Other Natural Disasters

We have already been through the most common disasters. There are lots of other things that can happen. For the most part, these are either very unlikely, limited in where they can happen, or there is nothing you can do about them, so we will just look at them briefly.


Mudflows are essentially a type of flash flood. Instead of the water getting dammed up by ice or debris, it soaks into the ground. The ground becomes so saturated it becomes liquid and begins to flow. Like water, it is going to flow down hill through the easiest channel, typically a road, a river bed, or a yard. A mudflow is thicker and heavier than water. It will tend to move or bury whatever is in its path. Try to get out of the way. Run to the nearest high ground away from the direction of the flow. If you are in a sturdy building, get behind thick walls or furniture that might protect you from the flow. If you canít escape, curl into a tight ball and protect your head.


Landslides are similar to mudflows in both cause and effect. However, landslides may be more predictable. Cracks may appear in pavement or the ground near the top of a slope. The ground may begin to bulge at the base of a slope. Building foundations may crack and doors and windows may begin to stick. Walls, fences and poles may begin to tilt. If you live in an area like this, you have made a dangerous choice. The county or state may do things like building retaining walls or cutting channels. Everyone can help by planting vegetation on hillsides to stabilize the top of the soil. But if the ground is unstable, there is little anyone can do. If you hear rumbling or the ground begins to shift around you, get out fast.


It is hard not to notice if you live near a volcano since most of them are very tall mountains. They also tend to give scientists a lot of warning that they are going to erupt. If you live near a volcano, you should have plans for what you would do if it becomes active.

There are two types of danger from a volcano, the explosion and debris from an eruption, and the ash and gases that may come from a volcano even without a full eruption. If an eruption is predicted, listen carefully to officials and leave as soon as an evacuation is called. Know your area so you can avoid going into streams or channels that might contain lava or debris flows. If possible, stay upwind to avoid breathing ash or toxic gas. Follow designated evacuation routes and donít approach the eruption area.

Ash falls can occur a very long way from the actual volcano. Protect your lungs from ash as much as possible. Stay indoors and seal up the house. Turn off the air conditioning or heater fan. Close and lock doors and windows. Put damp towels along window sills and under doors. Close the damper on the fire place.

If you must be outside, wear long sleeved shirts and long pants. Wear a disposable face mask or damp cloth over your mouth and nose. Wear goggles or safety glasses. Do not wear contact lenses. Remove outside clothing before going inside to keep the ash out of the house. Do not drink water or eat food that is contaminated by ash.

Keep roofs brushed off. Four inches of ash can be heavy enough to collapse a roof. Minimize travel and protect your car as much as possible by changing the oil and air filters frequently. Prepare for the long haul. When volcanoes become active, they can put out ash and have minor eruptions for months and even experts canít be sure when a big eruption will take place.


Tsunamis are enormous waves created by a shift in the sea floor such as an earthquake, volcano, or landslide. They spread in circles from the disturbance like ripples on a pond. Like those ripples, they may come in a series of waves. Tsunamis can travel hundreds of miles per hour and they grow in height as they approach the shore. Their height is influenced by the shape of the ocean floor, but they may be higher than 100 feet when they hit.

Tsunamis can hit any coastline, but the greatest danger is around the Pacific Basin where there is the most undersea seismic activity. The west coast of the United States has tsunami warning systems and evacuation routes in place. An advisory is called if there is an earthquake that might cause a tsunami. A watch means there are at least two hours before a wave would hit. A warning means you should leave now. Go to high ground at least a mile from the shoreline.

There is sometimes a natural tsunami warning. If the water suddenly pulls back from the beach, get to higher ground as fast as you can. This may be the bottom of the wave pulling up water and you donít want to be out looking at the ocean floor when the water comes back.