Natural Disasters in the US History

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The United States has been subjected to a number of natural disasters in its existence, including tornadoes, earthquakes, severe thunderstorms, and flooding (Powell & Lawrence 763). These tragedies seem to have been more common in recent years. For example, FEMA declared approximately 500 disasters between 1965 and 1985, a span of 20 years. Between 1989 and 1995, there was a substantial rise in the figure, with about 300 occurrences. Some of the deadly disasters include Hurricane Harvey which occurred in 2017, tri-state tornado in March 1925, Okeechobee hurricane in 1928, hurricane Galveston in 1900, the heatwave of 1988, and hurricane Katrina in 2005 (Powell & Lawrence 762). These catastrophes had an enormous impact on the social, economic, and environmental setting of the nation causing loss of lives and destruction of property.

Hurricane Harvey

The hurricane was the most costly in the history of United States because of the damages it caused. It developed from a tropical wave which crossed the Windward Islands and passed through the south of Barbados and near Saint Vincent (Triner & Gail 612). The storm destroyed Texas spreading from Houston to Louisiana.Over 75 people lost their lives, and a massive loss of property of over 100 billion US dollars was reported.

The FEMA found it difficult to manage the buildings which were housing most of the people.In trying to handle the situation, most people provided volunteer efforts with little guidance from officials. For instance, a businessman made his mattress store to be a safe refuge where the survivors temporarily sheltered.

Tri-state tornado

The tri-state tornado was the deadliest in the then history of U.S. It occurred on March 18, 1925, and traveled from south-eastern Missouri via southern Illinoisto southwestern Indiana. The storm entirely demolished some cities and caused 695 deaths.The cyclone came as a surprise since the weather was fine according to the weather forecasts. The storm moved fast accelerating towards Frohna, Annapolis, and Biehle before crossing the River Mississippi to southern Illinois, destroying the towns of De Soto, Murphysboro, and Gorham. The tornado crossed the Wabash River to Indiana devastating 85 farms. After claiming 71 lives in Indiana, the storm dissipated around 4:30 pm about 5 km southwest of Petersburg. The tornado set records for both time and distance by covering 352 km at a speed of approximately 480 km per hour and lasting 3.5 hours. Apart from the 695 fatalities, there were more than 2,000 survivors who were injured, and thousands of people were left homeless and in starvation (Loomis 463). The aftermath of the tornado encompassed theft, fires, and looting which worsened its effects.

Heat wave of 1988

In the summer of 1988, US experienced a prolonged form of dense air in the atmosphere. These oppressive conditions extended from coast to coast deteriorating through the spring. Most of the stations in the central region of the nation, especially Midwest, registered very high temperatures of over 90°F. The drought peaked in the mid-July with 45% of the country experiencing severe dryness.

Meteorological conditions which caused the extensive deficit of precipitation remained complex. The drought was contributed by the upper-level ridge of high pressure which existed in the central region of the United States. Ocean water temperature irregularities which occurred in the Atlantic and Pacific is believed to the cause of the blockage of upper air patterns (Loomis 465). A total of about 694 people were reported to have lost their lives during that period. Most of the deaths were elderly individuals who were vulnerable to the adverse environmental conditions that were prevailing.

Okeechobee hurricane

This hurricane occurred in the mid of September 1928 causing massive fatalities and adverse destruction along its path from the islands of Florida. As a result of this tragedy, over 1500 people lost their lives in the Caribbean, and nearly every building on the Guadeloupe islands was demolished. The winds which lasted for about 18 hours however, combined with heavy rains damaged property and decimated crops (Powell & Lawrence 764). Hundreds of thousands of people became homeless in Puerto Rico.The most affected towns were Pompano, Lake Worth, West Palm Beach, Delray, and Jupiter.All the cities were impacted by 3 meters storm flow of the hurricane. The storm destroyed 1,711 homes in West Palm Beach and damaged 6,363 more. Nevertheless, the south shore of Lake Okeechobee experienced the most significant destruction.The lake’s dikes were washed by the storm flooding over an area of 120 kilometers wide.

Hurricane Galveston

This horrific hurricane occurred on September 8, 1900. The storm was a category four on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale moving at high speeds of about 135 miles per hour. An estimate of 6,000 to 12,000 people died, and more than 3,600 buildings were demolished. Although Galveston was rebuilt, it never re-established itself as the primary port it once was (Loomis 465). The city was soon overshadowed by Houston, some miles inland and connected to the Gulf of Mexico by a canal. The devastating destruction of the Galveston hurricane brought a new focus on the study of hurricane prediction.

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina occurred in New Orleans on August 29, 2005.The storm surge in some places was as high as 9 meters.The hurricane devastated most of the city’s unstable dikes and drainage canals. Water oozed through the soil beneath some dikes and others were swept away. People living in low-lying areas like the Ninth Ward andSt. Bernard Parish scrambled for safety. Eventually, the whole city was under water (Triner & Gail 612). Most people reacted heroically in the outcomes of Hurricane Katrina. For instance, the coast guards were able to salvage about 34,000 people in the city, and other citizens offered food and shelter and did their best to help their neighbors. The federal government seemed not prepared for the tragedy.The FEMA and other stakeholders seemed uninformed of how worse the situation was. They were unaware of how many people were stranded, dead or homeless and amount of property destroyed (Triner & Gail 614). The hurricane caused about 2,000 casualties and affected over 90,000 square miles of the US with hundreds of thousands of refugees scattering all over.

Johnstown floods

On May 31, 1989, the residents of Johnstown were got unaware when rain caused a spillway at a dam which was constructed about 14 miles from the town. An attempt by an engineer who saw the signs of danger, to warn the residents turned futile since the telegraph lines were down.The dam collapsed in the late afternoon, and all the water from Lake Conemaugh flooded demolishing everything in its path. About 2,200 people were crushed and their homes and structures destroyed. The raging waters drained thirty-three train engines creating further menaces.Most buildings in the town were demolished and much of the debris collected at a bridge downstream which went on to catch fire (Van Cruyningen 261). Some people had survived by floating on top of remains, but they ended up being burned to death at the bridge. One baby was reported to have sustained on the floor of a building which floated about 75 miles from Johnstown (Van Cruyningen 265). The first primary relief efforts to take place in the outcomes of the floods were received from the American Red Cross five days later led by Clara Barton. Johnstown took five years to be reestablished but then endured other floods in 1936 and 1977.


Natural disasters in the United States are typical cases and are always on escalation. The increase is majorly caused by a continuous climate change and the spread of people to vulnerable places particularly the flat plains and the coastal areas. The calamities have significantly affected the nation socially,economically and politically. On average, United States has been spending about one percent of its gross domestic product each year on disasters. The aftermath of the tragedies is proportional to the response which is required by the government and is paid for by the citizens.

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Works Cited

Loomis, Erik. "The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States."

Journal of World History, vol. 24, no. 2, 2013, pp. 463-465.

Powell, K., & Lawrence N. "Hurricanes and Society in the British Greater Caribbean, 1624-

1783/Category 5: The Story of Camille, Lessons Unlearned from America's most Violent Hurricane." The Journal of Southern History, vol. 73, no. 3, 2007, pp. 762-764.

Triner, M., & Gail D. "Sea of Storms: A History of Hurricanes in the Greater Caribbean from

Columbus to Katrina." Canadian Journal of History, vol. 50, no. 3, 2015, pp. 612-614.

Van Cruyningen, Piet. "From Disaster to Sustainability: Floods, Changing Property Relations

and Water Management in the South-Western Netherlands, c.1500-1800." Continuity and Change, vol. 29, no. 2, 2014, pp. 241-265.

August 18, 2021




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