When an area hasn’t experienced a natural disaster in a while, it’s sometimes referred to as being “overdue” for a major event. However, this term is sometimes overused or misused when it comes to natural disasters related to geological or climate events. Being “overdue” for a natural disaster may not be the only factor to warrant an area’s likelihood of experiencing that event, though it often has at least some scientific basis.
For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maps areas with a high risk of flooding based on the 100-year flood plain. In these areas, there’s a 1 percent chance there will be a flood each and every year so the agency coined the phrase “100-year flood plain.” To predict the risk of flooding, FEMA basically uses the “overdue” theory that floods are likely at least once every 100 years.
While being overdue for a disaster isn’t the only factor to consider when attempting to predict the next event or make major life decisions, it can be an interesting and potentially helpful consideration if you live in an area that fits the description. The following U.S. locations may be considered “overdue” for a natural disaster.
The Cascadia Subduction Zone (Earthquake)
The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a large fault line that runs from northern California to British Columbia and covers about 600 miles. The last earthquake this area experienced was a 9.0 magnitude quake on January 26, 1700, so it’s no wonder scientists are considering this area overdue.
If the area does experience another massive earthquake, Oregon could be affected and a tsunami may also result once the earth stops shaking. Scientists are concerned that since the last earthquake was in 1700, the earth has been building pressure up in this area since then.
Experts at the Oregon Office of Emergency Management believe, “there is about a 37 percent chance that a megathrust earthquake of 7.1+ magnitude in this fault zone will occur in the next 50 years.” The entire pacific northwest area, including northern California, the entire coastline of Oregon and Washington, and major cities including Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, could be impacted by this event, and residents might see severe property damage or lose power and services for multiple weeks.
What Can Be Done?
There’s not much that can be done to avoid an earthquake. However, residents in the area should prepare for the event by gathering at least two weeks of food and supplies. The Oregon state government suggests that residents near major fault lines collect food, supplies, and medications in an easily accessible kit in case they need to evacuate.
The San Andreas and Hayward Faults (Earthquake)
The Hayward and San Andreas Faults are located near California’s East Bay. These faults run from Cape Mendocino to the Gulf of California. The last major earthquake in the area occurred on October 21, 1868, and was clocked at a magnitude of 6.8.
Scientists are concerned about this area potentially being overdue for an earthquake because they’ve studied the patterns within the state. The last five major earthquakes in California occurred around every 140 years. Therefore, scientists at Berkeley predict that “the Hayward fault will rupture and produce a significant earthquake within the next 30 years.”
If a major earthquake occurs in the San Andreas and Hayward Faults, over 2.4 million residents may be affected in the following cities:
- San Jose
- San Leandro
- El Cerrito
A major earthquake in this area could cause extreme structural damage to bridges and buildings and could also cause landslides.
What Can Be Done?
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent earthquakes. However, residents can prepare by ensuring they have the right hazard insurance in place to protect their property. Families should create and practice an emergency plan so they know how to react and evacuate in the event of an earthquake.
Large furniture or other hazards that could cause injury if toppled over should be secured to the wall. Residents should also look into the structural integrity of their homes to ensure they have the proper retrofitting to withstand an earthquake.
Florida’s Gulf Coast (Hurricane)
Florida is a peninsula surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, making it a prime target for hurricanes. Florida homeowner’s insurance is an important precaution for all residents in the state. The state is also known for its low elevation so flooding is common and damage from hurricanes may be even more severe than in higher-elevation states further north.
In the city of Sarasota on the Gulf coast, the maximum elevation is only 145 feet above sea level. However, the city is often spared from hurricanes. Only five named hurricanes have come close to the downtown area of Sarasota, and none has made a direct impact in nearly a century.
There is much folklore about why Sarasota remains safe from this natural disaster. Some assert that Sarasota hasn’t experienced a direct hit from a hurricane for a long time because the area is protected by Native American spirits. Despite local folklore, property insurance for Sarasota homeowners is still standard for residents.
A more scientific explanation for Sarasota’s safety may be that hurricanes must travel directly over Cuba to hit the city. This isn’t probable because Cuba is known to disrupt “the moist low-level inflow” of hurricanes, knocking them off track. However, all of Florida is at risk for hurricanes, so it’s important for residents to be prepared.
What Can Be Done?
Florida’s hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30 but residents should be prepared well before it begins. Choose insurance coverage with a reputable homeowner’s insurance company. Equipping homes for strong winds with hurricane shutters can help minimize damage and may improve your home’s durability.
All Florida residents should review their area’s hurricane warning systems, evacuation routes, and local shelters. Getting a solid disaster emergency plan in place ensures you’re prepared to stay safe.
The Yellowstone Supervolcano (Volcanic Eruption, Earthquake)
The Yellowstone Caldera is a 35 mile by 50 mile volcanic crater that was formed 640,000 years ago. In the past 2.1 million years, three large volcanic eruptions were produced near Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The last volcanic activity in the region were lava flows that occurred 700,000 years ago, leading scientists to wonder if Yellowstone is overdue for a giant volcanic eruption.
If a supervolcanic eruption were to occur, the entire country could experience falling ash. Surrounding states, including Montana and Idaho, could deal with volcanic gases, ash, and hot lava.
What Can Be Done?
Fortunately, the chances of a catastrophic volcanic eruption are slim over the next few thousands of years. However, residents in the area should be prepared with an evacuation plan. They should also be familiar with local authorities and their preferred lines of communication during natural disasters.
The New Madrid Seismic Zone (Earthquake)
The New Madrid Seismic Zone is located in the Southern and Midwestern U.S. and is most famous for earthquakes in 1811 to 1812 with magnitudes between 7.0 and 8.0. The earthquakes were so strong that their effects were felt all the way up to Connecticut and South Carolina. However, most of the damage occurred along the Mississippi River.
If this catastrophic event were to happen again, it could cause structural damage to buildings and may reshape the land. Landslides may also occur.
What Can Be Done?
Scientists conclude that strong earthquakes in the area have a “recurrence interval of about 500 years.” However, residents within the New Madrid Seismic Zone should be prepared by understanding how local warning systems work, packing an emergency kit, and ensuring their homes are structurally sound.
Natural disasters are unpredictable but these areas may be “overdue” for one of these events. Even if these locations have been safe for years, residents should still be prepared for emergency events that could happen in their communities at any time.