Hazards

Threats which may potentially impact Augusta

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Hurricane / Tropical Storm

A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, a low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics. A typical cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms, and in the Northern Hemisphere, a counterclockwise circulation of winds near the earth’s surface. Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. Winds can exceed 155 miles per hour. Hurricanes and tropical storms can also spawn tornadoes and microbursts, create storm surges along the coast, and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall.

Flooding

Flooding is defined by the rising and overflowing of water onto normally dry land. Flooding can result from an overflow of inland waters or an unusual accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source.

Severe Weather (Thunderstorm Wind, Lightning, and Hail)

Thunderstorms result from the rapid upward movement of warm, moist air. They can occur inside warm, moist air masses and at fronts. Severe thunderstorm winds arise from convection and have speeds of at least 58 mph, or are winds of any speed producing a fatality, injury or damage. Lightning is an electrical discharge between positive and negative regions of a thunderstorm. Each year, lightning is responsible for deaths, injuries, and millions of dollars in property damage across the country, including damage to buildings, communications systems, power lines, and electrical systems. Lightning also causes forest and brush fires. Hail is associated with thunderstorms that can also bring high winds and tornadoes. It forms when updrafts carry raindrops into extremely cold areas of the atmosphere where they freeze into ice. Hailstones are usually less than two inches in diameter and can fall at speeds of 120 mph.

Severe Winter Storm

Severe winter storms can involve heavy snowfall and/or ice accumulation (generally noted when accumulation reaches ¼ inch or more), often accompanied by extreme cold, which can result in blocked roads, dangerous road and sidewalk conditions, downed trees and power lines, and hypothermia.

Earthquakes

An earthquake is a movement or shaking of the ground. Most earthquakes are caused by the release of stresses accumulated as a result of the rupture of rocks along opposing fault planes in the Earth’s outer crust.

Drought

Drought is a deficiency in precipitation over an extended period. It is a normal, recurrent feature of climate that occurs in virtually all climate zones. However, drought can affect people’s health and safety. It has the potential to impact water supply, agricultural yields, and water-dependent industries. Drought conditions can also increase the likelihood of wind erosion and increase wildfire risk.

Wildfire

A wildfire is an uncontained fire that spreads through the environment. Wildfires have the ability to consume large areas, including infrastructure, property, and resources.

Exteme Heat

Extreme heat events are one of the leading weather-related causes of death in the United States. Extreme high temperatures compromise the body’s ability to regulate its temperature, which can result in a cascade of illnesses and can aggravate chronic conditions. Excessive heat can also cause damage to infrastructure such as roads and bridges.

Dam/Levee Failure

A dam failure is the collapse or breach of a dam that causes downstream flooding. Dam failures may be caused by natural events, manmade events, or a combination. Due to the lack of advance warning, failures resulting from natural events, such as earthquakes or landslides, may be particularly severe. Prolonged rainfall and subsequent flooding is the most common cause of dam failure.

Infectious Disease

Infectious disease is a public health threat that can cause isolation, quarantine, and potential mass casualties. Disease spread and mortality is affected by a variety of factors, including virulence, ease of spread, aggressiveness of the virus and its symptoms, resistance to known antibiotics and environmental factors. Impacts of infectious disease can range from school and business closings to the interruption of basic services.

Chemical Hazard

A hazardous material is any item or agent (biological, chemical, physical) which has the potential to cause harm to humans, animals, or the environment, either by itself or through interaction with other factors. A release or spill of bulk hazardous materials could result in fire, explosion, toxic cloud or direct contamination of people and property. The effects may involve a local site or many square miles. Health problems may be immediate, such as corrosive effects on skin and lungs, or be gradual, such as the development of cancer from a carcinogen. Damage to property could range from immediate destruction by explosion to permanent contamination by a persistent hazardous material.

Nuclear Power Plant Incident

A nuclear and radiation accident is defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency as “an event that has led to significant consequences to people, the environment or the facility.” Often, nuclear incidents result from damage to the reactor core of a nuclear power plant which can release radioactivity into the environment.

Terrorism

Terrorism is defined in the United States by the Code of Federal Regulations as: “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” A terror threat is generally more likely to be targeted at a critical or symbolic location.

Cyberterrorism

A cyber threat is any deliberate attack on information technology systems in an attempt to gain illegal access to a computer, or purposely cause damage. Cyber-attacks use malicious code to alter computer operations or data.

Tornado

A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.

Utility Failure

Power/water utility failures often occur hand in hand with other hazards. For example, they can be caused by rising flood waters or high winds. These events most commonly occur when wind events known down power lines or water treatment plants are flooded by rising waters, thereby shutting down these utilities. The impacts from these failures are often widespread and can affect thousands of people even when small parts of this infrastructure are affected.

Solar Flare/EMP

Large outbursts of electromagnetic radiation from the Sun lasting from minutes to hours. They are caused by magnetic reconnection associated with large-scale eruptions of magnetic flux called Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). Solar flares occur in a large range of strengths and are classified on a logarithmic scale based on their intensity.

Image Credits

Georgia National Guard: Severe Winter Storm; NASA Goddard Photo and Video: Solar Flare, Hurricane; Jen: Utility Failure; Indrid Cold: Flooding; Defense Visual Information Distribution Service: Extreme Heat; Francesco Ungaro: Drought; Bureau of Land Management: Wildfire; Archives New Zealand: Earthquake; Heilemann Tami, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Dam Failure; Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress: Radiological Emergencies; Michael Ball: Terror Threat; Wikimedia Commons: Infectious Disease, Cyberterrorism; VisualHunt: Drought; U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School: Tornado; Hiro Chang, Presidio of Monterey Public Affairs: Chemical Hazard; Ken Lund: Severe Weather

Michael Holahan for The Augusta Chronicle: Flash Flood on homepage; Debs: Savannah River; Mbrooks: Augusta National; Gwringle: Old Richmond County Courthouse; Enjosmith: Sunrise