No matter how technologically advanced humans become, we’ll always spend a good portion of our time pathetically flailing at nature and the various disasters it attempts to grind us down with.
Which makes it all the more awesome that many have actually chosen to live right on the bulls-eye of mother nature’s bazooka practice target. As we all go blithely about our daily lives, just remember …
5. New York Is Due for a Hurricane Worse Than Sandy
There’s no shortage of hazards that can be associated with New York: Muggings, terrorist attacks, and terrible celebrity chef restaurants are all par for the course when it comes to the Big Apple. Yet the most dangerous of them all tends to go unmentioned … right until it throws a skyscraper at you.
Most of us were shocked to find out that New York was in hurricane territory at all, then all of a sudden the city gets sideswiped by Irene and Sandy. They flooded subways, collapsed quite a few buildings and dealt billions in damage. And they were nothing compared to what is (eventually) coming.
Both of those storms were only Category 1 when they hit, meaning that they were not that powerful — even though they still tore up plenty of shit in the region, some of which still hasn’t been fixed. Which is to say that it could have been much worse. As in, Roland Emmerich worse.
In fact, New York City has a pretty good chance of being hit by a category 3 Hurricane this very decade. And the next one. And, in fact, each and every decade. A Category 3 hurricane, in case you were wondering, is defined by the phrase “Devastating damage will occur.” We’re talking demolished houses, damaged skyscrapers, and destroyed infrastructure, here. We’re talking JFK airport under 19 feet of water, according to the people who study this sort of thing.
Because of New York’s unique geography (and in case anyone needed an extra reason to dislike New Jersey), Northeast New Jersey and Western Long Island form a bottleneck for hurricanes to pass right into. Essentially, any storm with great intensity has a decent chance of a direct hit. This, incidentally, subjects the city to far worse things than just a “mere” Category 3: New York’s near future can very well see a full-on “Oh shit” hurricane of the Category 5 classification. Destruction wise, this storm would be a dozen times worse than a Category 3.
Leading us to wonder why it’s not a Category 36 hurricane.
So, What Can Be Done?
Luckily, New York City is prepared for pretty much anything. And when we say prepared, we mean they know precisely how screwed they’re going to be.
Using a Category 4 hurricane as a sort of average of terror, authorities have calculated that a massive hurricane would do about $500 billion worth of foreseeable damage — that is, four times as much as Hurricane Katrina managed. Hell, a mere Category 2 would turn the subway into an aquarium in 40 minutes, with Grand Central and Penn Stations flooding as well. There is also the matter of the 15-foot wall of water expected to hit three of the five N.Y. boroughs with all the havoc a mini-tsunami with New York attitude can wreak.
Bottom line for hurricane survival in New York: When it hits, be in Cleveland. Though it could be worse…
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4.Amsterdam Lives in Constant Dread of Drowning
Amsterdam is the capital of Netherlands, and the Red Light Districted obligatory rest stop for backpackers who want to take pictures of each other giggling nervously over a ridiculously oversized and overpriced blunt. It is a beautiful city with hundreds of years of history and wonderful art museums, with the added bonus of hash bars freaking everywhere.
It’s also about to be eaten by the ocean, every single minute of the day.
Most of Netherlands resides below sea level, and if anything — anything, anywhere, at all — goes wrong, Amsterdam will take an entire ocean right in the face. Subsequently, the map of the Netherlands would look a little something like this:
See the black blip labeled “Amsterdam” that’s right in the middle of the fucking blue? That’s what happens if just one of the various, intricate failsafe barriers and dams surrounding the country goes down. Not only the city (highest point: seven feet above sea level), but in fact much of the entire country (lowest point: minus 23 feet) is at constant risk of being claimed by the sea.
The good news is, Amsterdam’s an old hand at fighting water and the authorities have actually set up the elaborate not-getting-drowned network that is keeping them safe. The bad news: They absolutely blow at keeping said network up to date. In fact, only 50 percent of the defenses are somewhat capable of handling their task of keeping people’s feet dry. The Netherlands had their latest hazardous flood defense failure in 2010, and rest assured there willbe more: Many experts are not even sure some of the dams will hold if they get just the tiniest of hairline cracks.
In fact, The defenses keeping Amsterdam turning from pot paradise to Waterworld are so leaky, maintaining and improving them (what with the rising sea levels) add up to around 1 billion euros a year. Oh, and that’s just for ocean level preparedness. If the sea level rises sufficiently, their rivers can also fuck them up.
So, What Can Be Done?
Not a lot, really. There is a century-spanning multibillion-dollar plan to fortify the country’s defenses, sure, but even its makers acknowledge the absurdity of attempting to plan so far into the future.
Still, before you rush mailing bong-shaped lifeboats to random Amsterdam dwellers, it’s worth keeping in mind that this is a situation that has been going on for centuries. The country has been flooded dozens and dozens of times, including a great 1953 flood that essentially turned Amsterdam into Venice for a while.
