Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Vulnerability and Tornados by Michelle Holmen

My View to Our Vulnerability to Tornadoes
Nature’s Most Violent Storms
Environmental Studies/ PHS 100
Warner Pacific College
October 12, 2010

Nature’s Most Violent Storms
When I think of a natural hazard, the first one that immediately comes to mind besides
earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods are tornadoes. We as a society have come face to face with
the wrath of Mother Nature. We as a nation have endured a tremendous amount of hardship but
have also come out on the other side. We as a society are also not the only ones that have dealt
with the massive aftereffects of natural disasters. An important question to ask is how our
vulnerability to these disasters can be minimized?
We first need to understand what a tornado is, what to do before a tornado, what to do
during a tornado, and most importantly is recovering from this disaster. Tornadoes are known as
nature’s most violent storms and are generated from powerful thunderstorms. It’s amazing how
fast tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate homes and neighborhoods in a matter of
seconds. I have witnessed one of these most powerful storms and thankfully came out on the
other side. Although there was much devastation in our communities and rural towns, our
emergency crews including the Red Cross were on hand immediately following the train-like
sound as it traveled through leaving a devastating path of destruction and then it was gone
in seconds.
I also witnessed the quick response from our neighbors as well as the whole community
coming together to take care of those in need. I can also remember driving to my uncle’s house
and only seeing the basement still intact; however, the rest of the house was completely gone
along with their dogs later found some five miles away from their house. One of these dogs
survived but the other did not.
There are some facts about tornadoes that one needs to know so that they have a better
understanding of and are better prepared to survive after the tornado moves through leaving
devastation and in some cases death in its aftermath. We know that a tornado is created from a
powerful thunderstorm. A tornado can appear in seconds looking like a funnel-shaped cloud that
extends from the thunderstorm down to the ground creating high winds that can reach some 300
miles per hour. The paths of destruction can be in excess of one mile wide to 50 miles long.
As we have experienced here in the Northwest, every state is at risk from this hazard not
just the Midwest. We can easily remember back to our own severe tornado here that hit
Vancouver, Washington, killing six and injuring more than 300, on April 5, 1972. My friend and
I were in a truck just blocks from where it touched down. When we arrived at their home, we
discovered the path of the tornado traveled right behind their home. Thankfully, very little
damage was caused; however, the home behind theirs was not so lucky.
According to some news reports, no one in Vancouver had an inkling of what was
coming, they had no warning. According to one report, “A few people saw the sparks and wind
cloud and suspected a tornado might be approaching, but most did not know what it was; most
observers said the storm did not have a funnel cloud.”
What can we ascertain from this? We know that a tornado may strike quickly, with little
or no warning. A tornado may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a
cloud forms in the funnel; again we know it can strike with very little warning. Tornadoes can
accompany tropical storms and hurricanes even as they move onto land. The peak tornado
season in the southern states for example, is March through May; in the northern states, it is late
spring through early summer. Tornadoes can occur at any time but most likely occurs between
3 p.m. and 9 p.m. We know that the tornado that came across the Columbia River sucking up the
water as it moved across to Vancouver and touched town approximately at 12:51 p.m.
So what does one do before the tornado? Most of all be alert to the changing conditions.
We can do this by watching news reports for the latest information, and look around for
approaching storms. We can also look for the following danger signs: dark sky, low-lying
clouds, last but not least, is the loud roar, similar to that of a freight train. If anyone sees an
approaching storm or any of the above danger signs, we need to take shelter immediately.
What can we do during a tornado? If one is in a structure, go to a pre-designated shelter
area such as the basement, storm cellar, safe room, or the lowest building level. If one is outside
with no shelter, the most important thing is not to get under an overpass or bridge. One would be
safer in a low, flat location. We should never try to outrun a tornado even if one is in a car. The
safest thing one can do is to leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter. Most importantly too
is to watch out for flying debris. I have witnessed firsthand the flying debris that are caused
from a tornado and the debris can cause fatalities or injuries.
Finally, how does one deal with the aftermath following a tornado? One must realize that
it is a gradual process for everyone whether dealing with the effects of the cleanup to the
emotional effects that can be caused by a natural disaster. Most importantly safety is a primary
issue as is our wellbeing. Have a plan of action which includes knowing where and what
assistance is available to you. Last but not least, develop a disaster plan for you and your family
for home, work, school, and when outdoors. Practice this plan, gathering information about
hazards, making sure that you have the necessary supplies for you and your family, and meet
with your family going over your disaster plan until each one knows it.

