Case Study #2: Natural Disaster Report
Daniel C. Guariento
November 21, 2018
The 2010 Haiti Earthquake catastrophe occurred 25 kilometres Southwest of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, which is in the Southwest region of the country (Figure 1). This striking earthquake was initially measured with a magnitude of 7.0, which was then followed by two separate significant aftershocks recorded at 5.9 and 5.5 that occurred shortly after the initial shock. This large earthquake affected three million people destroying a large part of their community, and one million of which were left homeless. Even two years after the initial shock, over 500 thousand people were still homeless and living in tents.
The initial 7.0 magnitude shock of this disaster happened on January 12th, 2010 at 4:53pm which was followed by two smaller aftershocks. Additional aftershocks of up to 5.9 magnitude occurred again on January 20th.
This disaster was caused by two tectonic plates; the Caribbean Plate and the North American Plate. The Leogane fault was discovered under the city of Leogane, and this was thought to be the cause of the earthquake. The slippage of the rock across this fracture seems to be the cause for the earthquake although it is also thought to be the consequence of the North American and Caribbean plates colliding and their edges sliding. This would happen because the pressure of the plates’ edges grinding against each other would create a pressure that would rip them apart, causing a tremblor. (Pallardy, 2018) The epicentre of the earthquake was very close to Leogane. This collision between the plates happened 13 kilometers below the Earths’ surface. Furthermore, Haiti is in a hot and humid tropical climate making it more susceptible to earthquakes.
This disaster had a massive impact on Haiti, affecting one third of the country’s population, and over 12 cities/towns surrounding the area. The total number of casualties from the Haiti was 230,000 people and the people that were injured was another 300,000 people. Some towns that were affected are; Leogane, Carrefour, Jacmel, and Gressier which suffered a large amount of these town’s infrastructure. For example, the town of Leogane was 80-90% destroyed, which led to virtually no government infrastructure surviving the shock. Leogane’s population of 134,000 people before the earthquake affected meaning 80-90% of the 134,000 people were left with nothing or killed in the disaster. Additionally, in Jacmel which began with a small population of 34,000, had over 3,000 people killed or injured and 50-60% of this towns’ buildings were destroyed (“Haiti quake: Mapping Damage outside Capital”, 2010). In total, the earthquake damaged 294,383 homes and demolished 106,000 of them. The reported cost of the damage was 7.8-8.5 billion dollars. The impact this earthquake had on Haiti was surreal and devastating as over 80% of the population was already in poverty.
The people of Haiti could not have prevented much of the devastation and destruction that occurred as a result of the earthquake. There was a prediction that an earthquake could strike the area of the same or greater magnitude but the timeline of which could not be determined. Even if the prediction would have been accurate, the majority of people in Haiti were in poverty and did not have the resources to avoid the earthquake.
Overall, the 2010 catastrophe had a huge impact on this country. I think this disaster was one of the worst things that could have happened to Haiti because they are an extremely poor country, and still have people living in tents several years after the disaster because they are unable to rebuild the Capital and surrounding area and still suffer from instability as a country.
Hurricane Sandy, also known as ‘Super Storm Sandy’, happened in 2012 affecting several different countries including; Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and the Unites States of America. Hurricane Sandy began South of Jamaica as a Category Two hurricane and at one stage a Category Three Hurricane with over 140 km/hr winds, and as it made it’s way up the Eastern side of Cuba and the USA it decreased into a Category One hurricane with 130 km/hr winds. This event affected many people from the countries it had touched; causing deaths, injuries, and damaged properties.
Hurricane Sandy occurred over a 10-day period, from October 19th, 2012 to October 29th, 2012 which resulted in several weeks of aftermath recovery (Figure 2).
On October 19th, Hurricane Sandy began near the centre of the tropical Northern Atlantic, travelling Westward in the Caribbean Sea (Rafferty, 2018). The path of Hurricane Sandy had it travelling to the Southern side of Jamaica on October 22nd, following this path until October 24th. On October 24th, it was classified as Category One just south of Jamaica which then hit land in Kingston, Jamaica. Over the next several hours, winds raised to nearly 180 km/hr. On October 25th Sandy struck land in Cuba as a Category Three hurricane. It hit west of Cuba’s second largest city, Santiago de Cuba. Additionally, on October 25th hurricane Sandy hit Haiti and the Bahamas. Continuing on Hurricane Sandy’s path from October 25th to October 29th, the storm had decreased intensity from the last landfall, Bahamas and Haiti (Sistek, n.d). It decreased intensity as a result of entering cooler waters and travelled towards the USA border where it did not strike land as a hurricane, just as a tropical storm.
