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September 2, 2005

It’s your own damned fault for living there
Posted by Teresa at 05:57 PM * 40 comments

Via Debra Doyle, a map showing where not to live in the continental United States, and why.

Comments on It's your own damned fault for living there:
#1 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2005, 06:26 PM:

If you read the comments for that, then I'm sure you saw my list of natural disasters that have struck Utah BESIDES the Mormons: earthquake, flood, mudslide, drought, tornado, avalanche, blizzards, forest fires all made the short list.

That little slice of West Virginia and Virginia that seems open ain't so safe either. They've had flooding, earthquakes, and sinkholes.

#2 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2005, 06:27 PM:

Well, if that's what the situation is, I might as well move back home. My childhood home is right smack-dab in the middle of the biggest white space in that map (white being the color assigned to places that don't have a reason not to live there), just as I thought it would be before I looked.

#3 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2005, 06:39 PM:

Ah, Piscusfish noticed that little space, too. In the little corner of that space I call home, we have in fact had flooding (the lower part of the yard got soggy, and a couple of one-lane roads were a little bit washed out and had a few inches of standing water on them for a day), earthquakes (back in the 1800s, a few brick buildings got cracked once), and sinkholes (the worst one I know of was on the fields of the elementary school; it entertained the students).

I think it is eminently fair to consider these events to be somewhat lacking in a certain quality of disastrousness.

Oh, and there was a forest fire once, shortly after my parents moved there. This was during a bad summer when there were a number of bad ones further north; one of the fire-fighting planes going to the further-north fires happened to notice this one, and easily extinguished it in one pass.

That's about it, really.

#4 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2005, 07:09 PM:

Once again, Hawai'i and its volcanos are ignored. I expect this of the networks, but I thought better of the blogosphere.

#5 ::: Elaine ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2005, 07:54 PM:

I note that we (here in Colorado Springs, and no, we have nothing to do with Focus on the Family, nor do our friends) is one of the few white areas on the map. However, the map neglects to show wildland fires, blizzards, hail, severe electrical storms (close to record for the country), flash flooding (Big Thompson Canyon Flood anyone?) and the powerful downdraft winds which can all occur here. (Powerful tornados this close to the mountains are rare, but go twenty miles east....)

#6 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2005, 08:47 PM:

I'll take the blizzards and cold over the other risks any day. I'm not loosing any sleep over nukes these days, and the risk of being killed by terrorism is statistically unlikely.

The northeast coast also gets hurricanes, but they tend to be more the Level-1 or 2 variety.

#7 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2005, 09:08 PM:

Some additions:

Hawaii: Volcanoes + hurricanes + rising sea levels + megatsunami risk!

Pacific Northwest: Major tsunami risk and a lot more active volcanoes (right near two of the biggest cities.)

Midwest from Illinois - Ohio south to Mississipi: New Madrid Fault, source of biggest recorded earthquake in US history

Whole East Coast: possible megatsunami risk from Canary Islands volcano collapse; also you might be getting bigger hurricanes up there soon

Virginia and environs: Floods

Nevada: Nuclear waste

Also, that Desert section runs right up through Nevada to Idaho

and I think she could add another "Get Nuked First" centered on New York.

alt.culture.hawaii had this discussion once, bringing in a couple geologists and climatologists and concluded the only really geologically semi-safe areas in the world were some areas of the Central Asian steppes and similarly part of the Great Plains around Kansas, South Dakota, Minnesota (and that only if you discount tornados and freezing to death in a blizzard.)

#8 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2005, 09:18 PM:

Read in a Houston newspaper column once, long time ago, where the writer was on about risk level. He was saying why he thought he was better off in 'hurricane country' than in, say Los Angeles, where they get quakes. He said you could see a hurricane coming, for at least three days. You had time to, you know, fill up the bathtub and board the windows and stock up on whisky. Earthquakes, though... he wrote that all the instructions for coping with an earthquake all started, "If you survive the initial strike..."