We are at the mercy of Mother Nature, but we can plan and prepare minimizing the
effects of natural hazards. As we have witnessed by the past natural disasters, either from a
tornado, hurricane, flood, or earthquake, we must plan accordingly and work together to
minimize the casualties and damages that a disaster can cause. If we work together with our
neighbors, emergency response workers, and the numerous agencies, we can accomplish much
and can limit our vulnerability and speed up the recovery process from a natural disaster.

Withgott, J., & Brennan, S. (2008) Environment: The Science Behind the Stories (3rd ed.). New
York. Pearson Benjamin Cummings. ISBN: 13:978-0-8053-9573-0 , Retrieved October 10, 2010, Retrieved October 10, 2010 , Retrieved October 10, 2010, Retrieved October 10, 2010

Mt. St. Helens by Darren Hergert

PHS 100
Warner Pacific College
October 12, 2010

Preparing for the Big One

I have seen many spectaculars things in my life such as Niagara Falls and The Great Wall of China, but neither of these sights touches the magnitude of what I saw on May 18, 1980. At just after 8:30 in the morning, my wife of one day and I opened up the curtains from our honeymoon suite at the Marriott Riverfront to the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Never had I seen nature’s fury so close to home; even today, the only suitable word that describes that event is—extraordinary!
Yet, this volcanic eruption will pale in comparison to what is being predicted for the Northwest over the next 50 years. In a June 2, 2010 article from Before it’s News, scientists are now predicting that there is a one-in-three chance that the Northwest will see a mega-quake in the next 50 years. Painting a complex picture of the Cascadia Subduction zone, scientists from Oregon State University have found that the Cascadia represents at least four separate segments, rather than one big subduction zone. Mega-quakes of magnitude-9 or greater occur less frequently in the northern segment and can rupture the entire fault. This is not about whether the “big one” will happen, but when it will happen.
Just as the eruption of St. Helens had a trickle-down effect on the cities, forest and citizens it rolled over, so too, will an earthquake of the magnitude of 9-or greater. As someone who is old enough to remember the film Earthquake, what appeared as far-fetched could actually be understating such a disaster in the Northwest. For one, Californians are much more subjected to earthquakes which probably explains why the month of April is set aside as “Earthquake Preparedness Month” (State of California). The Pacific Northwest on the other-hand, rarely gets earthquakes let alone tremors which perpetuate this “never happen to me” mentality. Maybe this explains why only 20 percent of Oregonians have earthquake insurance. In a January publication of the Portland Business Journal, Cory Streisinger, director of the Department of Consumers and Business Services suggests that “Consumers may want to think about their ability to rebuild if their house is destroyed in an earthquake.” Moreover, “Insurance should be weighed as part of other earthquake preparations.”
If society is not willing to protect what is arguably the largest expenditure in one’s lifetime, how can we depend on people to be responsible in preparing for a natural disaster? Although earthquakes typically last only seconds, we know that at an 8-9 magnitude the damage will be extensive. Contrary to the St. Helens eruption, this natural disaster would likely encompass populated areas. Damage would almost certainly impact buildings; gas and water flow; electricity and phone lines. “In fact, the primary cause of damage in modern earthquakes in developed countries is fire which is started by broken gas pipes and power lines” (Natural hazards).
As a citizen of the Northwest, I admit that I have fallen prey to complacency in this area. Although I am in the minority as someone with earthquake insurance, I confess that I would be ill prepared to handle an earthquake of this level. We owe it to our families to prepare for the inevitable and we can do this by applying prevention versus a reactionary response. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this should include the following:

• Evacuation plan
o take time to discuss how the family would vacate the house after the quake
o Plan a second route if the first plan fails
o Mark where you emergency food, water and first aid kits and fire extinguishers are located
o Indicate the location of your family’s emergency outdoor meeting place

• Establish priorities
o Hand carry important items
o If time permits, lock doors and windows; turn off utilities

• Write down important information
o Such as telephone numbers (police, fire, paramedics)
o Names, addresses, and phone numbers of insurance agents, including policy types and numbers
o Neighbors phone numbers
o Vehicle ID number
o Bank account information

• Gather and store important documents in a fire-proof safe
o Birth certificates
o Ownership certificates
o Social Security cards
o Wills
o Insurance policies
o List content of home


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2003). Being prepared for an earthquake.

