Geographical Breakdown of Natural Disasters – East Coast of North America

Natural disasters happen all over the world. If you review a week in the news, you’d likely find stories coming out of the Philippines and Hungary, San Francisco and Japan. We can never really ‘predict’ natural disasters, however, certain areas are susceptible to certain natural disasters. With this, we can always have an idea of what the most likely natural disasters are in our own community. At ePACT, we wanted to provide you with a geographical breakdown of natural disasters around the world to help you with this planning!

In Wednesday’s post we looked at the geographical breakdown of natural disasters in Europe; today, we switch our focus across the Atlantic, and look at the East Coast of North America! The first natural disaster that pops into your mind when considering the east coast is probably hurricanes. Yes, hurricanes are no stranger to the area, but there are other natural risks to consider and prepare for, and we are here to share some of them with you!

Hurricanes – By now, many of you have heard of the large-scale hurricanes that have rocked the east coast of the United States: Ivan, Katrina, and most recently Sandy, were all destructive and powerful forces. Why is it that hurricanes are so much more common on the east coast? Along the central Atlantic and all the way down to the Caribbean, the waters are fairly warm. This is the ideal temperature and conditions to create and maintain hurricanes and strong storms. On the other hand, in the Pacific, waters tend to be much cooler, so even if a hurricane were to start, it would likely weaken quickly over the colder ocean.

People try and get through the waters with a row boat in Gulfport, Miss, neighborhood after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast Monday, Aug. 29, 2005. (Photo by: John Bazemore, AP Photo)
People try and get through the waters with a row boat in Gulfport, Miss, neighborhood after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast Monday, Aug. 29, 2005. (Photo by: John Bazemore, AP Photo)

The costliest hurricane to ever strike the east coast was Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Katrina formed over the Bahamas in the Caribbean, and crossed through Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, before making its second landfall in southeast Louisiana. New Orleans was hit hardest by Katrina’s wrath, causing over 1500 fatalities and $81 billion in damage costs. Hurricane Ivan was a long hurricane that caused major damage from the Caribbean to the United States from September 2nd to 24th, 2004. During its peak in the Gulf of Mexico, Ivan was the size of the state of Texas, and lead to the creation of hundreds of tornadoes in its path. Hurricane Sandy happened just over a year ago, and many affected by the storm are still reeling from its wreckage. In her path, Sandy left an estimated 186 casualties from the Caribbean through the United States and up to Canada, and reached its highest peak winds at 185 mph.

Earthquakes – Earthquakes don’t commonly occur along the Atlantic, but are possible. In 2012, there were multiple earthquakes detected on the east coast of the United States with magnitudes of 2-4 on the Richter scale. These magnitudes in the grand scheme of things are not considered very large, and may not even be felt by most in the area. However, the fact remains that the possibility is there for earthquakes to occur. In 1929, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Newfoundland. The earthquake was felt as far inland as Montreal and New York, and lead to a tsunami, whose waves were recorded as far away as Portugal! In 2011, an earthquake occurred in Virginia, with a magnitude of 5.8. It was the largest earthquake to have occurred in the U.S east of the Rocky Mountains in over 100 years, and more people felt the earthquake than any other earthquake in recorded US history. Earthquakes may not be commonplace on the east coast of North America, but certainly do need to be considered a possibility at all times.

Floods –Flooding can be caused by a wide variety of factors, including heavy rains, rising sea levels, storm surges, and dam and levee failures. Along the east coast of North America, the main reason for flooding is due to hurricanes and strong storms. In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina struck, the ensuing storm surge caused extreme flooding, especially in New Orleans. The majority of New Orleans already lies below sea level, and when the storm surge broke through numerous levees, sea levels rose, and heavy rain came down, it caused an estimated 80% of all of New Orleans to become submerged in up to six feet of water.

Damage from a tornado in Virginia at a shopping mall. (Photo by: Steve Helber, AP Photo)
Damage from a tornado in Virginia at a shopping mall. (Photo by: Steve Helber, AP Photo)

Tornadoes – Tornadoes are more commonly found in the Midwest and central states, but have also been known to occur in the east coast states. Between April 25th-28th, 2011, the largest tornado outbreak ever recorded struck the southern, Midwestern, and eastern United States. In the outbreak, there were 358 tornadoes in total, flying across 21 states and even into Canada. The outbreak lead to 321 tornado-related deaths, and caused all kinds of destruction throughout its path. Tornadoes are constantly moving and can certainly move in the eastern direction, even if they start in the central region.

Tsunamis –While it is unlikely and incredibly rare, tsunamis can occur along the east coast of North America. As shown above, a tsunami struck the eastern coast of Canada following an earthquake in 1929, causing approximately 30 fatalities.

It’s interesting to see how certain natural disasters affect certain parts of the world. The east coast of North America is home to amazing cities like New York, Halifax and Miami, and while hurricanes are in fact the biggest threat to the region, there are others as well. We’ve seen in the above examples how some natural disasters can spawn from other natural disasters such as tornadoes from hurricanes, and tsunamis from earthquakes. With this, it’s important to be prepared for whatever may come your way and not leave anything up to chance! ePACT can certainly help you with this – as an ePACT member you will have anytime, anywhere access to your emergency information, as well as the ability to reach out to your family and emergency contacts in any crisis. Sign up for a free family account today and get started on your path to preparedness!

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