The cause of Hurricane Sandy is believed to be, “an unusually shaped dip in the jet stream that scientists believe may have been caused by warming in the Arctic, steering the storm from East to West; and lunar high tides that raised the sea level several feet along the East Coast” (“Hurricane Sandy: What Caused the Recent Superstorm”, 2012). This hurricane was also believed to be impacted by climate change. The ocean temperature raised 0.5ºC from the last major hurricane that occurred in this region.
The total number of human casualties was 147. These were spread out over four countries; 72 in the United States, 54 in Haiti, 11 in Cuba, three in the Dominican Republic, two in the Bahamas, one in Jamaica, one in Puerto Rico, two at sea in the Atlantic Ocean, and one in Canada. The people of Haiti that had lost shelter from the 2010 Haiti Earthquake had no protection from this 2012 storm as they were still living in tents, which were easily blown or washed away (“Hurricane Sandy Fast Facts”, 2018). There were another 87 deaths caused by hypothermia, carbon monoxide, and accidents in the aftermath of the storm during the clean-up efforts.
Hurricane Sandy was recorded to be the 4th most costly hurricane ever to be recorded in United States behind the most costly Hurricane Katrina. The total damage was said to be 71 billion dollars in the United States and 340 million dollars in the Caribbean. More than 80% of Atlantic City was underwater (Amadeo, 2018). This storm left over eight and a half million people without power including hospitals and airports. New York subways were shut down, 20,000 flights were cancelled, and all public transit was ceased as it was the worst damage that had occurred in 108 years.
For the severity of this storm, there were surprisingly not a lot of deaths which occurred from it. The one thing that could have been done is build up the wall or an ocean barrier along the coast of New Jersey as several houses were easily damaged by the storm.
Overall, hurricane Sandy was a major, devastating natural disaster that affected several different countries both socially and economically. I think this storm was handled very well by the United States as they declared a state of emergency to several towns, which involved shutting down all public amenities including; transit, airlines and public places. Something that they could have improved is to evacuate more people from the East Coast as they knew the path of the storm was up the East Coast and did have the potential to come into land. This was a fairly positive outcome in relation to the severity of the storm.
The Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado was an extreme tornado that caused a lot of damage to the state of Alabama. This tornado was an EF4 tornado that occurred in April 2011. The tornado had winds of up to 310 kilometers high in speed. The path of the tornado was over 125 kilometers long and up to 1.4 kilometers wide (Figure 3).
This disaster took place on April 27th, 2011 at about 4:43pm and lasted for over an hour. Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado commenced in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and travelled Northeast all the way up to Birmingham, Alabama. (“2011 Tuscaloosa-Birmingham”, 2018)
The Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado was caused by a rotating thunderstorm rotating slightly clockwise. The rotation of this thunderstorm caused the tornado because it caused a defined radar circulation which is known as a mesocyclone. (Drye, 2016) A mesocyclone is air that rises and rotates about the vertical axis and the same direction as low pressure in hemisphere.
The amount human causalities from the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado totalled to 64 deaths directly caused by the tornado, and another eight as a consequence of the damage. This seismic tornado also caused 1,500 injuries. This 2011 tornado caused nearly 2.5 billion dollars in damage. This damage is spread all over Alabama between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham as it tore up homes for hundreds of home owners, as well as tearing up barns, stores, and many other buildings. There was not a lot that could have been done to prevent this disaster from doing more damage as it had uncontrolled winds at an incredibly high speed.
Overall, the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado was a vicious tornado destroying a wide range of property. Overall, I believe there is next to nothing that can be done in order to prevent tornadoes, especially while they are occurring since they are an uncontrollable natural disaster. Humans have yet to find a way to prevent them, the only thing that can be done is to be prepared for these disasters when they do occur and follow weather patterns to try to predict the path and severity of the storms in anticipation of the disaster.