The Joplin tornado was an EF-5 tornado on the Fujita scale (winds exceeded 200 mph 261 to 318 mph) and killed at least 116 people, although some sources claimed it killed more than that, at about 162 people. The tornado injured more than 1,000 people. In total, the tornado was devastating, affecting 13, 547 people and indirectly impacting 2,500 others. The tornado itself was a mile wide and six miles long and lasted for 38 minutes. It left a 22-mile path of destruction, affecting 1,800 acres of land. It was the deadliest single tornado since modern record keeping began in 1950, (surpassing the June 8, 1953 tornado in Flint, Michigan that killed 166 people). The tornado caused more deaths than the annual number of U.S. tornado deaths in the last three decades- around 55 tornado deaths annually, so the Joplin tornado caused three times as many deaths as this in one single event.

The tornado, as described by survivors, tossed cars “like toys”, flattened buildings, and ripped up pavement. Dead bodies and later body bags littered the ground. An article in National Geographic described the aftermath as like “World War 2 bomb destruction”. Tornados are hazards of thunderstorms, which occur when warm, moist air masses and cold, dry air masses collide. Tornadoes are known to hit the Deep South in early spring. The Joplin tornado may have been caused by warmer-than usual air in the Golf of Mexico, in which temperatures were 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual.

I chose this case because the sheer amounts of death and destruction it caused. I wanted to know why. I found in my research these possible reasons for the high death toll and destruction: The sheer magnitude of the event (it was an EF-5), it’s path through densely populated and business areas and large damage area, the characteristics of the homes hit and affected in Joplin by the tornado and the resident’s desensitization to frequent warning sirens.

Fairdale and Rochelle, Illinois, Tornado Debris Found up to 80 miles away

An EF4 tornado last Thursday ripped through the towns of Fairdale and Rochelle, Illinois, destroying homes and businesses. The tornado left a 30 miles long path in 41 minutes. Two people were killed. Debris was lofted as far as 80 miles away, as far as southeast Wisconsin.

A Facebook page called Fairdale Illinois Tornado Facebook page (link at bottom) was created to help reunite photos and other personal items found with their owners. The page now has more than 3,932 likes.


Among the possessions on the page was the sign for the Grubsteakers Family Restaurant in north Rochelle, which was demolished by the tornado. The sign was found in a farmer’s field in Harvard, Illinois, 49 miles to the northeast of where the tornado hit. A photo was recovered in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin about 60 miles northeast of the tornado path. A photo of a check was also found 80 miles away in Racine, Wisconsin. Also in Racine a family photo was found.


Other items found were a children’s book and a photo that was identified of Mr. and Mrs. Clem Shultz of Fairdale, taken 25 years ago. Interesting enough, Geraldine Shultz was one of the two people killed in the tornado. But the photo was returned to Mr. Shultz, her husband.


To give some perspective on this, large, violent tornados (EF4 and EF5s) have often lifted debris hundreds of feet in the air, and in the case of this tornado “Tornadoes have been reported to carry an object at least as heavy as 83 tons, in the case of a railroad car,” said Dr. Greg Forbes, a severe weather expert. Since April 27, 2011, a total of 44 items have been found to have traveled at least 135 miles from their original source because of a tornado. A mattress was once blown 40 miles from Worcester Massachusetts, into Massachusetts Bay on June 9, 1953.


Link to the Facebook page-

To see the sign and some photos-

Next Step in Pacific Disaster Response

As New Zealand still recovers from Cyclone Pam, Red Cross staff from around the Pacific met in Suva, New Zealand, this weekend to coordinate their responses. In light of what happened in New Zealand, the head of the pacific delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, Aurelia Balpe, said that disasters affect countries in different ways and that they needed to tailor their input to the extreme weather events to each community’s needs and contexts.

For Cyclone Pam, the IFRC (International Federation of the Red Cross) aimed to raise nearly 6 million (in US dollars) to aid 81,000 people in 13,400 households. Additional relief aid would come in the form of clothing, help with water supply and sanitation.

Jacqueline De Gaillande, The Vanuatu Red Cross Society’s chief executive, said that the weekend this meeting was “an opportunity to learn from each other and ensure that the next steps in the response were as effective as effective as they could be.”


This relates well to our hazards class because we’re interested in the steps taken after a disaster to help prevent and mitigate future disaster in the future and to have the best response to a disaster. A lot that we learned in this class was directly related to learning from mistakes made in response to past hazards. Learning from that, we’re able to better prepare in the present and the future.

Good News for Drought-Stricken California- Rain, Snow, in Next Week’s Forecast


A low pressure system approaching California late Sunday brings with it the chance for rain and snow to the west. This chance is highly anticipated, as 98.1 percent of the state of California has been experiencing from moderate to severe drought since March 31. The rainfall is expected to be light (only accumulating about 1 inch through Wednesday) and do little to help the severe drought, but any rain is welcomed. The Sierra Nevadas, at higher elevations, are expected to receive some much-needed snowfall. The water content of their snowpack was only five percent as of the April 1 average, which is the lowest percentage ever recorded. Another low pressure system is expected to push through Tuesday and Thursday, bringing more moisture than the first.

Magnitude 7.5 Earthquake Strikes off the Coast of Papua New Guinea; Tsunami Alert Issued

On Monday morning local time (Sunday night in the U.S.) , a 7.5 magnitude earthquake stuck 34 miles southeast of Kokopo, Papua New Guinea. The U.S. Geological Survey reported the earthquake’s magnitude as a 7.7 with a depth of 25 miles. Shortly after the earthquake, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was a potential tsunami threat of dangerous waves possible within a span of 621 miles along the coasts of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. However, this threat has since past since the earthquake hit on Monday. A Papua New Guinea’s National Disaster Center official said there have been no damage or injuries reported in result of the earthquake. However, after the initial tremor 13 aftershocks have been reported in the nearby areas, ranging from 4.6 to 5.7 in magnitude.


