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raum's avatar

Which is worse? Earthquakes or hurricanes?

Asked by raum (5137points) 2 weeks ago from iPhone

Is there an objective answer to this question? Or just a matter of which one you’re more used to?

Also curious if you grew up on the east or west coast?

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29 Answers

Yellowdog's avatar

It depends on velocity.

Hurricanes and similar wind events can hurl people, animals, even cars into the air, amid countless windblown shrapnel, destroying everything in its path But an earthquake destroys buildings on the ground more fully, over a larger area

Dutchess_lll's avatar

It depends on the severity of the attack.
You need to throw tornadoes into that mix.

Yellowdog's avatar

Mix? You mean all three at once?

JLeslie's avatar

I say earthquakes, but my sister-in-law thinks it’s hurricanes. She hates the long waiting game with hurricanes.

Caravanfan's avatar

Hurricanes. Here in California buildings are made to withstand major earthquakes and frankly we’re not too worried about them. I grew up with them and I don’t even feel them any more.

Hurricanes terrify the shit out of me. Tornadoes are even worse.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Tornadoes occur, during hurricanes, along with wind, rain, and storm surges.

I would opine, that it largely depends on the geographic location of the act of nature.

Regular tornadoes, and earthquakes, come with little or no warning, but typically are very brief events. Both capable of inflicting damage.

Hurricanes, are more “predictable,” but it can last for many hours. You typically start getting doses of the hurricanes power, as it nears, like heavy rain, and wind, for maybe days before the main event, and of course, the effects continue even after the storm is passed. A 400 mile wide storm, moving at 5 mph, can devastate a large area, for almost 2 full days. When they stall, you will experience varying degrees of weather, for multiple days. Plus, it’s not unheard of, for another hurricane, to be only a few days away from hitting the same place again.

As far as hurricanes making landfall, it’s all about the position of the eye wall, in regards to the damage inflicted. The worst part is the northeastern part of the storm, closest to the eye. That’s where the storm surge is the worst.
Surge levels can be deceptive too, to an inexperienced storm rider. Example. A 13 ft storm surge, can give people in two story buildings, a false sense of security. The surge’s depth, is is ft, but the water is not still. It is like an ocean, in a storm. Meaning there are swells, and large waves that are not accounted for in the depth. 3–10 ft waves, on top of the surge, can induce catastrophic damage. Plus, there is a large amount of debris being pushed around, at the same time. Ain addition to smaller debris, there are vehicles, and houses floating around too.Most coastal areas have nearby marinas too, so there are boats, of varying size floating around as well.

Worse case scenario, is getting hit by the northeast part of the eye first. Keep in mind that the wind will be moving in one direction on that side of the storm. Then the eye passes. After that the wind blows the opposite direction for the remainder of the worst of it. That’s what happened here in Charleston SC, when Hugo hit. I stayed here, during that storm, much to my regret. I did get to walk outside as the eye passed over us. It was wild, as there was almost no wind at all. Then, after about 40 minutes, we got the south side of the storm. I think it came ashore, right around dusk, and it was amazingly intense, until the sun came up. It was pitch black outside, but trees, and other things slammed into the house constantly. You could hear large trees splintering, and feel the house jar, from each large impact. We started out in a closet, in my parent’s room. But the impacts chased us around the house throughout the night. We ended up in the hallway, mosteoporosis of the time. The house shook violently the whole time. It was like a freight train was doing laps around our house, even when we weren’t receiving large impacts. The main surge, was about 10 miles northeast of us. People in schools (shelters) were putting their kids up into ceiling tiles of cafeterias, and gyms, as the water was so deep. Most adults simply held onto floating debris, or swam.

After the storm, as day broke, the entire area was unrecognizable. It looked similar to pictures I’ve seen after a large bombing raid. Trees, houses, boats, and other large things littered the streets. There were yachts, and sailboats in neighborhoods everywhere. All roads were impassable. The National Guard were heroes. They were on the scene, as soon as the storm passed. We had no power, for over a month, and there was nowhere to get supplies, because there really weren’t any structures, that weren’t heavily damaged by the storm. Walmart opened after, a couple weeks. But there was no power, so we waited in line for hours, as they let us in, in small groups with flashlights. There were army trucks everywhere, handing out dry ice, and water.

