The Witch Fire of 2007

I chose this particular hazard because I was actually living San Diego at the time this fire was occurring and got a week off school because the air quality was deemed too poor for the school system to make the students go.

The fire itself lasted from October 21st, 2007 to November 6th, 2007. Figure 1 at the bottom of the document is a map of the area affected by the fire. The effects of the fire are listed below (Cal Fire, 2007):

  • Nearly 200,000 thousand acres of land were burned throughout the duration of the wildfire in San Diego County.
  • Highway 78 was closed from Ramon to Escondido—both localities within San Diego County—due to damage from the fires.
  • Overall, 1,125 residential structures and 509 outbuildings were completely destroyed.
  • 77 residential structures and 25 outbuildings were damaged.
  • By the culmination of the fire, 224 firefighters were involved in combating it with 25 total engines.
  • 40 of these firefighters were injured
  • There were only 2 total fatalities, both were civilians
  • Responsible for the largest evacuation in the history of San Diego County with more than 500,000 people living in the areas that were evacuated.
  • The total cost in damages to the city itself eventually got up to roughly $18 million.

It is important to understand that this wildfire system was not the only one raging in Southern California at the time. The conditions that contributed to the Witch fire, which included periods of extremely high winds that some reported to be up to 100 mph in certain places, also gave rise to at least 21 other blazes throughout Southern California. Because of this, resources had to be distributed throughout the state and the ability to effectively fight fires in any given area was greatly diminished. There was actually another called the Harris Fire in the more southern portion of San Diego County that was significantly smaller than the Witch but ended up being responsible for 5 total deaths. Those who evacuated were initially held in places like Qualcomm Stadium (where the Chargers play) and high schools outside of the dangerous areas. It is difficult to tell how long people remained in places like this, especially if they were among those who had their homes destroyed by fire.

John Gibbins aerial of fire around Scripps Ranch area.


Strong Earthquake Hits Near the Philippines

A strong earthquake hit tonight right off of the coast of Mindanao measuring to be 7.2. People have been advised to stay away form the coast as much as possible incase of more seismic activity and also incase of large waves that could inflict damage. So far there have been no immediate reports of severe damage or casualties, so hopefully it stays that way. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported that there was a huge risk for large waves that could extend out to 190 miles. The Philippines weren’t too concerned about this earthquake because due to their location around the ring of fire. The Philippines are used to getting large earthquakes every year so a 7.2 earthquake that hit off the coast, which didn’t inflict a lot of damage didn’t concern the authorities too much. They even decided against sending out a tsunami warning, believing it wasn’t necessary. The earthquake;s epicenter also was incredibly deep in the ocean, making it more difficult to feel the earthquake on land.


Case Study Summary _ Fulkerson

My case study is on Hurricane Andrew. I chose this event because I have heard all about it growing up with two meteorologist parents. At the time of its occurrence in August 1992, it was the most destructive hurricane in United States history. It caused major damage in the Bahamas and Louisiana, but the greatest impact was in South Florida, where it made landfall at Category 5 hurricane intensity on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale, with wind speeds up to 165 mph (270 km/h). Passing directly through the town of Homestead, Florida, a city south of Miami, Andrew obliterated entire blocks of homes, in many cases leaving only the concrete foundations. Over 25,000 houses were destroyed in Miami-Dade County alone, and nearly 100,000 more were severely damaged. 65 people were killed and the damage total across the affected regions exceeded $26 billion (1992 USD).

Though Andrew was a small tropical cyclone for most of its lifespan, it caused extreme damage, especially in the Bahamas, Florida, and Louisiana. The vast majority of the damage was as a result of extremely high winds, although a few tornadoes spawned by Andrew caused considerable damage in Louisiana. Throughout the areas affected, almost 177,000 people were left homeless. Outside of the Bahamas, Florida, and Louisiana, effects were widespread, although damage was minimal. As a result of damage in Florida and Louisiana, Andrew was listed as the costliest hurricane in U.S. history, but is now fourth following Hurricanes Katrina (2005), Sandy (2012), and Ike (2008).

The death toll could have been significantly higher if it wasn’t for such good forecasting and careful monitoring of the storm. Our forecasting abilities have only gotten better since this disaster. After the storm passed, President Bush assessed damage in the Miami-Dade area with then-Governor of Florida Lawton Chiles. Shortly thereafter, Bush declared the region a disaster area, which provided public assistance to victims of the storm. In September 1992, President Bush initially proposed a $7.1 billion aid package to provide disaster benefits, small-business loans, agricultural recovery, food stamps, and public housing for victims of Hurricane Andrew. The cost was later increased to $11.1 billion. The bill, which was the most costly disaster aid package at the time, was passed by Congress as House Resolution 5620 on September 18, and signed into law by President Bush on September 23.

