Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Big Ones

The Big Ones by Lucy Jones
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group: 4/17/18
eBook review copy; 256 pages
ISBN-13: 9780385542708

The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do About Them) by Lucy Jones is a highly recommended look at eleven of the world's greatest natural disasters. Dr. Jones tells the historical and geological stories of the selected disasters, and what they have revealed about the population effected. Each disaster covered was the "Big One"at the time it happened and fundamentally changed the community and culture in the region. Taken together as a whole, all of these disasters can provide insight into how fear influences the response to catastrophes and the reasoning behind those reactions.

The disasters covered are:
Pompeii, Roman Empire, AD 79: A volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius sent down poisonous gases and heavy ash to bury the Roman city.
Lisbon, Portugal, 1755: On November 1, All Saints Day, An earthquake occurred with the smallest estimated magnitude being 8.5 and the largest is 9.0.  A tsunami headed up the mouth the Tagus River.
Iceland, 1783: The Laki eruption in 1783-84 resulted in 10,000 deaths, from the gases and famine. Pastor Jon Steingrimsson should be remembered for his tireless work in trying to find food for survivors. The gas emissions effected weather and health across Europe.
California, United States, 1861–62: A devastating flood occurred in the winter of 1861–62, killing thousands and bankrupting the state. A three-hundred-mile stretch of California’s Central Valley  was covered under thirty feet deep in water.
Tokyo-Yokohama, Japan, 1923: An earthquake of magnitude 7.9 destroyed most of Tokyo and Yokohama and killed over 140,000 people.
Mississippi, United States, 1927: A flood covered over twenty-six thousand square miles of land had been flooded, displacing over six hundred thousand people.
Tangshan, China, 1976: July 27, 1976 a magnitude 7.8 struck right on a fault running right through Tangshan, a city of 1.5 million people.
The Indian Ocean, 2004: The magnitude 9.1 earthquake and tsunami hit the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, on December 26, 2004. The physical scale of it was unprecedented. The length of the fault that moved in that earthquake was over nine hundred miles. Wave heights from the resulting tsunami were 100 ft, 65 ft, to 35 feet and travel across the ocean, slamming into the coastlines of eleven countries.
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, 2005: Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 storm that stretched some 400 miles across, struck the gulf coast of the United States causing $100 billion in damages. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from their homes while FEMA was slow to react.
L’Aquila, Italy, 2009: An earthquake swarm starts in January and leads up to the big one, on April 6, when a magnitude 6.3 earthquake tore L’Aquila apart. The city sat directly  on top of a fault and every building sustained damage and twenty thousand were destroyed.
Fortune Tohoku, Japan, 2011: On March 11th a magnitude 9 earthquake occurred offshore, where a fault slipped 250 miles. The resulting tsunami was several times larger than expected, with waves from 40 to 100 feet high. Waves hit the backup generators at the Daiichi nuclear power plant and the cooling systems failed for three reactors, which then overheated and nuclear fuel melted.

The final chapter is based on the likelihood that the San Andreas fault will slip, resulting in a huge earthquake occurring in Los Angeles in the future and the ShakeOut  program that helps translate the science of the earthquake into a tangible reality for citizens. Finally, after empathy, these seven steps are suggested for those involved in future natural disasters: Educate yourself; Don’t assume government has you covered; Engage with local leaders; Work with your community; Remember that disasters are more than the moment at which they happen; Think for yourself. Dr. Jones includes notes, a bibliography and illustration credits.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

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