Retrieved October 10, 2010 from,

Gardner, Z. (2010, June 2). Major earthquake predicted for northwest; odds 1-in-3 for Northwest

mega-quake within 50 years. Before it’s news. Retrieved October 9, 2010 from,

State of California Department of Conservation. (2007, April 6). California geological survey

reminds Californians to be prepared for earthquakes. Retrieved October 10, 2010 from,

Unknown. (2010, January 18). Few Oregonians have earthquake insurance. Retrieved October 9,

2010 from,

Unknown. (n.d.). What are natural hazards? Retrieved October 9, 2010 from,

Natural Hazard by Mary Garcia

Environmental Studies
Dr. David Terrell
Warner Pacific College
October 9th, 2010

Natural Hazards come in many forms, shapes and sizes. Some forms are fairly common and have been experienced world wide; others have only been read about or viewed on local news stations as happening to someone else. Where do natural hazards come from, how devastating can they be, are we as a society prepared in the event of a natural hazard? In order to be prepared we must first understand what a natural hazard is.
A natural geological hazard may include debris avalanches, landslides, rock falls or expansive soils, while a natural hydrologic hazard may come in the form of coastal flooding, desertification, drought, submarine slides, storm surges, salinization, erosion or river flooding. A natural atmospheric hazard may come in the form of a hailstorm, hurricane, lightening, tornadoes or even a tropical storm.
Volcanoes are commonly known, but due to their inconsistent activity are mistakenly not viewed as a threat, but lava and pyroclastic flows followed by the ashes and cinders (commonly known and tephra) from projectile blasts, followed by emanating gases are quite lethal and can cause massive devastation in a short period of time. Seismic activity is another form of a natural hazard.
Quite consistent are the moving platelets of the earth’s structure causing earthquakes and tsunamis, fault ruptures and lateral spreading. Brush, forest, grass and savannah fires are all categorized as wildfires and are just another form of a natural hazard.
These are all elements of a physical surrounding environment that has the potential to be harmful to a society and that which a society has no control over and because of the hazards frequency, location and possible severity it has the potential to adversely affect the structures and activities of a society (Burton, Kates & White, 1978).
The Natural Hazards Project (1990) asks the question “how natural is a natural hazard?” According to the Natural Hazards Project of the Department of Regional Development and Environment, “a natural hazard has an element of human involvement.” The text explains that a physical event that does not affect society is known as a natural phenomenon, while a natural phenomenon that may occur within a populated area (such as a volcanic eruption) is considered to be a hazardous event and when that event causes large numbers of injuries, fatalities or property damage it is then considered a natural disaster. “In areas where there are no human interests, natural phenomena do not constitute hazards; this definition shifts the burden of cause from purely natural processes to the concurrent presence of human activities and natural events.” (Natural Hazards Project, 1990).
To gage society’s vulnerability to a natural disaster occurrence, society must first consider certain elements of a natural disaster, such as the rapid or slow movement of the occurrence and how controllable the events are. What is the frequency of the occurrence and how severe will it be. Can our society withstand or even avoid the impact of the occurrence.
The speed with which a hazard occurs in an important variable as it forms whether or not there will be any warning time. An example of such are volcanoes, they can erupt swiftly, but generally give a warning of an eruption weeks or even months in advance. Other hazardous events such as a drought occur slowly over a period of time that could take months or even years to complete. Some types of hazards, such as year round flooding where the hazard becomes part of the landscape, allows society to build accordingly or to take specific measures to protect against it.
Grade school teaches students to duck under desks in the event of an earthquake and send home pamphlets for tips on preparing your home for a power outage, society has developed and offers the assistance of 911 for your emergency needs and the professionals trained to handle emergency situations. But what happens when emergency response teams are unable to assist? Having never experienced a natural hazard or been involved in any kind of training, my family and I are completely unprepared for an event to occur. Perhaps I will scour the map of terrains and choose to live in a spot less likely to experience any of the hazards I have described today.


Hays, W.W. (ed) Facing Geologic and Hydrolic Hazards, Earth-Science Considerations. (Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 1981)

Burton, I., Robert W. Kates ad Gilbert F. White. The Environment as Hazard (New York; Oxford University Press, 1978)

Natural Hazards Project. (1990). Retrieved from

John A. Cross. “Hazard Maps in the Classroom,” Journal of Geography (1988)