It took nearly 10 years for the region to fully recover from Hurricane Andrew, but as a Homestead resident said in 2012, “We are now much better prepared for hurricanes. After Andrew, the construction standards changed tremendously. We now have one of the most stringent building codes in the country.”

Progression of Hurricane Andrew through the Atlantic and into the U.S.

Damage from Hurricane Andrew


Case Study Summary_Owens

I chose to do my case study on the 1998 Kissimmee, Florida tornado outbreak.  Starting in the late-night hours of February 22 and going into the early morning of February 23, 1998, Kissimme Florida experienced a tornado outbreak that ended up being the deadliest tornado event in Florida history.  Between approximately 11 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. of February 22 and 23 seven tornadoes tore through east-central Florida killing 42 people and injuring more than 260 others.  .  Moving eastward from a surface low pressure located near Mobile, Alabama, was a cold front moving south eastward over the Gulf of Mexico with a line of thunderstorms just ahead of the frontal boundary.  Three supercell thunderstorms formed as the storm line moved ashore from the Gulf of Mexico and interacted with the unstable air and strong wind shear.  Seven unusually strong tornadoes were produced as these supercell thunderstorms moved across Florida.  What made this such a devastating event was that these tornadoes struck at night when people are usually sleeping.  Local officials did issue warnings, but with people turning off their televisions and radios to go to sleep they missed the warnings.  Most of the fatalities from this event were people that live in mobile home parks or RV parks.  Of the 42 deaths caused by the tornadoes, 40 of them were in recreational vehicles, one was in car, and one was in a permanent structure.  The population did not seem to be prepared for these types of storms despite the warnings that were issued.

The local emergency management officials issued timely warnings, even before tornadoes were formed, but as I said earlier most people were asleep at the time or just ignored the warnings.  However the local forecasters were able to call law enforcement and emergency management personnel directly to impart the seriousness of these storms.  Because of this response time was very good, and local residents generally were pleased with the efforts of the emergency response.  Warehouses were set up to accommodate the belongings that survivors had left after the storms.  According to FEMA $22 million of federal funding was given to victims of the outbreak, the greatest dollar amount went towards small business loans.  The rest of the funding went towards debris clean up, water and public utility reconstruction, public building, roads and bridges, and individual and family grants.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management has a Hazard Mitigation Planning section of their Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan.  However while looking through the plan I saw nothing about tornado mitigation, it seems that Florida is still more concerned with the hazards that come with hurricanes than they are about tornadoes.  Many people are still living in Mobile Homes, which are very dangerous during tornado events, and many of them have admitted to knowing very little about what actions to take is another tornado threatens their area.  There doesn’t seem to be very much done for mitigation against tornadoes in Florida, I think this is because Florida experiences a lot of hurricanes and they are surrounded by water so they are more worried about flooding.  Florida seems to be very lacking in their tornado mitigation policies.



The 2011 Mississippi river floods was one  of the most destructive and expensive natural disasters in United States history. The 2011 Mississippi River floods were a result of two massive storm systems that produced record levels of rainfall all across the United States, and a winter that dumped large amounts of snow on the midwest. Floods on the Mississippi occur all the time, but the 2011 Mississippi flood was a 500 year flood. This means that a flood of this size only happens once every 500 years. Although the population along the Mississippi is we aware of the flooding issue, they are still very vulnerable. Many of the areas on the Mississippi are some of the poorest areas in the United states of America. In particular the areas in along the southern Mississippi River. The total death toll from the floods itself are 11 people, however, in the storms preceding the floods, 392 people died. According to the Mississippi River and Tributaries System post flood report, there was an estimated 2.8 Billion dollars in flood damage. 21,000 structures were destroyed. The areas along the mississippi river are some of the poorest areas in the nation, so this flood impacted them more than it would have otherwise. The  Mississippi River and Tributaries System post flood report claims that without the  Mississippi River and Tributaries System, there would have been $234 Billion  in damages and over 1.5 million residential and commercial structures would have been destroyed. I choose this event because i had not even heard about it before, despite it being so destructive, and i wanted to learn more about it.

Floods Spread South along the Mississippi River


Floods Spread South along the Mississippi River


Case Study Summary_Ansari

I chose to write about the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. In my senior year of high school I did a small GIS project on the Oso mudslides of 2013/2014. During that project I found that an overarching factor in those mudslides and their severity was due to the 1980 eruption, and since then I’ve always wanted to know more about it!