For when he was writing, he was correct (comic hyperbole aside). Hurricanes don't spring up out of nothing; you can see them coming for days. It should be plenty of time to evacuate, to batten down what can't be moved, to mobilize relief, all that stuff. The skills, talent, knowledge, experience, equipment and material are all present. It's as Mr Macdonald says: the failure to manage this one is entirely at the highest command levels.

#9 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2005, 09:37 PM:

West Virginia? Safe? That's where Mothman lives, man!

#10 ::: janet ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2005, 09:40 PM:

Another addition to California and various other parts of the west would be wildfires.

#11 ::: Katherine ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2005, 10:39 PM:

Boston's overdue for an earthquake, but suddenly the Northeast and Chicago (where you can always find a basement during a tornado) seem pretty safe after all. Crappy winters build character.

#12 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2005, 10:41 PM:

I'll take where I live. thank you.

yes we have tornados, but you can go to shelter (and I WILL NOT live in a house without a basement, and this house's basement is bedded in limestone). We have floods, but I'm behind/on level with a bluff south of the river, about 500-800 feet above river level, if we flood it's the second coming and we're all farked. It never came close in 1993-- all major flooding was at the river or north of it where they've built a LOT on the flood plain.

This disaster is going to be like a long-term version of what we lived through in 1993 --- hurricanes cause much more damage and this one was wide spread.

And like 1993, I'm sure a lot of folks will NEVER get on their feet again, they'll give up.

#13 ::: Kayjay ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2005, 10:49 PM:

Chicago (where you can always find a basement during a tornado) seem pretty safe after all. Crappy winters build character.

This is why I love Madison. Plus we have that "who'd want to bomb us out/up here" factor re: nuclear strike. (Nevermind that ELF stuff a bit north of here.)

#14 ::: Giovanny P. ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2005, 11:11 PM:

#15 ::: vetiver ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2005, 11:29 PM:

OT, I know, but I was just going through the WaPo's gallery. There's one photo that* both illustrates exactly who was left behind and refutes the unconscionable racism of those who'd just as soon leave them behind. Oddly enough, I haven't seen this photo printed or posted anywhere else.

There's probably some way to link directly but I don't know it. Go to the WaPo site and then to their photo gallery. Click on the tab for "Chaos and Relief." I'm talking about Photo 5. You must see it.

Back on-topic: The map is quite persuasive. Just to be safe, I'm relocating to a construction pallet in the East River.

*Which? I'm unclear on this distinction in the best of circumstances, much less when I'm shaking with rage and despair over what my nation has become. Sometimes I feel like I'm watching one of those time-lapse photos of beetles stripping a carcass, except that what I'm seeing isn't a filmstrip in 10th grade biology. I'd love to think that my despair is just overwrought, highstrung, English-major over-reacting. That would be a comfort, to think that there is, somewhere, someone vastly more knowledgable and competent than I am running things. But, as events have shown, that's not the case. If a freelancer with DSL has a better track record in predicting outcomes than the entire apparatus of the U.S. government, then we're all really and truly and thoroughly fucked.

#16 ::: Jesse ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 12:30 AM:

Vetiver, my javascript- and Flash-fu is weak, but if you hit this link and then click on picture 5 at the bottom of the screen, is that the picture you're talking about? (You might need to click through an ad first.)

#17 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 12:39 AM:

The orange "blizzards" box needs to encompass more of the territory to the left.

#18 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 12:43 AM:

Boston's overdue for a big earthquake, but unless one is in an unreinforced masonry building on filled land such as the old brownstones in the Back Bay (which WILL go into the Back Bay as they come upon on the fill-acting=like-liquid-in-big-quake), the human wreckage toll shouldn't be horrendous.

Colorado Springs does too get tornadoes, I SAW one. The sky DID turn green, and DARK, there was a dark funnel cloud, and the tornado wiped out a trailer park. The wind tore off the roof of the Aero Club hangar at Peterson AFB in the same thunderstorm set that generated the twister a couple miles away, and wrecked the club's Cessna 150.