One of the many trees that had fallen on our house, was so bih, it took two big military trucks, and a small army, to get it off the house. Before the storm, it was so big, that 5 people couldn’t lock arms around it. We hypothesized that it was that tree, that held the roof on during the storm. The pine trees snapped in half, and became like scud missiles. The oaks were uprooted.

It was the single most powerful thing, I’ve ever personally been through. Mother nature, definitely earned my respect. It took over two decades, to fully recover the area. When you drive north on hwy 17, you can STILL see the effects of the storm surge. The Francis Marion forrest, was almost completely detroyed. Maybe 1, out of each hundred trees, was still standing. The forrest has since recovered. But you can still see large swaths of open land, that has just now began to grow small trees.

Charleston, at the time, was mostly suburban neighborhoods. Now, 30 years later, there are a lot of large buildings. Those should stand up to hurricanes better.

I think an earthquake here, would do less damage, than a huge city. Of course, we all are familiar with tsunamis now, that could accompany them. As flat as this area is, a tsunami would reach FAR inland, and likely be cataclysmic.

We get regular tornadoes here too, but they’re very rare.

We had a small one once, in a neighborhood, I used to love in, but it was very brief, and like I said small.

Each natural disaster, has it’s own means of destruction. The type of city, and geography, play a big role in which would be the “worst.”

We’ll see what’s left of the Bahamas in the next few days. Dorian was a cat 5. I suspect that the damage is going to be amazing.
Looks like it has a good chance of hitting SC. Hopefully it just skims us, and doesn’t make landfall. We go pretty much go through this every hurricane season. Charleston, is kind of in a nook, so the storms have to hit us directly to inflict maximum damage. Usually, they lose strength a bit, by hitting the land around us first, but I’d be lying if I said that it doesn’t look good currently (12:50AM, EST.) God help wherever it makes landfall…

YARNLADY's avatar

Hurricanes spread damage over a wider area, but Earth quakes damage is more severe

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Tornadoes are more violent in the short term.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Hurricanes at least give you days, if not weeks, of warning that they’re on their way. Earthquakes, not so much. And with a tornado your warning might be 5 or 10 minutes.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Oh hell. They set off the tornado sirens AFTER the threat is gone.

wiscoblond's avatar

If you follow meteorologists you can get a good idea if you might be in a tornado warned area within a day or two. That’s more warning than an earthquake.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Dutch. There are tornados, in hurricanes…

MrGrimm888's avatar

Darth. The near misses, of hurricanes, cause quite a problem. Large scale evacuations are ordered, usually the storms don’t even hit though. It’s a major pain in the ass. Businesses lose lots of money, and people expend lots of resources preparing, or evacuating. Most people can’t just leave town every time one “might” hit.

If you’d like to view it optimistically, they are money makers, for stores that sell water, gas, generators, groceries etc. I’m sure it’s like Christmas, for the weather channels.

But think of the businesses closed, and people driving around from FL, to VA, just for this one storm… And the east coast goes through this, multiple times every hurricane season… It would be great, if we could predict their paths more accurately. Currently, science usually can’t give much help.

ragingloli's avatar

Earthquakes, of course.
What is a bit of wind and rain?

wiscoblond's avatar

^there are projectiles in wind. Excessive rain can cause flooding. It’s usually the flooding, rain, that causes deaths in hurricanes.

flutherother's avatar

Earthquakes are worse because they come with no warning.

jca2's avatar

I think it’s comparing apples and oranges. Earthquakes and hurricanes each have their own terrible aspects.

seawulf575's avatar

It depends, I think, on the relative size of each. I would think earthquakes can be worse only from the aspect that you get no advance notice it is going to happen. A large earthquake can do as much damage as a hurricane. However, there are many small earthquakes all the time that do no damage. Compare that to a hurricane and a small hurricane or even a tropical storm can do wind and water damage.

