment. It's
chaos up here," she said.
The earthquake had no effect on international travel services with Eurotunnel,
which runs cross-channel rail services to France from its terminal near
Folkestone on the English coast, running normally.
A spokesman at Dover, one of the busiest ferry ports in Europe, also said it was
operating normally. "There has been no impact on ferries or on checking in," he
The tremor, which struck at 0718 GMT, was the largest British earthquake since
the one that hit Dudley in the West Midlands in 2002.
Earth tremor hits
southeast England, R, 28.4.2007,
A Strong Earthquake Rattles Hawaii
October 16, 2006
The New York Times
By JANIS L. MAGIN and MARIA NEWMAN
HONOLULU, Oct. 15 — A strong earthquake struck the Hawaiian Islands early
Sunday, shaking residents and tourists from their sleep, knocking out electrical
power to several areas and setting off a landslide that rained boulders and
other debris on the major highway of the largest island.
The United States Geological Survey said that the main quake had a preliminary
magnitude of 6.6 and that there had been at least a dozen aftershocks, including
one that measured 5.8. Officials said the quake was the largest to hit Hawaii
since one of magnitude 6.7 in 1983.
Gov. Linda Lingle issued a disaster declaration Sunday afternoon and activated
the National Guard, which happened to be conducting a statewide drill this
weekend. The governor ordered her cabinet to convene at the headquarters of the
Hawaii State Department of Civil Defense, which is in Diamond Head crater in
Honolulu, the state capital, on the island of Oahu.
There were no reports of deaths, but there were scores of unconfirmed reports of
injuries. Kona Community Hospital had significant damage, and patients were
moved to a hotel, officials said.
The lack of electricity hampered communications, and officials could not say
exactly how severe the damage was or what the extent of injuries was. The
governor urged people to go to work on Monday as usual.
The quake, centered just off the northwest shore of the Island of Hawaii,
occurred at 7:07 a.m. local time, officials said. That side of the island
contains Kohala, a popular resort area.
The quake and its aftershocks set off fears of a tsunami. But the Pacific
Tsunami Warning Center issued a report saying that “no tsunami is expected”
because the quake was too deep and that its magnitude was below the tsunami
trigger point of 6.9.
Kawaihae Harbor, near the epicenter, was closed because of damage to buildings
and a fuel line.
Power was knocked out for hours in many areas, but by midafternoon, it had been
restored to Hilo on the Island of Hawaii and to parts of Maui.
Leonid Citer, 50, a photographer from Wayne, N.J., said in a telephone interview
that he was on his way to photograph a wedding in Kona when the quake hit. Mr.
Citer said he pulled to the side of the road when he felt the shock and debris
began to rain down.
“There are rocks and fruit all over the road,” he said. “There are police and
firemen at all the major intersections, and they were instructing people to go
up as high as they can, elevation-wise, and they are advising them to stay away
from the shore.”
Emergency management officials also urged residents and others to stay put if
they could, to keep roadways open for emergency vehicles.
Beth Chapman, who co-stars with her husband, Duane Chapman, on the A&E cable
reality series “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” said she was at their home in the
Portlock section of Oahu when the quakes hit.
“There were two quakes, one at 7:08 this morning and the second one at 7:12,”
she said in a telephone interview. “I know because the clock stopped when the
second one came.
“I was outside for the second one, and you could hear this strange noise coming
from the ocean,” Ms. Chapman said. “Then the ground shook, and there was a huge
wave in our swimming pool.”
Airports across the islands switched to emergency backup systems, which allowed
inbound flights to land and a few outbound planes to depart. By midday, all
flights out of the airports on Honolulu and Maui were canceled, as were flights
to Hawaii from the United States mainland. At the airports still in operation,
security officials checked luggage manually and agriculture agents used dogs to
sniff packages and luggage because X-ray machines were without power.
Officials asked cruise ships to keep guests on board, and ships scheduled to
make landfall in Hawaii were asked to head to their next location.
“We’re are dealing with a lot of scared people,” Harry Kim, mayor of Hawaii
County, said in a televised interview on KITV.
Governor Lingle was on the Big Island, staying at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, when
the building rattled.
“It shook very strongly and knocked the televisions off the bureaus in the
hotel,” she said in an interview on KSSK Radio, one of the few broadcast outlets
that was not knocked off the air. “TV’s fell, books fell, mirrors fell off the
Insurance experts said that early reports suggested relatively light damage to
homes and businesses and that perhaps the heaviest costs could result from
electric power failures in Honolulu and on other islands.
The insurers offered no immediate estimates on overall economic damage, but
Robert P. Hartwig, chief economist of the Insurance Information Institute, said
payouts for damage from insurance companies for the earthquake probably would be
“very modest,” perhaps under $25 million compared with $1.1 billion for one of
the least costly hurricanes last year, Hurricane Dennis, which hit Florida in
The most costly earthquake in the United States, the Northridge earthquake in
Los Angeles in 1994, cost insurers up to $26 billion in today’s dollars. It
measured 6.7. By comparison, the insurers paid out $41 billion for damage from
Mr. Hartwig said that probably no more than 25 percent of homeowners in Hawaii
and fewer than 50 percent of businesses had special policies that pay for
“Right now, it does not look like there is substantial structural damage or
major fires,” he said. “And it looks like very modest costs to insurers. It
could turn out to be higher if there is considerable damage to foundations and
walls that is not immediately obvious.”
Janis L. Magin reported from Honolulu,
and Maria Newman from New York.
Andrew C. Revkin, Joseph B. Treaster
and David Carr contributed reporting from
A Strong Earthquake Rattles Hawaii, NYT, 16.10.2006,
Related > Anglonautes > Vocapedia > Earth > Weather
Floods / flooding
Related > Anglonautes > History
1906 > SF