Nature has a way to show humanity that they are but a small part of the scheme of things. Between tornadoes, droughts, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes there is little man can do but hope to survive such natural disasters. While all these events are tragic, there are a few that stand out as the nation’s worse.
Hurricanes are devastatingly huge storms with excessively high winds and so much water that their victims are hit two ways. On September 18th of 1900 a category four storm leveled the city of Galveston, Texas. Over 8,000 people died and what was once haled as the “Jewel of Texas” has yet to recover fully in over a hundred years. The great City of New Orleans, Louisiana, suffered a city destroying hurricane in 2005. To make this tragedy that killed almost 2,000 people even worse was that there had been days of warning before it struck. The residents of Lake Okeechobee, Florida believed the hurricane headed their way on September 16, 1928 thought they had been spared when it failed to appear when predicted. Many returned to their homes only to have it finally appear late in the evening. The ultimate death toll was around 2,500 individuals.
The Tri-State tornado of March 18, 1925 tore across Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri. In three and a half hours it had destroyed over 17,000 dwellings and killed almost 700 people. The great tornado outbreak of April 3-4, 1974 generated 148 tornadoes that ripped through 13 states. Ultimately 330 people died, 5,000 were injured and entire towns were wiped from the map. The “Storm of the Century” which hit the continent in mid March of 1993 included 11 tornadoes, hurricane force winds, and massive snowfall. Reaching from Cuba to Canada it is amazing that only 300 people lost their lives.
When the earth moves there is no place to run. In the early morning hours of April 18, 1906, a major earthquake pounded the City of San Francisco. Buildings collapsed, streets buckled and utility lines broke which immediately produced fires everywhere. Four days later over half the city was homeless and estimates but the death toll at somewhere under 3,000 individuals.
Driven by a prairie wildfire, Peshtigo, Wisconsin was trapped on two sides on October 8 or 1871, over a million acres of surrounding forest and 12 towns in the area burned and left 1,200 people dead in its wake. While it occurred on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire, it was much more devastating.
Extended droughts have deadly consequences not only for the agricultural industries of our nation but also for the people who depend on them for the very food of life. In less than a decade the Midwest United States suffered through two of the worst droughts in its history. The first began in the spring of 1980. For most of the summer temperatures stayed in the 90’s and caused nearly $50 billion in damages and lost crops. 10,000 people perished from the heat and related illnesses. The second blow came in 1988. With even less rain than in the infamous “Dust Bowl” years agricultural losses topped $61 billion. While slightly better prepared, the wildfires and heat killed between 5,000-10,000 individuals.
Humanity should never feel they are the ultimate masters of this planet. Every year new natural disasters occur to show that nature will have its way regardless.