With 24/7 news coverage and online access to information, natural disasters appear frequently in headlines today, making this fall possibly one of the most dangerous times for those living in natural disaster prone areas.
According to the World Health Organization, “Every year natural disasters kill around 90,000 people and affect close to 160 million people worldwide.” Natural disasters can destroy the physical, social, and mental health of the affected people, which can severely impact their health and survival.
Since there is a geographic variation in the United States, people experience a variety of natural disasters, the most common ones being hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. Recently in 2020, hurricanes and wildfires have been taking a devastating toll on many Americans.
Hurricanes are extremely dangerous and cause major damage due to the harsh storms, wind damage, and intense flooding. Hurricanes can produce winds that are higher than 75 miles per hour. Although, a major hurricane can undergo winds higher than 111 miles per hour. Before the hurricane season began, researchers and meteorologists were already predicting an above average season.
In August, the NOAA predicted that this hurricane season will be one the most active seasons in history, including 19-25 named storms, 7-11 hurricanes, and 3-6 major hurricanes. The amount of predicted storms are well above the 1981-2010 seasonal average which is 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. The 2020 hurricane season has already produced nine named storms, seven tropical storms and two hurricanes. Many more storms and hurricanes are predicted to come.
Hurricane Sally hit near Alabama, then drifted northeast where it reached the panhandle of Florida. Hurricane Sally was remains of African waves that strengthened near southern Florida before finally hitting its final destination. According to CNN, the chief of the Pensacola Fire Department said, “We had 30 inches of rain in Pensacola, which is four months of rain in four hours.” Hurricane Sally devastated families by destroying homes across the southern states.
Furthermore, Wildfires can destroy homes by burning them down and causing injuries or death or people and animals. Wildfires can be caused by two factors, naturally or human. According to California Fire, in 2020, there have been 8136 fires reported which have destroyed 3,754, 729 acres of land. One of the most recent fires, The Glass Fire, thousands of residents in Northern California have been forced to flee their homes while this fire continues to spread. The Glass fire began in Napa Valley on September 27, and has already burned 36,236 acres of land, burning an acre per second. At a late hour on the same day, two additional wildfires flared up due to high winds and dry conditions.
Mr. Clate Grunden, uncle of Maggie Gruden (’21), explained how he copes with the wildfires living in Los Angeles. According to Mr. Grunden, the most recent wildfire heavily impacted the air quality. He said, “Not only were we quarantined because of COVID, we were not allowed to go outside because of the poor air quality.”
These wildfires not only burn down acres of land, but also emit toxic pollutants into the air. When Mr. Grunden traveled to his ceramic studio that is located near the wildfires when the air quality was slightly better, his throat started to hurt and that’s when he knew he was definitely breathing in toxic pollutants.
Even Though Mr. Grunden lives near the ocean and the wildfires will not come close enough to harm him, his family in Ohio are still scared for him. Maggie Grunden explained how worried she is for her uncle. She said, “I know that the fires will not cause harm to him or his home, but the fact that there are fires burning around him and near his studio is a scary thought.”
Andrew and Becky Morley, relatives of Sadie Morley (’23), live in Boulder, Colorado where fires have started to occur. Mrs. Morley said, “Since the middle of August, wildfires started burning 30 miles north of us, which was very under control for the most part.” When the winds started to pick up, the fire traveled 10 miles south, which affected the air quality. Even though the fire was still 20 miles away from their house, Ms. Morley explained that there was ash falling in their yard, and there were many days when it was hazy.
About eight years ago, there was a wildfire in Colorado that affected their son’s girlfriend’s family. The affected family came to stay at their house and usually victims of wildfires pack their valuables and necessities, expecting that they would never be able to go home again. Surprisingly, the houses that were affected by the fire eight years ago have still not been rebuilt. Furthermore, they have friends, who live in California, where there were terrible forest fires, but also terrifying mud slides. Since the fires took out the trees and vegetation, nothing hols the mud. When the rain came, the mudslides would take out thousands of houses and kill people.
Even though these natural disasters do not directly impact Gilmour in Ohio, Gilmour families have relatives that are living through the devastation of losing their homes and eventually losing hope, never knowing when these disasters will come to an end. The Gilmour community is currently hosting dress down days on October 15 and 16, hoping to raise money to donate to American Red Cross’s Fire Relief efforts.