So, they might be going under, and facing insurmountable odds against saving themselves from that fate, but at least they’re fully aware what they’re up against. Also, this situation goes a long way toward explaining all the pot.
Poor Seattle can’t catch a break. We’ve already covered how the mild-mannered city is particularly prone to giant earthquakes, but it gets even worse: the entire Greater Seattle is at the risk of being buried under a sea of mud.
The area lies downstream from Mount Rainier, which carries the questionable honor of being one of the most dangerous volcanoes in existence. However, this particular danger doesn’t come from soot and magma — sure, there would be some if it was to erupt, but that would be just the icing on the horror cake.
The true killer would be a lahar, whose nerdy name betrays its potential for destruction. Lahars are giant flows of hot mud, trees and water, rolling forward with the consistency of a zillion tons of wet cement and at speeds up to 60mph.
“Slow down! You’re devastating like a bat out of hell!”
And they can get big: Urban Seattle could be facing a Lahar as tall 600 freaking feet. How do we know? Because it’s happened before! Around 5,000 years ago, a giant lahar called the Osceola Mudflow filled a part of Puget Sound with three cubic kilometers of hot, steamy, gooey mud. What was once a pristine sea was, in a matter of hours, suddenly 200 square miles of new land. For comparison, the disastrous 1985 Nevado del Ruiz lahar that killed 25,000 people in Colombia only had 2.5 percent of the volume of the Osceola Mudflow.
A lahar detection system was installed in 1998, but it remains loose and incomprehensive. To make matters worse, these mud tsunamis (mudnamis!) are a right bastard to detect: a lahar doesn’t need a volcanic eruption as an excuse to kick in: A sector collapse or some magma leakage could be enough to send a mudnami the size of Godzilla into Seattle.
We’ll just get Matthew Broderick to stop it. No matter what happens, we win.
If just the Puyallup Valley lahar (the purple one in the above picture) sparks off, material damages alone could be as high as $13 billion. Also, a non-volcanic lahar could easily spread from one to several of the six (six!) Mount Rainer lahar systems, multiplying the destruction.
“Oh come on, when has a volcano ever destroyed a city with no warning except those 7 times?”
Meanwhile, the people of the neighboring city of Naples (or as it was known at the time, Neapolis), took a look at the angry, angry mountain annihilating their pals. Then, they shrugged and lived on as if nothing had happened. Despite Vesuvius waking up periodically for a demonstration of what happens when people ignore it, Naples pushes on — even when the volcano covered the city in an inch-thick layer of hot, jagged ash in 1906, killing over 100 people and causing enough expensive carnage to actually relocate the Olympics from Rome to London two years later because Vesuvius’ bullshit had eaten all Rome’s Olympic money, the citizens of Naples didn’t take the hint and move.
So, What Can Be Done?
When you’re up against an angry mountain that has destroyed populations since the Bronze Age, the only sensible thing is to get the hell away. However, the Neapolitans see things otherwise. Despite Mount Vesuvius having reaffirmed the danger it posed to them with literally dozens of eruptions since the Pompeii incident, well up to the 20th century, Naples remains.
Sitting in the South Pacific, Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and home to over 400,000 people. In addition to its claim to fame as Peter Jackson’s base in his mission to film all things Tolkien, the city is also notable for the surprising amount of ways it’s citizens can die by natural disaster. Like Dhaka, the most popular pastime in Wellington seems to be guessing the next major doomsday scenario coming to kill everyone.
The city has managed to grow on a site where all bets are truly off. It sits at the tip of an island, so water is a constant threat. The last major tsunami hit Wellington in 1946, coming in at a roar that could be heard from 15 miles away. The next one? Why, it’s severely overdue! And when it comes, rest assured it will kick all the available asses.
And chances are they’re not even looking at a medium sized tsunami: Authorities warn that a 115-foot massive tsunami can definitely be in the cards. This bodes particularly well for the residents who still haven’t recovered from the hellish flood that took place in 1984.
Of course, water is just one of the various hazards nature enjoys throwing at Wellington. The city is also lucky enough to be located right by a gigantic fault line, with earthquakes causing damage every so often, triggering those huge tsunamis as they come. Add in a bunch of volcanoes up north, throwing ash and soot at the city every time they decide to erupt, and the picture begins to form: Peter Jackson didn’t give a hoot about idyllic hobbit scenery when he decided to film in New Zealand. He just wanted to keep Mordor close at hand.
So, What Can Be Done?
Evacuation is pretty much the only thing that can be done when nature starts drunkenly shooting at you with the entirety of its arsenal. Sadly, that’s not a possibility for a good chunk of the population. Projections of just a medium-sized tsunami show utter destruction of the city’s airport, marina, and local stadium (stadiums being the evacuation shelters of choice during many a disaster), with floods turning the downtown into a Sea World.
If you try to run, you’re even more screwed — although the city does have an evacuation plan, most of the evacuation zones are in the worst risk areas, placing roughly half the population in immediate danger when the shit truly hits the fan.
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