Chris Miller – Learning Activity 8

My hometown of Pittsburgh is located in a region with a low risk of natural disasters.  According to the Nathan World Map Pittsburgh has a very low risk of wild fires and tornados.  There is some earthquake risk, but it’s also negligible.  The greatest risk seems to come from precipitation which causes flooding and hazardous winter snowfall.  In my opinion, the Nathan World Map is not very well suited for looking at specific cities. The map is a better resource for comparing different global regions on a larger scale.  It’s hard to accurately determine the risks that Pittsburgh faces.  To improve the Map’s usefulness, it would help if it were interactive and allowed the user to zoom in to a smaller scale.

I chose to focus on a heat wave in Kenya that occurred this March.  According to the RSOE EDIS website there were no fatalities, but there were reports of dehydration.  This disaster interested me because it’s something that can affect my hometown of Pittsburgh as well.  Heat waves can affect many different regions, albeit to varying degrees.  Pittsburgh has a temperate climate, so any heatwave wouldn’t have the same intensity as a heat wave in Kenya because it lies on the equator and therefore has a much hotter climate.  The scale of the disaster in Kenya was widespread, but didn’t do a whole lot of damage to the populace.  Heat waves are very dangerous, especially for people that lack air conditioning.  People engaged in physical activity are also at great risk of heat stroke or dehydration.  I think that part of what makes heat wave so dangerous is that many people do not take them very seriously.  Everyone takes most natural disasters seriously, but heat waves are a more insidious type of disaster.  I think that the scale of the disaster in Kenya is similar to what would happen in Pittsburgh, however as I said before the intensity would be lower.  Also, most people have air conditioning in the U.S., which can save lives if people limit their time outside.  If a heat wave hits Pittsburgh we would see an increase in dehydration and heat-related illness just like in Kenya.  Heat waves affect a wide area and can last for a long time. This puts the poor at a special disadvantage.  Like I previously stated, most people in the U.S. have air-condition, which can help people avoid being sickened by a heat wave.  A few of the only people who lack air conditioning are the poor.  They may either not have it or have too little money to pay for the electricity.  Young children are also at a disadvantage because they are active and do not understand the dangers posed or the need to stay hydration.

Pittsburgh is a very safe city in regards to natural disaster risk.  The three largest risks according to Brookline History are flooding, precipitation and tornados.  Flooding is the largest risk because of the way Pittsburgh is situated.  The city is surrounded by rivers and Brookline History says that the city experiences a flood at least once a year.  The flood level is 24 feet and the river is normally around 16 feet.  A flood that should statistically occur once every 100 years would be around 35 feet higher, which is almost 20 feet higher than the normal water height.  The second greatest risk is also posed by precipitation because Pittsburgh can experience severe snowstorms.  The area is also vulnerable to tornados and earthquakes, but these are less severe than in other regions. I have personally experienced a minor earthquake and tornado but in general Pittsburgh is very safe from natural disasters.

To increase the resiliency to natural disasters in my town of Pittsburgh the community can take a variety of steps.  First we must understand the dangers and vulnerabilities of the geographic region.  The city of Pittsburgh has many rivers and is located in a valley.  This makes it susceptible to flooding.  Flooding is by far the greatest danger faced.  To combat the dangers of flooding and other disasters, early warning systems are the first line of defense.  Accurately predicting natural disasters allows the government and citizens to mobilize and prepare for the upcoming event.  Pre-preparation is key to readying any area for a disaster.  Competent systems such as evacuation procedures must be in place and ready to be executed. I think that the local and city government would be in the best place to perform these actions.  Individuals can also prepare by understanding what to do during different disasters.

4 thoughts on “Chris Miller – Learning Activity 8

  1. Hey Chris!

    I see both our towns are very flood-prone. If you care to read about my fishbowl of a town (among its other hazards), feel free:

    I like how you looked at a drought even though your hometown is prone to flooding. I find it amusing (and slightly ironic) how a place that has so much precipitation can also be likely to fall to droughts. I couldn’t help but think of the further consequences of drought – especially in places like Kenya – this must have been murder for their food supplies. At least here in the United States (Pittsburgh, more specifically), we have numerous options for food even if their is a shortage due to low rainfall. Low rain combined with the normally intense heat is a very dangerous combination to deal with. I’m happy I live in a more “medium” climate, personally.

  2. Hey Nathan,

    I agree with you in your first paragraph, the map isn’t suited for specific areas but decent for getting an idea of what regions might face. I found your point about heat waves pretty interesting; they could certainly have a deadly lingering effect. While we live not too far from each other (I live in New Jersey), you are much less likely to deal with hurricanes coming up the East coast. However, we both have to deal with dangerous storms that can cause mass flooding, causing damage all across the region. Enjoyed your post!

    Ryan Gebhardt
    If you’d like to read my blog post you can find it here:

  3. Hey Chris, I’m Jake. That is really cool that you are from around Pittsburgh. I am also from around there. I am glad I read your post because I forgot to look anything up about earthquakes. Even if they are not likely, it is still interesting to hear about. Good job on your post. We also had similar points about flooding and rain fall. If you had any interest in reading mine, here it is:

  4. Hello Christopher my name is Lucas Skiba. I thought your blog post was very interesting because you live in Pittsburgh near State College and it seemed we had many similar natural disaster risks. Especially flooding which I think if there is enough precipitation and heavy rain downfall flooding could happen almost any where. It almost makes us more resilient to flooding if our city/town has handle floods before. Thanks Chris for the interesting post here is a kink to mine.

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