Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters
Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Hurricanes And Tornadoes, Oh My!
Henry Postulart-Toronto: Today the Ontario Science Centre hosted a media preview of their new temporary exhibit, Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters, running from Feb. 11 to May 1. The event was led by the Centre’s CEO Lesley Lewis with a brief presentation by The Honourable Michael Chan, Ontario’s Minister of Tourism and Culture noted, “Families in search of exciting things to explore this Family Day or March Break won’t have to go far. Nature Unleashed offers audiences of all ages a unique opportunity to experience the thrilling power of nature.”
Christopher R. Kiah, President and CEO of the Allstate Insurance Company of Canada, stated, “Helping people prepare for, and recover from natural disasters is a huge part of our business. We’re proud to be the national tour sponsor of an exhibit that will enrich our community while stimulating the imaginations of children and adults.”
The intriguing Mark Robinson, who has the well-deserved title of Storm Chaser, followed. While introducing him to the audience, which included a contingent of young students from Grenoble Public School, Lesley took the opportunity for a well-timed plug: “If you want to grow up to have an exciting job like Mark has, study lots of science.” Mark shared a series of video clips with the audience that resembled outtakes from the movie Twister but were, in fact, a peek into his workaday world of the past 10 years including frightfully close encounters with tornadoes and hurricanes. Not surprisingly, Mark was by far the most popular speaker at the event.
Once the speeches were over, we were led past the curtains that will shroud the exhibit until it opens Friday morning and were joined by a small army of red-jacketed tour guides receiving their own introduction to the exhibit. From that point on, we were free to do what I’ve always enjoyed most at the Ontario Science Centre – play with the exhibits.
Although the exhibit and its marketing were presented with a somewhat light tone, emphasizing the fun that children of all ages will have while learning about natural disasters, there’s no getting around the core message of the exhibit: Natural Disasters do occur and they are, in fact, Disasters with a capital D. Equally serious science must be applied to save as many lives as possible from being ended or devastated by injury when they do.
To highlight the potential cost in lives and property, a selection of stats were presented, including the following:
- Plates of the earth’s crust can move as slowly as a millimetre a week – which is about the same as the growth rate of a human fingernail.
- The energy release of the Indian Ocean earthquake of 2004 (9.3 on the Richter Scale) was equivalent to 23,000 times that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
- While there are approximately 450 earthquakes a year in Eastern Canada, only 60 are strong enough to be felt without electronic monitoring equipment.
- The eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 propelled ash into the stratosphere to a height equivalent to 28.6 CN Towers.
- Worldwide, some half a billion people make their homes near volcanoes that have erupted before, and could again.
- The Bhola Cyclone of 1970, in what is now Bangladesh, was the single deadliest weather-related disaster in history, with over 500,000 casualties.
- The hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas in 1900, was the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, which caused 6 metre floods and over 8,000 deaths.
- On October 15, 1954, Southern Ontario was struck by two storms, a rainstorm from the west and Hurricane Hazel from the east. The result – 210 mm of rainfall from the hurricane flowed directly into the river systems creating massive flooding, the worst in Toronto on record.
- On March 18, 1925, the “Tri-State Tornado” spanned three states and lasted from 1:00 – 4:30 pm, leaving some 15,000 homes destroyed. It is both the deadliest and the longest-lasting tornado on record.
- On May 31, 1985, a tornado passed through the suburbs of Barrie, Ontario, destroying over 300 homes. Weather conditions produced 13 confirmed tornadoes throughout Southern Ontario that evening, higher than the yearly average of 12.
It couldn’t happen here!
Or could it? It’s not expected, but then disasters rarely are, that’s a big part of what makes them disasters. If you knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that a freak weather system would cause devastating flooding in your town/city/region next week, you could plan some sort of reasoned, rational response that would save your bacon.
Public Safety Canada launched the 72 Hours campaign at GetPrepared.ca in 2006 and it is going strong today. Check out the link for useful guidelines to prepare a reasoned, rational plan to get through 72 hours of an unexpected disaster. It’s not magic, it won’t protect you against the end of the world, but it’s a good insurance plan for a disaster of a rainy day.