Earthquakes by Claire Chadney

Environmental Studies
PHS 100
Warner Pacific College
October 12, 2010

Every morning we wake up, get dressed, and head out to start our day never expecting that day to be short-circuited by a natural disaster. We come home from our days and turn on the news to see floods, fires, drought, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes; but assure ourselves that we are safe from harm. Still, just to be sure, we buy flood insurance, build our homes with steel and concrete, and set up emergency evacuation plans.
Why do we do this? Because natural disasters do happen, and they can happen anywhere and anytime. Some natural disasters, such as hurricanes, allow us time to prepare; but others, including flash flooding, tornadoes, and fire do not always give us fair warning.
Earthquakes differ from most natural disasters because we have developed technology that can help predict where seismic activity will occur. The idea of plate tectonic theory was first proposed by Albert Wegener in 1915. Wegener had noticed that the continents appeared to have drifted over time and continents looked to be broken off pieces of one continent. While much of the content of Wegener’s “continental drift” theory was later disproven, he was able to bring the idea of “crustal movements” to the scientific community. Paleontologists were also able to provide physical evidence that supported the theory of plate tectonics as they began to discover similar fossils on continents that were separated by many thousands of miles. Studies of the Earth’s previous magnetic field and climate changes over time also lent their support to this theory (Glasscoe).
The largest evolution in the development of understanding of earthquakes and tectonic plates came following World War II. Many governments world-wide feared nuclear weapons and placed seismometers in the ground to monitor any nuclear testing. Unexpectedly, these seismometers revealed that earthquakes, volcanoes, and other active geologic features tended to follow distinct belts around the world. Those belts defined the edges of the tectonic plates (Glasscoe).
Seismography has remained a critical tool in evaluating the magnitude and depth of earthquakes. Defining where these tectonic plates lie has made it much easier to determine where earthquakes are expected to happen. Determining when an earthquake will happen has proven to be much more difficult. Science has not developed enough to be able to provide predictably accurate timelines for earthquake and volcanic activity.
Because many thousands of years can occur between periods of significant fault activity, humans have continued to inhabit areas that are susceptible to earthquakes. As we all have witnessed on the news, these fault areas can become active and earthquakes can rip through homes and lives in a matter of minutes.
On March 25, 1993, I experienced my very first earthquake. The earthquake epicenter was located near Scotts Mills, Oregon; approximately 20 miles from my home in Gervais, Oregon. The quake occurred at 5:34 in the morning and was a 5.6 in magnitude. The magnitude of this earthquake placed it as the most significant earthquake in the Pacific Northwest since 1981. There were no human casualties associated with the earthquake, a fact that scientists attribute to the early morning hour that the quake occurred. Damage was limited to minimal structural damage to nearby homes, schools, and the State Capitol building in Salem.
That morning I was awakened by an intense shaking of my home, which initially I believed was nothing more than a train passing on the nearby rail. Very quickly though, I realized my mistake as a picture at the head of my bed crashed to the floor. My father threw open my bedroom door and herded myself and my brother down the stairs of our 1906 Victorian home. Pausing on the way down the stairs, my brother and I noted how the stairs seemed to ripple and rise, shaking plaster from the ceiling and jamming doors that had opened easily the day before. We rushed to the first floor and took cover in a doorway for the next several minutes. Once the quake passed, an evaluation of our home showed minor foundation cracks and several fallen objects, but no real damage.
This earthquake was a wakeup call to my family and neighbors. We no longer took for granted that the land our homes stood on was invulnerable. We realized all that we had worked for could be swept away in moments. Scientists will continue to strive to understand the nature of earthquakes and other seismic changes in order to be able to prevent the property and life damage that can occur in an earthquake, but for now we all need to realize just how delicate a precipice we live on and how quickly our world can be torn from underneath our sleeping heads.

Glasscoe, Maggi, The Southern California Integrated GPS Network Education Module, History of Plate Tectonics, October 10, 2010,

United States Geological Survey, The Science of Earthquakes, October 10, 2010,

Ludwin, R.S., A.I. Qamar, S.D. Malone, R.S. Crosson, S. Moran, G,C. Thomas, and W.P. Steele, Scotts Mills Earthquake Summary, October 10, 2010,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The environment, our land, air and water are precious! by Denise Crume

Environmental Studies
PHS 100A
David Terrell
Warner Pacific College
October 5, 2010
The environment, our land, air and water are precious. Sometimes I believe we take it for granted. Regulations have been put in place by congress for the safety and sustainability of our environment. We as people need to be more aware of our responsibility to protect our environment, and be aware of what the activities that we are doing that are depleting our natural resources. As the population grows at record amounts so does the threat to our air, water, and soil.
There are many environmental regulations; I have chosen to look at the Bureau of land management in Oregon and Washington. The Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, is where the BLM roots started (, nd). As the West was beginning poor farming, and timber harvesting had adverse effects to the environment. The BLM began regulations to help sustain the ecological and economic growth, as well as providing habitat for many threatened and endangered fish and wildlife. They maintain information on public land from present to the Land Ordinance of 1785, showing how they are used, how funds are generated, what plants/animals live there and what effect wildfire and prescribed fires have and much more. The BLM manages two million acres of forest in western Oregon and in Washington most lands are east of the Cascade Mountain Range, (, nd). They manage more land than any other federal agency, a total of 256 million acres. This land is known as the National System of Public Lands located in 12 Western states (, nd). The budget for the Bureau is approximately $1 billion, with a mission to “sustain health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations” (, nd). Some of the accomplishments are managing outdoor recreation, energy production, livestock grazing, mineral development and conserving historical, cultural and natural resources on the public lands.
In the 19th century as the first national parks, forests and wildlife Congress saw the value of the resources rather than being used for settlement. Without the Bureau of Land Management regulations the parks, reserves, wildlife and resources would quickly become polluted, destroyed, or extinct. As the BLM regulations are in effect most of us don’t realize all the benefits that they are doing to maintain this beautiful Western United States.
Not until reading this article and the environmental book did I really know what environmental studies was all about. I have been blessed by living in Oregon all my life, my children were raised here and their grandparents as well. I do want the beauty of this country to be around for my children’s children, children, and it is up to each one of us to support the BLM, do our part in helping the environment by paying attention to what is going on in our environment. The cost at times may seem high but I wonder how much more would it cost should the regulations not be in effect.


