6 Freak Natural Disasters That Were The Stuff Of Nightmares
We have to start accepting that our planet neither needs nor particularly wants us on its back. How else could you explain the numerous freak natural disasters which have killed millions of people throughout history? Sure, some might call them random acts of god, but we prefer to look at them as vengeance. Here are some freakiest ways Mother Nature has tried to get rid of us.
A Lake Murdered 1,746 People Overnight
Ask any neighbor of a serial killer, and they'll likely tell you he was quiet, unassuming, always keeping to himself, or all of the above. So it might not come as a surprise that lakes are nature's serial killers. They're all nice and calm, until one day they snap and suffocate a bunch of people.
Lake Nyos, located in Cameroon, is a crater lake. Created by volcanic activity, it stores insanely high amounts of carbon dioxide underneath its surface. That typically isn't a problem, as the fluidity of the water usually gets rid of the poison queefs before they can bubble up. But Lake Nyos is very still -- it keeps to itself, you might say. So for hundreds of years, the gas kept building up underwater, waiting for an excuse to let rip.
Silent but deadly. Literally.
Nobody knows what triggered it, but on August 21st, 1986, the lake exploded -- actually exploded. A column of water over 300 feet high erupted into the air, and with it, enough gas to cause a small genocide. Hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide shat out at 60 miles an hour, while a mini-tsunami of water cascaded down at the same time. When the air cleared, 1,746 people were dead. The nearby town of Nyos had 800 residents, and only six survived the lakesplosion.
In 2001, French scientists finally figured out a way to make sure Lake Nyos would never kill again. The bottom of the lake now hosts pipes that carry a constant stream of gas far away. Plus, an alarm system has also been installed to warn the lakeside villages in case the silent killer returns, giving them some time to sprint 15 miles to avoid being lake-farted to death.
A Hurricane In The Great Lakes Killed Hundreds Of People And Wrecked Dozens Of Ships
We know some unexpected things can occur in the Great Lakes region. Mirages, lake effect snow, spontaneous combustion -- the area has its own weather and temperament. But we tend to ignore how bad it can get because everyone warning us has such a goshdarned sweet accent. But not even all the "Hey now"s in the world could have saved these Midwesterners in 1913, when the White Hurricane killed over a hundred people and destroyed a bunch of ships.
Also called "The November Witch" (which is the Midwestern C-word), this winter storm was unlike any the captains on the Great Lakes had ever seen. It was an "extratropical cyclone," which is what happens when a blizzard sticks its icicle into the low-pressure center of another major storm front nearby, creating a ghoulish child of hurricane-force gales, whiteouts, and colossal waves.
For landlubbers, that is the bottom of a ship.
Not even the most seasoned sailors were ready for a pounding from a hurricane that also shit out blizzards. Over the span of a long weekend, a dozen major shipwrecks occurred, the greatest U.S. inland maritime disaster to date. Cleveland and other major cities nearby were annihilated by the event, buried in feet of snow. When the White Hurricane ended its four-day spree, the death toll was over 250.
We're not saying people on that train went full Snowpiercer; we're just saying records are spotty.
But there is a silver lining. Because everyone had been caught so pants-around-the-ankles off-guard by the disaster, it led to rapid improvements in shipping communication, storm preparedness, and weather prediction. This proved particularly effective a hundred years later, when Hurricane Sandy merged into its own superstorm. However, thanks to the lessons learned from the 1913 "White Hurricane" and simulations of it which forecasters ran years later, Sandy was stopped from being way worse. Like, Walking Dead-level worse.
The UK Only Exists Because Of A Fatal Tsunami
As much as the British like to pretend otherwise, they're still a part of Europe. For most of Britain's existence, there wasn't even any water separating it from the mainland. In order for it to become an island, a bunch of cavemen had to drown.
Back in the ancient days, Earth's landmasses were a big tight family. Such is the case with Britain, which until 8,000 years ago was at best a peninsula. Back then, what are now the English Channel, Irish Sea, and North Sea were dry land, serving as umbilical cords to Mother Europe. However, when the last Ice Age waned and the ice caps melted, the region started developing the much milder, moister climate they love to complain about today.
Slowly but deliberately, the lowlands of Britain started flooding. That wasn't a massive issue for the roughly 5,000 hunter-gatherers inhabiting the region, as moving around was kind of their thing anyway. But then, around 6100 BCE, some kind of gargantuan landslide is thought to have occurred somewhere in Norway, causing a big-ass tsunami to hit Britain. Which was bad news for anything with limbs, because, as one geologist put it, "Anyone standing out on the mud flats at that time would have been dismembered."
The northeast part of the county took the biggest hit, with 33-foot-high waves destroying everything and everyone in its path. In Scotland, scientists recently found a remnant of the moment this incredible event took place: a layer of ancient sand that crashed in what should have been a continuous bank of clay. Water traveled 25 miles inland, instantly creating the three large bodies of water we mentioned earlier. The surviving people who had migrated far enough inland were at once cut off from the continent. If they were anything like their descendants, that suited them fine.
A Sinkhole Opened Beneath A Man's Bed And Swallowed Him While He Slept
We've all seen the astonishing images on social media of giant chasms that suddenly appear out of nowhere -- somehow, almost always in Russia. But these freak abominations can happen just about anywhere and at any time, without warning or prediction. But for being so completely random, they can sure seem ... targeted.