On May 18, 1980 at approximately 8:32 am, Mount St. Helens erupted for the first time in over a hundred years. After a series of small earthquakes that started two months prior, that led to landslides that led to flooding that finally led to the eruption. Though it was closely monitored by geologists and volcanologists, Helens took everyone by surprise.

The volcano blew from its side, instead of its top as most would suspect. The result was an incredibly large cloud of ash that encompassed almost three states around Washington.

Since the USGS had watched Helens closely for the two months since the earthquakes started, they were relatively quick to act and clean up and work with the state and federal governments to help the people of Skamania county and its surrounding areas. The death toll today stands at ~57 people.

Today, Helens’ elevation has decreased significantly as shown in the figure above, and is watched even closer now. Because 1980 was the first time it had erupted in over one hundred years, there were no disaster prevention plans in place for Washington state that dealt specifically with volcanoes. Helens, however, gave them a reason to devise a plan. Now, Congress annually funds different Volcano Observatory programs across the United States in hopes of preventing a repeat of 1980.

Case Study Summary_Names

I chose to do my case study on the Oakland wildfire of 1991. It all began because a brush fire started out in the hills of Oakland. Oakland is a pretty big city with many well known companies such as Kaiser Permanente and Pandora radio. Most of the people that live there are very well educated and earn about $61,000 per year on average. The city is located in northern California and is known for wildfires especially in the fall. During the fall, temperatures often average around 104 degrees Fahrenheit with little to no precipitation.

In this wildfire in particular, the fire started off very small and the firefighters were able to contain it very fast and they had thought they put out the flames all the way. Unfortunately the firefighters went home because they thought the fire had been put out enough and they could no longer see since the sun went down. The next morning there were reports that the fire had once again began but took off so fast that the firefighters couldn’t regain control of the wildfire. Because the fire from the day before left a few embers, it cause the pine needles on the trees to heat up and fall to the ground. The pine needles then sparked the fire up once again but this time the hot, dry winds propelled the fire forward. It is reported that during the Oakland wildfire in the hills, houses completely fell to the ground and were overwhelmed with flames in less than 10 minutes. The houses in 1991 were built with mostly wooden frames and had wooden shingles on the roof so the homes were acting practically as fire starters for an already intense wildfire. There are locations during that fire that reached up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally around the evening time, firefighters and police officers were able to secure a perimeter, meanwhile 10,000 people were evacuated from the city and 1,000 homes were destroyed. The fire caused more than 1.5 million dollars in damages and was recorded as the worst fire in northern California when comparing lives lost and property damaged.

Many things changed about this city after the fire swept through in 1991. Laws and regulations were created so that homes had to be built to with stand future wildfires or at least not catch on fire quite as easily. There were also more regulations set up to removes non native vegetation and the park service now goes through and removes many of the young Eucalyptus trees because those were said to have pushed the fire forward even more. There were some issues during the fire that also changed the supplies of firefighters. One problem the firefighters faced during the wildfire was that because of the hills and narrow streets, radio communication didn’t always work so they had a hard time communicating with other people. They also weren’t prepared enough to tackle a wildfire rather than a regular fire. There was one more issue the firefighters faced which was the size of the fire hydrants. Some of the hydrants weren’t standard size so people and firefighters couldn’t always connect to the hydrants, which made it more challenging to access water to put the fire out. More non profit organizations also sprang to the ground in hopes to educate people better about wildfires and what to do if one starts near them.

Overall there have been a lot of changes made in this city because the likely hood of wildfires in that area is so common. there were 4 prominent wildfires in Oakland alone throughout the 20th century. Since the Oakland fire of 1991, there have been a few minor fires but all were put out almost immediately and response times were much quicker.

Case Study Summary_Atkins

I chose Hurricane Katrina as the subject of my case study. Probably my primary reason for the choice was my personal involvement. At the time, I was still working for The Alexandria Fire Department in Northern Virginia. Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) requests starting coming in to Virginia for agencies able to assist int he response effort. The Northern VA Fire Departments started sending down 50 person task forces to assist in providing fire response service to Hancock County Mississippi. We were quartered at Stennis Space Center at one end of the county. We lived in a large tented camp (Camp Buzz) that had been put there to house us. We supplemented some of the few volunteer departments that remained (along with the full time department in Bay St. Louis). So my personal experience there was a little bit of why I chose it. I also posted a video below of storm surge that is quite long, but some pretty interesting footage. It shows buildings getting flooded a ways into the video. I will also post some pictures of my personal experience there. And will detail a bit more about the disaster below.

