Saturday, March 12, 2011

Utah Natural Disasters and Hazards

Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice - Will Durant

Unfortunately, this week's earthquake and tsunami has provided yet another tragic example of how vulnerable we are to natural disasters and hazards.  Perhaps the only positive that can come from such a disaster is increased awareness, preparedness, and resiliency to these events.

Here in Utah, skiers, snowboarders, and others who enjoy ourdoor recreation in the mountains should be aware that avalanches cause more deaths than any other "natural hazard," followed by lightning.  

Source: Utah Avalanche Center
I put natural hazard in quotes because there is a human element in nearly every so-called natural disaster.  In the case of avalanches, the vast majority of fatal avalanches are triggered by the victim or another human.  In fact, there was a close call just yesterday on the south slopes of Mount Superior.

The bottom line with lightning is when thunder roars, head indoors.  Get in a fully enclosed building or your car.  When car camping, you are not safe in a tent or under an awning.  Get in your car, even if you have to drag your tail into your car in the middle of the night.  If heading indoors is not an option, minimize your lightning risk by avoiding ridges, mountain tops and open fields, staying away from tall trees, and getting off the water.

Flash floods occur throughout the state, including at times in developed areas, but particularly noteworthy are the floods that occur in the southern Utah and throughout the Colorado plateau.  Inundation can occur rapidly in washes, canyons, and slot canyons, even when it is not raining where you are.  You and your SUV are no match for rising water.  Check out these videos by David Rankin.

Finally, check out the earthquake preparedness advice from the University of Utah Seismograph stations.  

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