Colorado Spring also has Colorado Springs drivers. Boston drivers scare people, Colorado Springs drivers -hit- other cars, even if they've pulled over into the median strip to try to avoid a collisionn....

#19 ::: vetiver ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 12:44 AM:

Jesse, yes, that's the photo I'm talking about.

Does that scene stab you in the heart? Or is it just me?

#20 ::: Jesse ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 12:49 AM:

Does that scene stab you in the heart? Or is it just me?

It's not just you, not by any means.

There's a lot of good pictures there, where by good I mean "powerful" and "awful" and "heartrending".

#21 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 12:51 AM:

vetiver, I'm not sure I see quite the power you see in that photo, but it surely moved me. Perhaps I've just been looking at too much tragedy lately.

#22 ::: Stef ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 01:48 AM:

A few days after I moved to Connecticut, the Hartford airport was damaged by a tornado. My fourth year there, I had heat stroke one summer. The next-to-last year I lived there, Hurricane Gloria flattened most of the trees on Sleeping Giant.

#23 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 02:07 AM:

vetiver, you've got a good eye--the editors at Salon agree with you--that picture is on their front page.

#24 ::: Laina ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 02:18 AM:

Paula Helm Murray
I'll take where I live. thank you.

I'll agree with Paula. No surprise, since my house is about 50 miles from hers. (OK, I'm living in Germany right now, but my house is in Leavenworth, KS)

I have this vague, unformed theory that the natural disaster you grew up with is less terrifying in the abstract than the ones you see in other parts of the country. Tornados are devastating. But they're here and then they're gone. And even if they go across three states, the path of destruction is usually no more than a mile wide. And if you are in a basement, you have a very good chance of surviving. And afterwards, you can walk out of the disaster area without too much of a problem.

#25 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 02:32 AM:

Eh, missed some good spots there on the map. My favorite disaster spot, Long Valley Caldera, just over on the eastern side of the Sierra from here.

Long Valley Caldera a 15- by 30-km oval-shaped depression located 20 km south of Mono Lake along the east side of the Sierra Nevada in east-central California. This area of eastern California has produced numerous volcanic eruptions over the past 3 million years, including the massive caldera-forming eruption 760,000 years ago. The most recent eruption occurred just 250 years ago in Mono Lake at the north end of Mono-Inyo Craters volcanic chain.

All they expect in the relatively near future is some piddling little explosive eruption, say the size of Mt. Pinatubo, unless we get really lucky and make it up to Karakatau. Ony 5 to 15 cubic kilometers ejected, hardly anyting to notrce at all. If we really win the jackpot, there is always the caldera forming event itself - 600 cubic kilometers, just short of what Yellowstone did.

Maybe for the Fourth of July.

#26 ::: Shelly Rae Clift ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 02:37 AM:

As I like to remind people who fret about earthquakes...
We're living on a large ball of rock and gas hurtling through space at tremendous speeds--deal with it!

#27 ::: Jenny K ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 03:24 AM:

"Another addition to California and various other parts of the west would be wildfires."

And of course the subsequent flash floods and mudslides.

But...I kinda like it here anyway.

Of course, having lived though earthquakes, they don't scare me nearly as much as stuff I've only read about, like tornados.

#28 ::: bad Jim ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 03:43 AM:

Harrumph. I live on top of a hill in southern California. We have earthquakes, none of which in the forty years I've lived here originated nearby, and since my house sits on a slab atop rock it's reasonably immune. We routinely ask each other after each shake, "Did you feel that?"

My town is notorious for landslides and fires. The slides happen to people who live on the sides of hills. My home's on the top. It's a longer walk to the beach, but at least the water doesn't linger here.

Fire's a bigger danger, and we evacuated once, but being on top of the hill protected us then, we've since replaced our shake roof with something non-flammable, and if our neighbors would do likewise we'd be incrementally more secure.