A few years ago, Floridian Jeffrey Bush was sleeping in his home when a sinkhole opened directly under him. The hole was 20 feet deep and 15 feet wide, swallowing Bush, and the entire room, whole. His body was never recovered, but after several attempts by both Jeffrey's brother and first responders, they had to conclude he was either dead or living out a great Jules Vernian adventure in the bowels of the earth. Devoid of hope and with such extensive damage to the grounds, the remains of the house were demolished and the giant gap was unceremoniously filled in with gravel.
And then it opened up again.
And was unceremoniously filled in with Bush.
In 2016, a sinkhole appeared at the very same spot that took Bush's life only two years prior. Authorities confirmed it was the same sinkhole, which clearly had unfinished business in this world. It goes to show that filling a hole that can swallow dirt with more dirt might not be the best solution. Basically, you're feeding the hole.
Unfortunately, sinkholes are an all-too-common occurrence in Florida. Most of the state has great reserves of flimsy limestone under its surface. When water hits limestone, it pretty much dissolves, which is definitely a hazard for a region that's mostly swamps and coastline. Floridians better hope that the U.S. gets serious about climate change soon, because if those sea levels keep rising, the entire state is going to dissolve like an Alka-Seltzer.
The 1940 Armistice Day Blizzard Was Like A Snow Ninja
There are days when you start out with shorts and a tank top and by sundown are huddled for warmth in a borrowed hoodie, with two trash bags as pants. Then there are days like one in November 1940, when a blizzard crept up on the Midwest with such speed that a few elderly Chicagoans still refuse to take their parkas off 77 years later, just to be on the safe side.
"Li- lil' help?"
November 11th, the day that the sky exploded above the north of the U.S., started off at a balmy 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius), which for Midwesterners is warm enough weather for luau-themed barbecues. But the unusually warm weather was but a precursor to one of the most terrible meteorological outbursts in the history of the U.S. Tornadoes hit Iowa. The Mississippi Valley took on three inches of rain in no time. But nothing was as severe as the Armistice Day blizzard. Gale winds of 80 mph tore into Michigan. Heavy rain turned into sleet, then heavy snow, almost instantly. Everyone was caught unaware. In the course of a few hours, temperatures plummeted from near 60 to the freezing single digits. Surviving duck hunters remembered the day as one of record kills, as ducks blackened the sky trying to get the fuck away from the storm. We say "surviving," because a lot of hunters drowned or froze to death in that same storm. We assume that not a lot of duck hunts end with heavy casualties on both sides.
Nowhere was safe. Cars were thrown in the paths of oncoming trucks because of the gale winds. Two trains collided when signals on the tracks couldn't be seen. The whole economy of the region turned into a wreck itself. Iowa was one of the leading producers of apples in those days, but when the storm barreled through the state, apple trees were uprooted and frozen by the hundreds. With the worldwide instability of 1940 (looking at you there, Germany), the state had neither the money nor the extra labor to plant new orchards. So the Iowa you know nowadays, with its fast-growing, efficient corn and soybean crops, came about because of one motherfucker of a storm deciding that apples weren't its thing.
Bolts Of Lightning Once Killed 3,000, Then 4,000 People
Isn't it weird that we can survive getting hit by lightning? Seriously, lightning. There has to be enough power there to surely liquefy your innards while searing your outer layer. But make no mistake, it's real easy to make lightning as lethal as any blizzard, sinkhole, or gas-filled lake. You simply have to add a pinch of gunpowder.
When guns and cannons became the new fad in murder technology, they also created the issue of storing the vasts amounts of gunpowder somewhere. Following a great instinct to keep it safe and out of reach, the explosive powder was often kept in the vaults of castles or churches. But castles and churches also had another thing in common: They were usually the tallest buildings for miles, making them deathtraps during thunderstorms -- and making bell-ringing genuinely one of the most dangerous of medieval jobs. Unfortunately, the realization that storing explosives in the same spots that constantly get hit with sky-fire is a bad idea wouldn't catch on. One 19th-century maritime journal kept a record of all serious lightning-caused explosions, and concluded that lightning was laying waste to European villages like it wanted to be crowned emperor of France.
Often, these explosions resulted in a few casualties, some damaged property, and a new wanted ad for a priest. But sometimes the results were calamitous. In 1769, the town of Brescia, Italy found out that storing all of its firepower in one place is a good way to lose your town. The council had vaults which stored 100 tons of gunpowder, so when lightning struck the tower of the church where it was held, it set off an explosion that even made God wince. One-sixth of the city was flattened, and 3,000 people were killed.
A hundred years later, the apparently stupid practice of storing explosives in vaults hadn't yet died. On November 9th, 1856, on the Greek island of Rhodes, lightning hit the steeple of the Cathedral of Saint Jean, coursed its way down to the vaults, and set fire to a gigantic cache of boom-boom. In mere seconds, the cathedral was turned into rubble and the city into a crater. 4,000 people perished, and most of the town was completely blown away.
For how religious people were back then, it's weird that no one figured that if your churches keep exploding because of lightning strikes, it might mean that God doesn't like you keeping your explosives in his house.
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