JLeslie's avatar

@MrGrimm888 The tornadoes in hurricanes aren’t generally like what they get moving across Kansas. Cat 5 hurricane is like a tornado 3–4, and tornadoes can be F5 plus, which is 200 mph+. Tornadoes in hurricanes usually are quick circular motions and then dissipate again.

On the coasts of Florida and I assume SC and NC, the new construction and new roof replacements on old houses follow the new wind standards. When I lived in TN, even in tornado areas, they didn’t use Miami standards. I don’t know if the tornado alley states bother with very strict wind codes for structures.

zenvelo's avatar

I much prefer living in earthquake country. I have been through a few, especially Loma Prieta 30 years ago. The destruction is quick and done, and then you clean up.

Hurricanes are days long waiting and preparation, and then days waiting for the weather to clear, meanwhile you have flooding to deal with.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

We have seen hurricanes in their full force, most of us have yet to see a severe earthquake in a populated area.

Demosthenes's avatar

I grew up in California mainly, and I’ve experienced some mild earthquakes. Never experienced a huge one like Loma Prieta which traumatized my mom (she had signs of PTSD after that which only abated when she became pregnant with my sister). That said, seeing the destruction of hurricanes and the regularity of them, I would rather live in earthquake country than in hurricane country. (We also have wildfires here, but they don’t tend to affect the highly populated areas I’ve lived in).

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@Demosthenes The difference is we can see a hurricane coming days before it happens and there is ample time to act. Earthquakes happen suddenly and without warning. If we had an 8–10 in or near a major city or just off the coast nobody would be ready for it. Americans are earthquake complacent.

Demosthenes's avatar

Well you have to be, in some ways. I wouldn’t be able to live a normal life if I worried about the possibility of an earthquake happening at any moment. You block it out of your mind or you don’t function. That’s no excuse for not building buildings that are earthquake-safe and having plans for when one does hit, but part of the nature of earthquakes is living without thinking about them most of the time.

LadyMarissa's avatar

Living on the east coast about 4 maybe 5 hours from the coast, I’ve only been directly affected by a hurricane once in my lifetime. That was Hugo & the damage this far in wasn’t catastrophic….more a major inconvenience. The earthquakes here are normally 1 maybe 2’s.. So, neither scare me that much. I have watched a tornado heading straight for my home & that scared the crap out of me. Fortunately, it dissipated before coming on through. My biggest fear has always been fires. Wild fires scare me!!! Personally, I wouldn’t want to have to contend with any disaster!!!

jca2's avatar

When I was about ten, the movie “Earthquake” came out. It was pretty graphic, showing the destruction that an earthquake can bring. However, now there are earthquake proof buildings (which of course are not earthquake proof but are designed and built to withstand earthquakes better). Where I live, we’ve had some hurricanes come through which resulted in lots of trees down and power outages. The power outages are bad enough but when it’s cold and there’s no heat, that’s rough. I’m lucky enough that I could afford to stay in hotels when that’s happened. Staying in a hotel is not a bad gig, with free breakfast and it’s kind of fun.

SEKA's avatar

I wouldn’t want to be in either

KNOWITALL's avatar

@MrGrimm Try to update us on yourself this week please! Be safe.

And I pick earthquakes. New Madrid is my worst fear.

MrGrimm888's avatar

I’m a seasoned storm rider. I have a life jacket, and motorcycle helmet, if I have to swim to somewhere safer. I also have a well stocked bug out bag, that I can attach another life jacket to. I have a Life Straw, and a number of other survival gear. Plus. I’m very resourceful. I should survive a worst case scenario, it’ll just be another chapter, in my life. I’m mostly concerned about losing what little possessions I have AGAIN. If I lose everything again, this’ll be the 4th time in 5 years.

Since Wanda is dead, I just have to worry about my own personal survival. If I can help others, again in a worst case scenario, I will. If the water starts rising fast, I’ll head towards the big hospitals downtown. It’s a 25 minute walk, on a good day. I’ve already scouted out a few 3 story brick buildings, within a half mile. I don’t mind breaking in, for a few hours, to reformulate a new plan…

Oh. And, I have an umbrella! ~~~

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