A heavy snowfall would cut us off from civilization, but that's hardly more likely here than the equivalent event in hell. Perhaps only the disappearance of gasoline or imported water would threaten the sustainability of our lifestyle.

[I originally posted this on Pharyngula. The map on offer suggests that Nebraska harbors volcanos, which would be interesting if true.]

#29 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 09:29 AM:

The WaPo pic that made me shudder was #10. Actually, it was the caption.

Gah. Gah, I say. "People who resisted early evacuation efforts..."

#30 ::: the pro from dover ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 10:00 AM:

I totally agree with Elaine, there is a little sliver of Colorado that's about 200 miles north to south and about 20 miles from east to west from Fort Collins to Pueblo that sneaks in between the too far west(blizzards, fires, mountain lions, Hunter S. Thompson rocket debris and mormons) and too far east(more blizzards, tornados, macro-pig farms, rednecks, stifling boredom, and prarie chickens).

#31 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 10:35 AM:

I love my country's ideals, and the generosity of many of its citizens. But in our national character is a positive genius for figuring out how to hate or dismiss the unfortunate, probably out of the nervous impulse to make sure they're part of a different species from successful-but-at-risk ole us.

#32 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 11:48 AM:

Michael --

Comes of that strain of 'community by exclusion' y'all got from the various religious communities who were early colonists.

One of those solutions that's simple, obvious, and wrong, but really good for making people feel good in the short to medium term. Long term, reality intrudes, usually hung over and in hobnailed boots.

#33 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 04:59 PM:

In Virgnia, we also get hurricanes, tornados(had one from Katrina already), and thunderblizzards (snow blizzards with thunder & lightning except you can't see the lightning).

#34 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2005, 08:24 PM:


I just wish that reality actually did intrude in a dependably accurate way; as it stands, I'm afraid I have a cynic's faith in the ability of people to ignore actual causes in favour of the ones that make the most sense.

Then again, I was the one who once cautioned someone I thought was being too gloomy:

Oh come on; we're not in the early days of the Nazi regime...we're in the early days of the Weimar Republic. Invest in wheelbarrows.

(What I think will happen is that McCain, as the embodiment of the only institution many Americans believe in now, or at least refuse to criticise, will walk away with the Presidential race if the Republicans let him, or maybe the Democrats. We will go to an explicitly militaristic self-image that might even dampen the desire to actually go to war, and even be used as an excuse for some social goods, disastrous as it might be in the end.)

#35 ::: Simstim ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2005, 08:50 AM:

Heck, even I'm doing a quick risk assessment in my head and I live in Britain (mild climate, one, yes one, poisonous animal, no earthquakes, no volcanoes, no large river systems, etc). I'm reckoning that my city (at least the centre of it) could be a goner via the tsunami/storm surge route given that it's low-lying and sits at the end of a nicely funnelly bit of coastline.

#36 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 04:01 PM:

It's belatedly occurred to me that I shrugged off the "blizzards" and freezing risk too. After all, I grew up in Michigan (high school) and then Chicago (college) in the late '70s when Chicago had two of its worst blizzards of the century. Blizzards aren't that dangerous - as long as you can get back home to a warm home. In other words, if you can afford heating fuel.

We've just seen gas prices head up through the roof. Depending how badly the economy gets shocked by the Katrina disaster, there's going to be a lot of financial stress on everyone. Depending on how fast the port of NO is back up to full capacity the coming year could be particularly bad for Midwest farmers, because if shipping can't keep up with the demand there's going to be a lot of grain and other ag exports sitting around unsalable and racking up storage charges which means a crash in prices. Meanwhile oil import capacity will be down too, meaning fuel prices will probably stay at least moderately high.

Will there be more families freezing to death this winter, or next winter?

#37 ::: rbdgurl87 ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2008, 01:05 PM:

Not one place in the world is completely safe. Sure, there are places safer than others, but every one place is going to have a defect in it. It can be from extreme heat to hurricanes or tornadoes, or whatever, but every place in the world is going to have defects; no matter how much you want it to be safe.

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