Americans are used to talking about a small handful of hypothetical natural disasters.
The long-predicted California earthquake known as “The Big One” is a good example. Thanks to a buzzworthy article in The New Yorker last year, a similarly massive quake that could hit the Pacific Northwest at any time is another.
One of the only other on-the-horizon disasters that prompts a lot of watercooler chatter these days also is – surprise! – an earthquake. The focus of its destructive power however, would be the Midwest. (Specifically, Missouri and some of the states that surround it.)
Those potential catastrophes aren’t the only ones Americans need to prepare for, though. In fact, here are three others.
Admittedly, they may not be as likely or as imminent as the quakes mentioned in this article’s opening lines. If you live near the places they’re expected to impact, though, you shouldn’t ignore them.
The Dust Bowl 2.0
It’s probably hard for most Americans to think of a second “Dust Bowl” as a real possibility.
After all, the original Dust Bowl happened nearly 100 years ago, during the 1930s. And that particular event surely seems like a freak event to the few folks who remember or are aware of it today.
A number of experts, though, aren’t so sure it was a once-in-a-lifetime disaster. They believe a series of droughts and storms could sweep the Great Plains and other parts of the country once again if certain conditions are met.
That’s easy enough to believe when you consider how many areas of the US dealt with extreme drought conditions in 2015. It’s even easier to believe when you hear those same drought conditions are expected to continue – and in some cases get worse – in the coming years and decades.
In fact, one recent study suggests this “Dust Bowl 2.0” could be even worse than the original. “[It could be] as bad as the 1930s Dust Bowl, but lasting for 35 years,” according to co-author Toby Ault of Cornell.
What would that mean for people living in the areas this second Dust Bowl impacts? For starters, it would mean a lot of clean up in the storm’s aftermath. It also could mean a lot of repair bills, especially if your insurance coverage isn’t up to snuff.
That’s because dust storms are known for causing a lot of property and home damage. storms also are capable of causing a lot of damage to any vehicles you own.
East Coast Mega-Tsunami
You might be wondering how a “mega-tsunami” differs from a regular tsunami. Basically, the “mega” variety happens when a large amount of material suddenly falls into a body of water.
In most cases, landslides or “rockfalls” cause these massive tsunamis. The falling material displaces the water below it and then produces waves that are noteworthy for both their size and their destructiveness.
Some experts believe such swells could wreak havoc on the East Coast of the US if the Canary Islands’ most active volcano, Cumbre Vieja, erupts.
Why? Imagine the following scenario:
- If the eruption is particularly violent, it could cause a chunk of the volcano to tumble into the Atlantic Ocean.
- The resulting wave or waves would race toward and threaten tens of millions of people, including all of North America’s eastern coast, from Newfoundland, Canada, to Florida.
- On top of that, it would do so in a surprisingly small amount of time. Most predictions put the time from landslide to tsunami impact at just nine hours.
- To make matters worse, these waves could reach 80 feet high and sweep miles inland. (Although only low-lying areas along the East Coast are at any real risk here.)
One piece of good news related to all of this is that Cumbre Vieja has erupted twice in the last 100 years, and neither of those blasts knocked enough earth loose to cause a catastrophe.
Also, it has to be said that not all experts believe Cumbre Vieja is capable of this sort of devastation. Some think the volcano’s more likely to collapse slowly and in stages. If that happens, nearby islands would be in harm’s way, but not an entire North American coast.
East Coast residents who want to protect themselves and their possessions from this disaster should pick up flood insurance. That’s what you need if a tsunami’s waves damage or destroy your home and you don’t want to pay for repairs out of your own pocket.
If all you care about is a vehicle, make sure you have comprehensive car insurance. If a flood tied to Cumbre Vieja’s eruption or any other weather event forces you to repair or replace your auto, this kind of coverage will be a lifesaver.
Not sure you have enough of this type of auto insurance? Shop around and compare rates from a number of companies. Doing so ensures you get the best rates for the amount of coverage you need.
Major Mount Rainier Mudslide in Washington
North America’s eastern coast isn’t the only coast an under-the-radar disaster could hammer at any time. People who call the west coast home face the same threat. In particular, those living in Washington state.
Although a potential earthquake along the Cascadia subduction zone has a lot of Washingtonians worried, they may want to consider another possible calamity too.
Which one? The one that could bring a sea of mud to their welcome mats.
All of this mud – really, it would be a “lahar” – would come from the state’s great volcano, Mount Rainier.
It wouldn’t start out as mud, though. At first, it would be a portion of one of Rainier’s unstable slopes. Should one of those slopes break free – and an eruption wouldn’t have to prompt it – all hell would break loose. Earth and rock and ice would come together and create a massive debris flow that very well could reach Seattle.
As for just how massive this debris flow could become, some experts suggest it could be 15 or more feet deep – and moving at 60 mph -- when it hits the Puget lowlands. (This stretch of state extends from Bellingham down to Olympia and includes Seattle and Tacoma.)
That news is bad enough, of course, but even worse is that insurance wouldn’t protect most of the homeowners or renters who are in the path of this horrific mudslide or mudflow.
That’s because standard homeowners and renters insurance don’t cover damage caused by flooding, earthquakes, landslides, or mudflow. And any or all of those catastrophes could play a role in this situation.
Which kinds of insurance, if any, do cover damage caused by those perils? Flood insurance usually covers mudflow damage. If that seems strange, consider that mudflows happen when moving water picks up soil and turns it into mud. On the other hand, a “difference in conditions” policy is the form of insurance most likely to cover mudslide or landslide damage.
This is another situation where you want to consider all of your options – by looking at what different insurance companies can offer -- if you don’t currently own either or both of these kinds of homeowners or renters coverage.
Even More Disasters to Consider
The three disasters detailed here aren’t the only ones with the potential to cause a lot of damage. A few others you should keep in mind and consider preparing for include:
- A Hurricane Sandy-sized storm that sets its sights on New York City
- The nightmarish eruption of the Yellowstone “supervalcano”
- An EF-5 tornado striking Dallas or some other highly populated city in the South