The independent student news organization of Nicholls State University

Types of natural disasters across the United States

July 1, 2017

Every state of the United States contains its own history, culture and weather patterns. Every so often, states are hit with natural disasters. They experience different types of natural disasters based on their location, although some natural disasters are capable of occurring in multiple regions. Some regions are more acquainted with specific natural disasters than others.
Hurricanes are no strangers to southern Louisiana but that’s not the case for the western part of the United States. Hurricanes rarely affect the west coast but they frequently form along the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico.
Water temperatures along the west coast are too low to maintain a hurricane unlike the warm water temperatures of the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico. The Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico usually see hurricane activity during the Atlantic hurricane season, which is June 1 through November 30, but it’s not uncommon to see hurricanes other times of the year.
According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, floods are the most common and widespread natural disaster. They result from heavy rains, ocean waves passing their usual shorelines, fast melting snow or broken dams or levees.
Flash floods, the most dangerous kind of flood, occur when large amounts of water fill both dry and flowing creeks and riverbeds.
Each year, flooding kills more people than tornadoes, hurricanes or lightning.
The U.S. Geological Survey defines an earthquake as the sudden slip on a fault line resulting in the ground shaking. Areas near major faults, such as the San Andreas Fault, are prone to frequent earthquakes.
There are three large zones of the earth where the largest earthquakes are more likely to occur. The west coast lies on the circum-Pacific seismic belt, the zone that produces 81% of the world’s largest earthquakes (USGS).
Earthquakes are describes by mainshocks and aftershocks. Mainshock, the largest main earthquake, is always followed by a series of smaller earthquakes known as aftershocks. The duration of aftershocks depends of the magnitude of the mainshock.
Wildfires are fueled by weather, wind and dry underbrush (National Geographic). They occur all over the world, but are most common on the western part of the United States. Places like Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Colorado, Oregon and California experience the worst wildfires.
Wildfires need fuel, oxygen and a heat source to burn so the drought conditions, heat and thunderstorms of the west provide the perfect conditions.
It may seem like wildfires are only destructive but they return nutrients to the soil. They act as a disinfectant and eliminate brushy undergrowth to allow sunlight.
Tornadoes occur when different temperatures and humidity meet. They form a narrow, rotating column of air that is usually invisible unless it carries water droplets, dust and debris (NSSL).
According to Live Science, they are considered the most violent storms in nature. The debris and tornado’s wind are what cause the most structural damage and cause injuries during rescue work and cleanup. Each year, roughly 1,200 tornadoes form in the United States.
Florida and Tornado Alley, the region between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains, produce the highest number of tornadoes in the United States. Although tornadoes can occur at any time of the year, they are most common during the spring and summer.
The United States isn’t limited to these natural disasters. Other types of natural disasters include landslides, heat waves and droughts. There isn’t one location that is completely safe but there are precautions one must take to be prepared for their regions natural disaster.

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