Extreme Weather Events in Top 5 Worst Natural Disasters of the Century

The top 5 worst natural disasters in the last 100 years all were extreme weather events in the United States, as follows (source – The Weather Channel):

1. 1930-34 Dust Bowl (brought by severe drought in the Midwest)

2. 1927 Great Flood of Mississippi River (more destructive than the 2011 Great flood)

3. 2005 Hurricane Katrina (at 81 billion dollars, the most costly disaster hitting the Gulf coast)

4. 2011 Tornado Outbreak of April (most human loss in the recorded history of tornados)

5. 1993 Super Storm

The top 5 worst natural disasters of 2011 so far include: extreme winter weather blizzard, tornado outbreak, the great Mississippi River flood, and drought (wild fire with 78% Texas in extreme drought).

Can these extreme weather events be simply blamed on global warming or these are cyclic events over periods of 50-100 years? No matter what are the causes, we must prepare to respond to these events and other non-weather disasters on more frequent basis. This will require all of us to realize community preparedness at all levels of government and non-government emergency management efforts.

Tornado in Oklahoma, 2011
Credit - AP
Credit - Tyler Jordan

More information on current severe weather available at NOAA Weather Blog.

3 thoughts on “Extreme Weather Events in Top 5 Worst Natural Disasters of the Century”

  1. After reading this blog, I’m interested to learn your thoughts on some of the problems we have with our recent natural disaster responses. What were some of the challenges we faced in the recent Mississippi River flood? Lessons learned?

    How can we improve at an individual, community, and federal level?

    1. Very timely comment. Guest posts 5, 6, 7, 8 provide more insight on flood related disasters.
      Unfortunately emergency response planning of government agencies has been inadequate in most cases with respect to disaster risk reduction for communities who may get affected. There is still lack of intergovernmental coordination among many agencies. They probably need to follow the model of the creation of departmental of Homeland Security where all security related agencies were integrated but it took 9/11/2001 disaster to happen
      In the make-up of advisory panels, representations of public and communities are not truly and broadly included in stakeholders’ meetings and disaster related decision making. Two examples follow for illustration.
      One can see that in the case of Mississippi River Great flooding of 2011. The flood gates were erected in Mississippi and Louisiana as a part of flood management plan after the Great Flood of 1927. As shown in Guest post 6 many Mississippi counties affected in 1927 were again flooded and severely impacted by the 2011 Great flood. In many cases the same communities were vulnerable again in the Great Flood of 2011. How much input was solicited from these communities for a possible flood disaster during the period of over 80 years from 1927 through 2011. No proper mitigation strategies were in place for affected Communities and ecological protection when floods gates were open to protect flood gates’ integrity, levees, and city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Why residential land use development was allowed in the flood plains?
      During the Great Flood of 2011 most of the flood water devastated many communities, created ecological disasters in the Delta, and finally gone wasted in the Gulf. Why there was no planning to divert all this river overflow and flood water through a system of canals and reservoirs to Texas and neighboring states, which have been suffering from low precipitation and severe drought for decades?

      The second example is inadequate planning and drills for the communities’ and agencies’ preparation for earthquake disaster reduction on countrywide basis. Guest post 1 analyses and USGS shows that most states in the continental US are prone to medium severity earthquake occurrence. Also, nuclear power facilities are present in most states. After the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami destruction of Japan’s nuclear power plants one will think that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and nuclear industry will start condition monitoring for structural integrity of all nuclear facilities and revisit safety steps to protect US citizens from such disasters and bring surrounding communities in confidence. However, in recent US Senate hearing in early August 2011 there was disagreement among the NRC chair and some NRC members whether 90 days review of such recommendations is adequate period or not. This is just an example of slow pace of agency response after about 6 months of Japan’s nuclear disaster. FEMA is mostly charged to assess disaster damage and provide post-disaster funding aid but it is not leading pre-disaster mitigation planning and community outreach.
      My recommendation is that the Presidential office should initiate leadership role of interagency coordination for emergency response and mitigation planning related to natural disasters and establish web based volunteer organizations on regional and community levels. Such volunteer tools have been used by NOAA for ecological protection projects.

  2. I believe that the public cannot fully prepare for natural disasters of that magnitude. Government should have steps, supplies, and preparations available for a likely disaster situation (and handle those efficiently). The public will not know what to do if not trained on disaster procedure.

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