Withgott, J. , & Bennan, S. (2008). Environment: The Science Behind the Stories (3rd
ed.). New York. Pearson Benjamin Cummings. ISBN: 13: 978-0-8053-9573-0
U.S. Department of the Interior (nd). Bureau of Land Management. About the BLM retrieved October 3, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Car gas efficiency by Claire Chadney

Environmental Studies
PHS 100
Claire Chadney
Warner Pacific College
October 5, 2010

President Obama has tasked the US Department of transportation (DOT), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with reducing greenhouse gases and increasing vehicle fuel efficiency. In order to reach these goals a national program has been implemented that will require new car manufacturers to follow more stringent regulations.
This national program was created in an effort to cut down on fuel costs, improve our nation’s energy security by reducing our dependence on petroleum, and protect the environment by reducing greenhouse gas pollution that lead to climate change. According to the EPA, climate change is the single greatest long-term global environment challenge. Currently, our cars, trucks, and SUV’s makes up 57% of US transportation petroleum use and almost 60 % of all transportation-related greenhouse gas emission (Environmental Protection Agency).
These tougher measures will apply to all passenger cars and trucks built in model years 2017 through 2025. The first phase of this process, however, is scheduled to begin in cars built as early as 2012. Goals for new cars produced by the year 2025 could require manufacturers to meet an industry standard of somewhere between 47 mpg and 62 mpg (The Associated Press).
Projections show that this should decrease carbon dioxide emissions 3 to 6 percent per mile. The initial estimated cost per vehicle is expected to be about $3500; however, owners are expected to recoup their investment in three to four years and save up to $7400 over a vehicle’s lifetime (The Associated Press).
According to the Environmental Defense Fund’s 2004 report, the United States carbon dioxide emissions from personal vehicles totaled 314 metric tons, which is enough carbon to circle the world twice. The average household with two mid-sized vehicles emits more than 20,000 pound of carbon dioxide a year. That adds up to ten tons of pollution adding to the layer of greenhouse gases (Environmental Defense Fund).
Our atmosphere has a natural supply of greenhouse gases. They capture heat and keep the surface of the Earth warm enough to live on. Without these gases the planet would be uninhabitable. Before the Industrial Revolution the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases was roughly in balance. When industry took off in the mid-1700’s the amount of greenhouse gases skyrocketed. These gases, which stay in the atmosphere anywhere from 50 years to several centuries, began to build a thick heating blanket that nature could not combat (Environmental Defense Fund).
Because of this effect, the Earth has heated up by about one degree Fahrenheit over the past century, and is has heated up more intensely over the past two decade. On the surface, this does not sound like such a big deal, but things come into better prospective when we realize that the difference between our world today and the last ice age was only nine degrees Fahrenheit (Environmental Defense Fund). Knowing that makes the facts a whole lot more serious. We all assumed that in order for our lives to change significantly, the temperature of the Earth must also change significantly.
I agree with the regulations put in place to better regulate our vehicles emissions. Not only do these regulations reduce our need to rely on Middle East oil to keep our cars running, but it also protects our homes and planet, so that there will be a planet for our children’s children.

Thomas, Ken, 62 mpg for new cars? It's the US target for 2025, The Associated Press,
EPA and DOT Announce Next Steps toward Tighter Tailpipe and Fuel Economy Standards for Passenger Cars and Trucks/Move should save consumers money, reduce dependence on oil, October 1, 2010,
Tallying Greenhouse Gases from Cars, September 7, 2007, Environmental Defense Fund,
The Basics of Global Warming, Environmental Defense Fund, January 29, 2009,