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#322324 - Fri Sep 15 2006 11:28 AM Weird natural disaster experiences
Terry Online   FT-blank
Head Honcho

Registered: Wed Dec 31 1969
Posts: 20844
Loc: USA
Not sure what made me think of this, but I think that it was the talk of California "wild fires". The first thing that came to mind was how huge some of the Aussie bushfires have gotten in the past, and how little people bitch and complain about them there. It's just a way of life...

Anyway, Ash Wednesday (not to be confused with the religious Ash Wednesday) was a pretty serious event for Aussies in southeast Australia in 1983. It was the largest set of bush fires in Australian history, and burned over 1 million acres.

I was 7 at the time, and we were living in Bulleen, a suburb of Melbourne. The city was pretty much circled by fires at the time. I can recall even living in Canberra years later and often glancing around at the flames that circled Canberra.... fires around Australian cities is pretty much the norm, particularly in Victoria and NSW.

What made the Ash Wednesday fires so crazy were the winds that went along with the huge fires. These weren't normal winds... they were insanely hot from the fires and blew ash hundreds of miles.

In Melbourne I can recall standing in the backyard and watching as the trees bent in the wind, and a convection oven heat blew through the air. In the distance the sky was red from the fires, and then the ash started falling down... first a few white flakes, and then a snowstorm of white and black ash flying through the hot air.

We stood there totally stunned at this sight, and were very much afraid the fires would blow right into our suburb. By morning we had over an inch of white ash covering the entire yard.

The fires did start to burn in some of Melbourne's suburbs, but not ours.

So has anyone else got a good natural disaster story?

#322325 - Fri Sep 15 2006 11:32 AM Re: Weird natural disaster experiences
sue943 Offline

Registered: Sun Dec 19 1999
Posts: 37502
Loc: Jersey
Channel Islands    
My mouth is open, that is absolutely awful Terry.
Many a child has been spoiled because you can't spank a Grandma!

#322326 - Fri Sep 15 2006 02:20 PM Re: Weird natural disaster experiences
lothruin Offline

Registered: Wed Nov 12 2003
Posts: 2165
Loc: Nebraska USA
Not as good as that one, but mine's a fire too.

I was 11, and staying on the family farm in Northern Wyoming the summer that Yellowstone burned. Most of northern Wyoming and southern Montana were experiencing dry weather and fires that year. By the end of the summer of 1988, almost 800,000 acres were burned, and that's just the figures from inside the park limits of Yellowstone. It doesn't include the rest of Wyoming that year, including areas directly surrounding Yellowstone but not a part of the National Park itself.

Within a 60 mile radius of my family home in Wyoming were no fewer than 6 coal mines. (It sits in the Powder River Coal Basin, the largest coal producing area of the United States.) We had terrible thunderstorms, with no rain, but lots of lightening. Lightening struck at Big Horn Coal and set the coal burning. It's an open pit mine, and a rural area, and the rivers were running low that season, so every available fire truck from as far away as Gilette was called to the mine. But that wasn't the only place fires started that evening, and they called out everyone they could get to help put out fires that dotted the landscape that night. My two aunts, along with me, my little sister and four cousins, girls ranging in age from 17 to 10, climbed into my aunt's pickup and headed into the hills. We were greeted by a group of rural firemen, each handed a wet rag to tie over our mouth and nose, a set of goggles and a shovel, and we dug trenches until about 3:00am.

We were on a hill, they couldn't get hoses to the fire, and a 2 mile stretch of sagebrush and pine trees were burning. As the pine cones caught fire, they rolled, and the pine pitch went up in great gouts of flame. I don't think I was more than 10 feet from the fire the entire time, digging trenches for the fire to eat itself out on bare dirt, and to catch those little fire ball pine cones before they could reach unburned brush. The wind whipped around us all night, and one of my cousins got minor burns when the flames from a pine tree got blown the 10 foot distance and caught her shirt on fire. The heat was intense, and by the end of the night, we were all covered in soot and ash, almost black from head to toe, our muscles ached and our lungs and eyes hurt, but the fire was out. The one at Big Horn Coal still burned though... and the one at Yellowstone. About a week later there was a full moon, and that moon came up over the horizon red as blood and big as the mountains. I've never seen a moon like it before or since. There's no such thing as a moon like that unless there's a fire burning.

Edited to add: I looked it up on Wyoming's Homeland Security website. In 1988, 1,537,302 acres of land burned during the wildfire outbreak, which included a total of almost 2,000 individual starting points, many of which combined into huge fires. Also, historically, Wyoming has roughly the same average acres burned per year as California, despite the fact that California is half again as big as Wyoming, yet the California wildfires regularly make the news, while unless the fires are really raging in Wyoming, or are near to population centers, those fires go relatively unpublicized. I think the reason wildfires in California are so publicized is the fact that it's hard for there to BE a bush fire there without it being near to population centers, and also near to huge dollar figures of property.

