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Disaster Facts I
updated 02/06

The disaster types that were randomly selected for this research project resulted in: six cases of flooding, five severe storms, four wildfires, three winter storms and one winter freeze, two tropical storms, two hurricanes, two tornados, one earthquake, an ice storm, heavy rains, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Here are some general facts on these dangerous, costly, and sometimes-deadly disaster types when caused by weather. Refer to Disaster Facts II for information on man-made disaster types.

Weather-Related Disasters


Most deaths during a tsunami are a result of drowning.  Associated risks include flooding, polluted water supplies, and damaged gas lines (From: http://www.fema.gov/hazards/tsunamis/tsunami.shtm).

Although the probability of tsunami is significantly less than other coastal hazards such as hurricanes and storms. However, even though they are rare, as shown by the 2004 South Asia Tsunami, the consequences are large enough that they can pose a significant risk. Tsunami can occur along any coastline, although they occur mostly along the Pacific coastline because of the more frequent seismic hazard. Since they occur so infrequently, the probability is considered too remote to address this hazard in normal building code requirements (From:http://www.fema.gov/hazards/tsunamis/tsunami_questions.shtm#general_04).

  • In 2004, the tsunami in South Asia generated by the earthquake killed approximately 275,000 people, making it one of the deadliest disasters in modern history.

  • Sumatra Andaman earthquake was an undersea earthquake that occurred at 00:58:53 UTC ( 07:58:53 local time) on December 26, 2004

  • Estimated magnitude was at 9.15

  •  More than 15 countries were affected by the tsunami

  • It was one of the most deadliest disasters in modern history

  •  Millions of survivors were left in desperate need of food, water, shelter, and medical care

  • Indonesia suffered the largest loss of life of the stricken countries, accounting for about two-thirds of the total deaths  

Information Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Indian_Ocean_earthquake http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761573214_12/Indonesia_Republic_of.html#p196

  • In 1964, an Alaskan earthquake generated a tsunami with waves between 10 and 20 feet high along parts of the California , Oregon , and Washington coasts.  The tsunami caused more than $84 million in damage in Alaska and total of 124 facilities

  • In 1946, a tsunami with waves of 20 to 32 feet crashed into Hilo , Hawaii , flooding the downtown area and killing 159 people

  • Since 1945, more people have been killed as a result of tsunamis than a direct result of an earthquake’s ground-shaking

Hurricane Katrina  

“Hurricane Katrina was the eleventh named tropical storm, fourth hurricane, third major hurricane, and first Category 5 hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic season and it was third most powerful storm of the season, behind Hurricane Wilma and Hurricane Rita, and the six-strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic basin.”  

  • Duration: August 23 – August 31, 2005

  • Highest Winds: 175 mph (280km/h) sustained

  • Total damages: Estimated from $70 to $130 billion

  • Areas affected: Bahamas, South Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida Panhandle, most of eastern North America

  • At least 36 confirmed tornadoes associated with Hurricane Katrina: Mississipi-11, Alabama-4, Georgia-15, Virginia-1, and Pennsylvania-5

  • Costliest tropical cyclone of all time

Information Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Katrina

As of November 22, 2005 :

  • The whereabouts of 6,644 reported missing after Hurricane Katrina have not been determined

  • The death toll could be higher than the 1,306 recorded so far in Louisiana and Mississippi. Among those who died, 301 people were unidentified victims

  • Nearly 1,000 of the 6,644 unaccounted-for people are children

Information Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/usatoday/20051122/ts_usatoday/6644arestillmissingafterkatrinatollmayrise As of November 17, 2005 , The American Red Cross:

  • Estimates that Hurricane Katrina relief efforts will exceed $2 billion

  • Estimate that their distribution of financial assistance will be approximately 1.2 million families (more than 3.7 million hurricane survivors)

  • Provided hurricane survivors with nearly 3.42 million overnight stays in nearly 1,100 shelters across 27 states and the District of Colombia

  • Had more that 215,040 Red Cross disaster relief workers from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands have responded to their neighbors in need

  • Has served more than 27.2 million hot meals and 24.8 million snacks to hurricane survivors to date with the coordination of Southern Baptist Convention

Information Source: http://www.redcross.org/news/ds/hurricanes/katrina_facts.html U.S. Census Bureau:

  • Estimates nearly 10 million residents along the Gulf Coast were hit by Hurricane Katrina

  • Estimate about 3.2 million people live within the imminent or occurring flood area

  • Estimate 2.1 million people in Alabama , Louisiana and Mississippi lived below the poverty level

Information Source: http://www.census.gov/Press-        Release/www/releases/archives/hurricanes_tropical_storms/005673.html Animal Concerns

  • The Humane Society of the United States (The HSUS) had received $15 million in donations within two weeks after the hurricane occurred to rescue and protect animals

  • Many animals were left by their owners who could not take them to the evacuation shelters

  • As with any major disaster, animals are affected as well as human beings

  • In the case during Katrina, no order to support total animal evacuation was given

  • An estimated 1,300 unaccounted-for people who lived in areas that were heavily damaged by Katrina, or who were disabled at the time storm hit

  • As of September 20, 2005 , 6,301 animals were rescued and 400 were reunited with their owners

  • Most of the 10,000 fish at the New Orleans Aquarium of the Americas died because the backup power ran out after four days

  • The Audubon Zoo lost only three animals out of a total of 1,400 due to good disaster planning and location on high ground

