Alabama (like many other areas in the United States) has endured and overcome horrific weather events over several decades. Mother Nature has offered no sign of mercy as confirmed by the U.S. National Climate Assessment. Hollywood films about natural disasters seem so exaggerating. However, movies pale in comparison to the brutal reality of people having to search through debris for loved ones. In 2014 Alabama was struck by a devastating tornado. Similarly, Tuscaloosa was hit by a tornado in 2011. When measured next to the consequences of future climate change, those two storms might seem like a slap on the hand. There are specific protocols outlined and available on the internet. They explain what should be done to prepare for a natural disaster as well as what to do during and after such events. No matter what people and governmental agencies do to prepare, the reality is that human beings are like vulnerable ants. Death will never be 100% avoidable. Houses, Cities and Lives will inevitably perish beneath Mother Nature’s feet.
1. What kinds of natural imbalances might affect your region? What makes your region particularly vulnerable to these imbalances?
Answer: Alabama is vulnerable to several different types of natural disasters. For instance, hurricanes, thunderstorms and floods are always possible threats. The worst threats are the unrelenting tornadoes. In addition to claiming lives and property, tornadoes claim a portion of the year when they are most likely to strike. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the period when warm and cold air masses clash is closely tied with the onset of tornadoes. (National Centers for Environmental Information, 2014) For Alabama (which exhibits warmer temperatures sooner than other states) April and May are typical months when tornadoes rip through towns. Nonetheless, tornadoes can occur at various times throughout the year.
2. Provide a specific example of a weather incident/natural disaster that occurred in your area in the past and discuss how the incident was handled by local residents and town/state officials.
Answer: From April 28th to May 5th of 2014 Alabama was struck by severe storms. There were tornadoes and flooding. The official disaster declaration was made on May 2nd of that year. (FEMA, 2014) Of course, the residence did their best to search for loved ones and reclaim belongings. People reacted by turning to social media to communicate the storm’s impact made in their neighborhoods. They also notified distant family members of their conditions. Camp sites were set up with food and resources where volunteers worked hard to help the severely distraught people of the town. Federal aid totaling more than $43.6 million was provided to Alabama residents. Millions of more dollars were also approved for housing assistance, public assistance programs, debris removal and infrastructure replacement. The media helped to bring the devastation to the television screens of homes across the nation.
3. What can people in your area do to prepare for a similar incident? (Consider what can be done prior to, during, and after the disaster. Be sure to include specific details using information from the CDC and/or FEMA.)
Answer: The best way to prepare for a tornado is to first become educated about this and all types of natural disasters. All residents, schools and city officials must have evacuation plans, up-to-date weather monitoring systems and recovery plans. There are 6 warning signs of a tornado. Being aware of these signs along with familiarity with the area most prone to severe storms can be life-saving. Prior to the storm, set up and maintain a first aid kit, spare batteries, plenty of drinking water and dry foods and a battery-powered radio. Other necessary supplies include a dust mask, medical supplies or medications, complete change of clothing and necessary items for children. (“How to Prepare for a Tornado”, 2014) During a storm it is wise to get to a safe room or shelter as quickly as possible while avoiding mobile homes. The safest place to reach is an underground shelter, basement or safe room. (Red Cross, 2015) After the storm, it is best to stay out of and away from damaged buildings, take pictures of damage for insurance claims and watch out for fallen power lines. In addition, people need to continue listening to the local news with a radio if possible while searching for survivors. The Red Cross website offers a great resource page with helpful information.
4. Compare your area to that of a classmate. What environmental features do you have in common to produce similar natural disasters OR what features vary, leading to completely different disasters? Would rescue efforts differ as well?
Answer: One classmate is from Tuscaloosa Alabama. Their area is very similar to that of Alabama in terms of climate and temperature. As a result, Tuscaloosa has also suffered from severe natural disasters. Rescue efforts would likely be the same as the efforts made when Alabama was struck by storms. In April of 2011 Tuscaloosa was hit by a tornado that went all the way to Birmingham.
5. What predictions are being made for how climate change will impact either the frequency or intensity of future natural disasters in your area? (Hint: Refer to the extreme weather and hurricane resources provided above to find information to support your ideas.)
Answer: Alabama is part of the Southeast and Caribbean Region. These regions are “exceptionally vulnerable to sea level rise, extreme heat events, hurricanes and decreased water availability.” (The White House Office of the Press Secretary, 2014) Specific to Alabama is a predicted 30-inch sea level rise which will devastate transportation and infrastructure when combined with storms. Such storms will likely be similar to Hurricane Katrina.
- FEMA. (2014). How to Prepare for a Tornado. Retrieved from http://www.fema.gov
- FEMA. (2014, July 25). Federal Disaster Aid for Alabama Reaches More Than $43.6 Million | FEMA.gov. Retrieved from http://www.fema.gov/news-release/2014/07/25/federal-disaster-aid-alabama-reaches-more-436-million
- National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) formerly known as National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) | NCEI offers access to the most significant archives of oceanic, atmospheric, geophysical and coastal data. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2011). NOAA: Extreme Weather 2011. Retrieved from http://www.noaa.gov/extreme2011/
- Red Cross. (2015). Tornado Safety Tips | How to Prepare & Stay Safe | American Red Cross. Retrieved from http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/tornado