Warner Pacific University
January 25, 2012
Society’s Vulnerability to Natural Hazard
Currently Oregon is showing us it’s vulnerability to the natural hazards of flooding, hurricane force winds and landslides. It has been in the news every day for the last week. A mother and child were killed when the car they were riding as passengers in was suddenly swept away from a creek overflowing in a grocery store parking lot. Passes to the coast have been closed due to landslides and damage to roads along with flying debris from hurricane force winds. Houses have been flooded and others have shifted off their foundations. Mount Bachelor Ski Resort closed last week because of extreme snow fall making it hazardous if not impossible to reach the resort with a concern for avalanches.
In 1998 the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries cited five categories of natural hazards that include floods, landslides, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis (Earthquakes and other natural hazards in the Pacific Northwest, 1999). They further state that all five of these hazards have occurred in the last century. I remember becoming stranded at my mother in laws while visiting her in Beaverton during the flood of 1996/97. I believe that was the same year as the worst ice storm I remember. I had been in Fairview and had to slip and slide my way home, it was quite frightening. We had another ice storm in 2003 and I had a new baby and lived on the second floor of an apartment building with rickety stairs made out of wrought iron and stone. I didn’t feel safe trying to carry my new baby down those stairs and chose to stay inside my apartment. I was fortunate enough to have my adult step daughter bring me supplies when needed.
It seems like more natural disasters have been occurring in the last years but are they really? Modern communication has enabled worldwide news stories to be shown almost instantly and the media sensationalizes any bit of news to lure more viewers and increase their ratings. However the world has had an increase in population and people now live in areas that may have been “previously considered marginal or unsafe” (Earthquakes and other natural hazards in the Pacific Northwest, 1999).
The Geological Society of America reports that we now transport and stockpile large quantities of hazardous materials which can be compromised by natural hazards (Geoscience and Natural Hazards, 2008). Natural hazards cause not only damage to people and property but also social and economic damage as well. After a major disaster businesses may shut down never to reopen again. Society’s mental health is also impacted by natural hazards causing trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I am a certified alcohol and drug counselor and one of the sections covered in our comprehensive alcohol and drug assessment is regarding having been in or witnessed a natural disaster.
I have several huge pine trees outside my duplex which I love however when it rains like it has the last week I often wake up at night and pray to God for the trees roots to be strong enough to hold it in the ground and not fall on my house and crush us. My sister assures me the trees have withstood many storms in their years and that they won’t fall down on me. I try to find this reassuring and thank God in the morning when I wake up whole. I do find myself getting more informed about what to do in specific emergencies and making sure I have supplies and a family meeting place in the case of a natural hazard. For my family it’s about being prepared and informed of weather conditions and potential hazards at all times of the year while still having fun.
Earthquakes and other natural hazards in the Pacific Northwest. (1999, November). Retrieved January 24, 2012, from Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Institutes: http://www.oregongeology.com/sub/earthquakes/earthquakehome.htm
Geoscience and Natural Hazards. (2008, October ). Retrieved January 25, 2012, from The Geological Society of America: http://www.geosociety.org/positions/position6.htm