World’s Worst Weather

The last few days all flights to the USA heading for New York and Washington DC were cancelled due to Superstorm Sandy. This made me once again realise how lucky we are to be living in South Africa. Sure, we have crime, poverty and a history of racism, but at least Nature leaves us in peace, which is more than can be said for other less fortunate countries. 

Here are some natural disasters from across the globe to be on the lookout for when travelling abroad:

Who can forget Hurricane Katrina and the devastation it caused to New Orleans in 2005? Tropical cyclones like Katrina occur in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, while the southwest of the USA and parts of the Pacific are often subjected to heavy rains and floods caused by tropical cyclones. This week’s Superstorm Sandy has caused havoc in the lives of thousands of people and just goes to show that even inhabitants of developed countries can do little more than hope for the best when natural disaster strikes.


These rotating funnel-shaped clouds can reach speeds of up to 483 km/h (300 mph). They are most common in the central areas of the USA, but have also been known to occur in India, northwest Europe, southeast Australia and parts of Argentina. Known as nature’s most violent storms, you definitely do not want to get caught in the path of a T11 twister. 

Caused by the sudden release of energy when tectonic plates collide, these tremors occur all along fault lines like San Andreas (west coast of the USA). New Zealand has recently been in the news for a series of devastating earthquakes, while the 2010 Haiti quake measuring at 7.0 and the 2011 Japan earthquake at 9.0 on the Richter scale led to a catastrophic loss of lives.

The 2004 earthquake near Sumatra (measured at 9.3 on the Richter scale) caused massive tidal waves of up to 30 meters (98 foot) high that struck Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India. More than 230 000 people were killed that day. Harrowing footage from the 2011 Japan tsunami showing large ships plowing into tall buildings ensured that I will be the first to leave town after a tsunami warning.

 Possibly the most famous volcano in history, Vesuvius, erupted in AD 79 and completely engulfed the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum under layers of ash. More recently the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, caused major airline disruptions in 2010. The so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire” is a horseshoe-shaped area in the Pacific along the west coast of the Americas and eastern Asia that is home to 452 volcanoes, making up 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes.

The September 2012 issue of National Geographic features an incredibly interesting article entitled Weather Gone Wild wherein the author tries to determine if the series of extreme weather incidents in the last decade or so are natural events or have been caused by man-made shifts in the Earth’s climate. His conclusion was inconclusive, saying that it is probably due to a bit of both. More importantly, he notes that natural disasters are like heart attacks – best to be prepared and avoid them if at all possible. Make sure you know what to expect and when to expect it before travelling abroad.

Have you experienced a natural disaster while travelling? Tell us about it in the comments below. 

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons. 

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