Information Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Katrina#Death_toll_.28summary.29  For more information: http://www.hsus.org


  • “Nearly nine of every ten presidential disaster declarations result from natural phenomena in which flooding was a major component.” -FEMA
    The greatest killer floods in the United States have been:
      o Ohio River Valley (1930) 467 deaths
      o Mississippi River Valley (1927) 313 deaths
      o South Dakota (1972) 300 deaths
      o Big Thompson Colorado (1976) 300 deaths -Eagleman
    The greatest economic flood loss in the United States’ history was from Hurricane Agnes (1972) resulting in 4 billion dollars in damages and 105 deaths -Eagleman
  • This research includes flooding in Suffolk (1999) and Worchester Counties (2001) in Massachusetts, Hawaii County (2000) in Hawaii, Mille Lacs (2001) and Redwood (2001) Counties in Minnesota and the City of Norton (2002) in Virginia.

Severe Storms/Thunderstorms

  • “At any given moment, nearly 1,800 thunderstorms are in progress over the surface of the earth.” – FEMA
    Annually, the U.S. averages 100,000 thunderstorms –FEMA
    Most thunderstorm damage results from straight-line winds exceeding 100 m.p.h. –FEMA
  • We are studying the severe storms that hit Douglas County, Wisconsin (1999), Maricopa County, Arizona (1999), Kennebec County, Maine (2000), Lincoln County, Nebraska (2001), and Jefferson County, Texas (2002)


  • Four out of five forest fires are started by people –FEMA
    The annual average number of wildfires in the United States is 103,112, with an average of 6,937,584 acres being burned. On the average 2,382 structures are burnt (835 residences, 46 commercial buildings and 1,500 out buildings). The cost to federal agencies to suppress these fires over a ten-year period (1992-2001) has been 1.6 billion, and cost the lives of 170 firefighters. (Source: National Interagency Fire Center, (2002) http://www.nifc.gov/fireinfo/2002/index.html)
    "The 1991 wild land fires in Oakland, CA caused 26 deaths and 148 injuries. The fire destroyed over 3,000 structures, left 5,000 people homeless, and resulted in $1.5 billion in damages.” –FEMA
  • The wildfires in this research project include those in 2000 in Rosebud County Montana, and in 2002 that struck Garfield and Denver Counties, and the City of Denver, Colorado.

Winter Storms

  • Leading cause of death during winter storms is from automobile or other transportation accidents or situations. The second cause of death is exhaustion or heart attacks caused by overexertion –FEMA
    The Blizzard of March 1993 dumped record amounts of snow on an area that stretched from A labama to New England. The storms caused 170 deaths, left hundreds of thousands of people without power for several days, and resulted in $800 million in damages.” –FEMA
  • Winter storms in Clarke County in Georgia (2000) and Frederick County, Maryland (2000) are included in the research sample.

Hurricanes & Tropical Storms

  • Billion dollar hurricanes include: Hugo, Betsy, Camille, Frederic, Alicia, and Elena -Eagleman
    A Galveston, Texas hurricane (1900) killed more than 6,000, making it the greatest United States disaster –Eagleman
    Hurricanes have winds of at least 74 m.p.h. and annually there are six Atlantic hurricanes each year -FEMA
  • This research is investigating Hurricane Lili in Louisiana, Hurricane Earl in Florida, and Tropical Storm Charley in Texas and Isidore in Texas.


  • The United States has the highest annual average of tornados in the world, which averages 800 tornados a year. Australia ranks second. “Tornado”, Microsoft, Encarta, Online Encyclopedia (2004) http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761554892/Tornado.html#s4
    Tornados occur in all 50 states, however they are more frequent in “Tornado Alley” which includes Midwest states from the Texas Gulf coastal plains to northward through to eastern South Dakota. Another common area is the “Dixie Alley” from Gulf coastal plains from south Texas eastward to Florida. (Source: “Tornado”, Microsoft, Encarta, Online Encyclopedia, 2004.)
    On March 18, 1925, seven tornados hit Illinois, Missouri, and Indiana resulting in the highest death toll of 740.
    “In 1974, 361 deaths occurred in the United States with 6,915 injured from tornados from 20 different states by 64 different tornados -Eagleman
  • Our study looks at the tornado that hit the City of Hampton, Virginia in 1999 and the tornados from a severe storm in 2002 to strike Jefferson County, Texas.


  • “The granddaddy of all earthquakes was along the Madrid fault in Missouri, where a 3-month long series of quakes in 1811-1812, included three quakes larger than a magnitude of eight. These quakes were felt over 2 million square miles.” –FEMA
    In modern times, the deadliest earthquake happened on the morning of December 26, 2003, in the city of Ban, in southern Iran. The death toll was a staggering 29,700 with 50,000 injured. The city was built primarily of mud bricks, and was not able to with stand the magnitude of a 6.3 earthquake. (OCHA-Situation Report, No. 10, 02-Jan-04, http://www.cidi.org/disaster/)
    The April 1906 Great San Francisco Earthquake killed 400 and caused $500 million in damages. www.hayfield.k12.mn.us/~reynovi/20th%20Century.htm
  • In the US, there are 12,000-14,000 earthquakes yearly –FEMA
    This research is investigating the earthquake of 2001 in Lewis County, Washington.

Sources for natural disaster information: Unless noted otherwise, Eagleman, Joe R (1990) “Severe and Unusual Weather” and FEMA and NOOA websites.



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