Hurricane Katrine would be the costliest US Hurricane causing a staggering 108 billion dollars in damage and  changing the region for years to come and to some extent today with the changes in population from those displaced. I think it probably positively impacted the ways governments responds to disasters and how they work better together.  The 2005 Hurricane Season was to be a busy one and a devastating one. Katrina formed differently than others normally form.  This horrific tropical cyclone formed from the combination of a tropical wave, an upper level trough and the mid-level remnants of Tropical Depression Ten. It would make landfall three times in the US, first in Florida and then twice in the Gulf Coast Region. There was a significant loss of Life, approximately 1800 were killed due to the hazards associated with hurricanes. Storm surge and the flooding after the failure of antiquated levee system around New Orleans cause the largest loss of life there. The response of government at all levels was lacking and failure to issue mandatory evacuations early in New Orleans led to a large loss of life. The slow response from the state and federal government and the failure to coordinate resources which is critical were big reasons this response was a failure.

Track of the Hurricane Katrina

New Orleans was the center of most of the news coverage and I thought I would post some pictures from Mississippi, where I was deployed. This area too was devastated, but the loss of life was far less significant. Walking along the Gulf of Mexico, it looked like someone had carpet bombed the entire area as far as the eye could see. The bridge going to Pas Christian was gone, barring a lot of the columns.  Portions of one side of the I-10 bridge going into New Orleans were completely gone, leave concrete columns standing only. The power of a major hurricane is amazing.  The area we were in had water up to the I-10 bridge overpass, which was about 10 miles inland. I could not imagine losing everything as these people did.

Here is Camp Buzz where we spent some of our time. It was situated on The Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

Here are the FEMA trailers that served as our fire station where I was working out of. We operated out of the Walmart Parking Lot in Waveland, Mississippi. Apparently the initial storm surge height was up to the Walmart lettering over top of the store, putting it somewhere in the twenty foot plus range.


The residents did not like FEMA, or even the mention of them at the time

These were common to find, at least in some form

This greeted us the first day we pulled duty in our station

6.9 Magnitutude Earthquake hits Chile

The strong 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit about 85 miles off the west coast of Chile on Monday, April 24.  Fortunately, the “quake-prone” nation was spared from any damage.  Although the epicenter of the earthquake was quite far from land, its focus was quite shallow, thus allowing it to be felt hundred of miles away.  If this earthquake had been closer to land, the 6.9 magnitude could have been responsible for much more sever damage.

The nations tsunami alarm even sounded during the earthquake since the quake hit out at sea.  At one clinic just north of Valparaiso, “people ran from the facility carrying children” and some of them headed for the hills to be above sea level if a tsunami did hit.  Officials soon cancelled the tsunami warning.

There were no reports of structural damage, but some cellphone networks were down.


I wrote about the Gujarat Earthquake which occurred on January 26, 2001. Fun fact: that day was also India’s 52nd Independence Day anniversary. I had never heard about this event, I stumbled across it when searching for topics to write about.

The Gujarat quake was a 7.7 magnitude quake which occurred in the morning of January 26, and it lasted for over two minutes. The epicenter of the quake was only 24 km deep, so the seismic waves did not have much time to dissipate before the broke the surface. This quake was the second most devastating quake in all of India’s recorded history, with 20,000 left dead, over 150,000 left injured, and over 400,000 displaced or homeless. The quake was followed by over 400 aftershocks felt all over the Gujarat state, as well as the rest of the country of India. These aftershocks continued for up to two months after the quake. This specific quake was caused by the Indo-Australian plate subjecting beneath the Eurasian plate,  also known as a thrust fault.

There was little to no preparation or mitigation for an earthquake of this size in the Gujarat state, which escalated the amount of damage. After the quake, buildings were found to have been lacking basic structural support, or didn’t meet the local building codes. Some engineers and building managers were found criminally negligent because of this, because of claims that more life could have been saved if the buildings were properly constructed.

Once the Indian government saw the magnitude of the destruction of the Gujarat state, relief aid was administered and help poured in. Once the general emergency phase was complete, the Government of Gujarat instated a new disaster management and preparation program. From this, The Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority was created, and still remains to this day. The authority switched from a pro-disaster oriented intervention to a pro-active prevention, mitigation, and pre disaster preparedness. Citizens are now better aware of hazards that come with a potential earthquake, and even though a quake so large happening again in the Gujarat state is slim, it is important to be prepared for the worst.