(Kokopo is located south east of Rabaul, New Britian on map)th




Tornadoes hit Oklahoma, Arkansas; One dead, several injured

First tornadoes of 2015 hit Arkansas and Oklahoma

One person was killed and several people were injured in a tornado that hit Tulsa, Oklahoma yesterday. At least 9 people were hospitalized due to injuries, according to Oklahoma Department of Emergency Services Spokeswomen Keli Cain. Tulsa County Sheriff Cap. Billy McKevley said that the one person killed live in the mobile home park in Sand Spring, a Tulsa suburb. “It could have been much worse.” He said.


This tornado is the first in a month in the tornado-prone Midwest. In the nearby town of Moore, Oklahoma, another tornado hit, tearing off roofs, flipping cars on the highway, and strewing debris across the area. It tore off the roof of an elementary school in Moore and filled many of the classrooms with water. Tens of thousands of Oklahoma residents were without power in the wake of the storm that caused the tornado.


Governor Mary Fallin declared 25 counties in a state of emergency. In accessing damage, Fallin said, “We’ve been down this road before. We know what to do.” Of the tornado Wednesday, Mayor of nearby town Moore, Glenn Lewis, described the tornado Wednesday as “kind of like a junior storm for us.”


My thoughts on this article:

The community official’s nonchalant attitude towards the tornado alarms me. They are so confident in handling such storms, but then again they’re so accustomed to tornados. I can only hope that they’re properly prepared for the damage and the death a tornado can inflict. I also thought it was interesting that the article says that the last time there were almost no tornados in March was 50 years ago. I wonder if that will be “made up for” as to say, in the coming months this year.

Cyclone Kills at least 8 in Pacific Nation of Vanuatu

A massive category 5 cyclone bringing with it 168 mph winds tore through the tiny south Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu on Saturday. Vanuatu, which is located about a quarter of the way from Australia to Hawaii has a population of 267,000 spread over 65 islands, and about 47,000 live in the capital, Port Villa. The cyclone, which hit the Islands on March 14, 2015, killed a confirmed number of 8 people. The death told is expected to rise as more deaths are confirmed. Because of communication being down it is still unconfirmed how much damages the surrounding outer islands suffered. But Chloe Morrison, a World Vision emergency communications officer in Port Villa say that it is estimated that entire villages were destroyed in the cyclone. Because communication is still down it is hard to access the damage. UN Secretary General Ban Kimoon expressed hope that “the loss of life will be minimal” yet admitted he feared the damage and destruction could be widespread. The president of Vanuatu, Baldwin Lonsdale, attended the UN conference and announced to those there, “I stand to appeal on behalf of the government and the people to give a helping hand in this disaster.” On Saturday, New Zealand pledged $734,000 to help with relief efforts and Australia was preparing to send a critical response team if necessary, according to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.


Associated Press. “Cyclone Kills at least 8 in Pacific Nation of Vanuatu” Richmond Times Dispatch. (Richmond) 15 March 2015: Print.



Record Breaking Cold Following Winter Storm Thor

The last round of artic air of the winter is expected to blast through the Midwest, South, and North East Thursday and Friday. After record breaking low temperatures in February, this extreme cold trend is expected to continue through this first week of March. It is expected that some cities could see their lowest temperatures recorded in decades, surprising so late in the winter season. For example, if Chicago hits subzero temperatures on Thursday and Friday, those days would be the latest dates in the season recorded at below zero temperatures. The snow may play a role in these extreme temperatures. What’s also interesting about this is the contrast in temperatures of areas located close to each other geographically. For example, in Tunica, Mississippi, the temperature on Wednesday was 37 degrees, while on the same day in Aberdeen, Mississippi the temperature was 81 degrees.These differences in temperatures can be explained by the frigid air mass the collided with mild conditions in the south on Wednesday.


4.0 Earthquake Shakes Kosovo, Serbia


The Seismology Survey of Serbia reported that a 4.0 earthquake hit Serbia on Tuesday, January 20 2015. The epicenter was in Pec city in western Kosovo and was 6.2 miles deep. 15 minutes later an earthquake with a 2.6 magnitude was recorded. This epicenter was located 16 miles west of Istok, Kosovo. No damage or injuries have been reported from the earthquake. The last time an earthquake killed any one in Serbia was in November 2010, in a magnitude 5.3 earthquake.

This earthquake didn’t have an major disastrous effects, but I think it’s important to acknowledged it happen so that Serbia and other countries can better prepare for future earthquakes. I thought this was interesting because there was 5.8 magnitude earthquake near where I lived and I remember the damage this caused in the epicenter, Louisa, Virginia. In the 2010 earthquake in Serbia, which was a magnitude 5.3 earthquake, 2 people were killed and about 100 were injured. The epicenter was in central Serbia, near the capital, and many buildings were harmed and parts of the city went without water and electricity. It’s interesting to compare the impact of earthquakes in two vastly different parts of the world. It makes me wonder how developed Serbia is and what would have happened if the recent January 20 earthquake had been of greater magnitude and had caused more damage/deaths.



“2 Killed, 50 Injured in Earth in Serbia”. Fox News. Associated Press. 3 Nov. 2010. Web. 23 Jan 2015.


“Light Earthquake Shakes Kosovo, Serbia today”. Recent Natural Disasters. 20 Jan 2015. Web. 23 Jan 2015.


“Magnitude 5.8 Virginia.” USGS- Science for a changing world. Earthquake Hazards Program. 21, March 2014. Web. 23 Jan 2015.