Edited by Lothruin (Fri Sep 15 2006 02:41 PM)
Goodbye Ruth & Betty, my beautiful grandmothers.
Betty Kuzara 1921 - April 5, 2008
Ruth Kellison 1925 - Dec 27, 2007

#322327 - Sat Sep 16 2006 06:15 PM Re: Weird natural disaster experiences
BDevil38 Offline
Learning the ropes...

Registered: Fri Sep 15 2006
Posts: 4
Loc: Selangor, Malaysia
I have been through earthquakes in California, Mexico, Philippines, Bangladesh, and Japan. I had two weird experiences:

1. I was on top of Yokohama Tower in Japan when the tower started swaying more than the usual sway from the wind. The guide started chattering nervously in Japanese and people started rushing to the elevator. I followed along. It wasn't until the following day when I read in the Asahi Shimbun (English language newspaper) that there was a major earthquake about 80 kilometers from Tokyo literally flattened.

Oops! I forgot No. 2!

2. In 1991, I was driving between Alameda, CA and Albany, CA every day between 4:30 and 5:30 PM. In October I took a short vacation to New Mexico. While driving back to my hotel from Carlsbad Caverns, I turned on the radio to listen to the World Series that was being played in San Francisco. The radio said that the game was postponed because of a power outage. No mention of the earthquake.

When I got back to the hotel I turned on CNN and saw the devastation that took place, and the highway that I usually travelled at that very time was pancaked.

Edited by BDevil38 (Sat Sep 16 2006 09:20 PM)
Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Live it as if it were your last. Learn as if you were to live forever.

#322328 - Sat Sep 16 2006 06:55 PM Re: Weird natural disaster experiences
Copago Offline

Registered: Tue May 15 2001
Posts: 14384
Loc: Australia
I've been through a few droughts and the dust storms that normally come with them. They are horrendous. In 2002 in was particulary bad and we were getting 2-3 big storms a week. One in particular was when my son was only a few months old.

It was at night and looking out to the west it was just pitch black, no stars, moonlight or anything - it just looked ominous. We got a couple calls from people further west that this storm was on it's way and to battern down the hatches so to speak. We did the best we could but still when that storm hit and the wind just howled for hours the dust was still bucketing into the house.

Standing at one end of the hallway we couldn't see up the other end with a torch. It was toward the end of winter but I still but a fan on my son to get air circulating around and the dust off him. He didn't wake most the night but I could hardly sleep I was so worried about him chocking up. It took days to clean the house up and to get the dirt out of ears, nose and so on.

#322329 - Sat Sep 16 2006 10:47 PM Re: Weird natural disaster experiences
picqero Offline

Registered: Tue Dec 28 2004
Posts: 2813
Loc: Hertfordshire<br>England UK
A few years ago, with a group of friends, we were travelling by landrover in the Sahara Desert in the south of Morocco. One beautiful calm evening we'd pitched our tents, had a meal, and eventually settled down for the night. During the night, the heavens opened, gale force winds blew, the tents were blown down, and the contents including us were soaked. We had to take refuge inside the landrovers, and next day organise a damage limitation exercise. We found a Berber village, where we were able to rent a house, and hang out everything to dry, and everything got sorted out.
Some of the sights in the area were certainly unusual, with torrential rivers, resulting from flash flooding, running in the wadis. There was even a 'log-jam' of palm trees, which had been uprooted miles away by the floods.
Well, what would you expect in the middle of the Sahara Desert!

#322330 - Sun Sep 17 2006 11:54 AM Re: Weird natural disaster experiences
skunkee Offline
Star Poster

Registered: Thu Oct 16 2003
Posts: 10661
Loc: Burlington Ontario Canada  
We were camping beside Lake Huron (one of the Great Lakes) and were down at the beach when we saw this storm coming in over the lake.
We hustled back up to the campsite and decided to go out for dinner, figuring that we wouldn't be able to cook outside during what was coming. We got as far as the main highway when it hit, so we pulled over to the side and sat it out.
There were gale force winds and we saw lightning strike a tree only about 15 feet from where we were parked. Thankfully the trees around us were young and pliable, as they were bent over in two, with their tops brushing the ground. A twister touched down about a half mile from us, but we never saw it because the rain was so heavy. We later saw the damage it created.
We must have sat there for 20 minutes (although it seemed longer) trying to stay calm so as not to panic the kids any more than they already were (they were 5 and 7 at the time).
When we got back to the campsite, we found that three great big, old trees were down on our campsite. We lost pretty much everything. If we had decided to wait it out in the car on the site, we all would have been crushed because the biggest tree came down right where it had been parked.
The whole town near the campsite was without power (so no one could pump gas) and we had to spend the night at a motel. It was extremely hot and the air inside the room was like a sauna without the air conditioning.
The next day we had to wait for one of the rangers to cut out our site with a chainsaw, so we could collect what remained of our stuff. Then we limped home on gas fumes until we got far enough away to find a gas station with power.
It was a pretty frightening experience.
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