Nature is beautiful and wonderous. It provides us humans with a sense of peace and calm. It provides food for us and has more health benefits than we realize. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation boasts how nature can provide so much to us through its ability to, “Boost immune systems, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve moods, increase ability to focus (even for people with ADHD), improve sleep, and accelerate recovery from surgery or illness.”
The big paradox of nature is that what it can provide, it is also able to take away in a flash. Forces of nature can cause temporary and permanent damage to the world around us in the span of just a few seconds, to slower but steady brute force over several years, wearing away at the planet.
Just like humans make their mark (often in a negative environmental way) on Mother Earth, she is capable of fighting back with a particularly strong left hook.
Thanks to digital photography and social media, we’re able to see what Mother Nature is capable of at her best (and worst) in real time. Here are 25 photos demonstrating Mother Nature intimidating North America with her sheer, undiscerning raw power.
25 Hurricane Rita
Hurricane Rita has the honour of being the fourth most extreme Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. Rita arrived the same year as Hurricane Katrina and packed a wallop. Since Rita arrived after Katrina, her 180 miles per hour winds ravaged already damaged buildings that had been impacted around a month earlier.
Texas had the most damage from Rita, caused by both wind and flooding, with electric service disrupted for weeks in Texas and Louisiana, and other areas with many displaced people, thanks to evacuations and the damage that ensued.
24 Chicago Blizzard of 2011
Thanks to its location as a central hub to North America, Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports move a lot of people, with O’Hare offering direct flights to 217 destinations all over the world. So, when bad weather hits the area, a lot of people are displaced. While bracing themselves for the Blizzard of 2011, 13,00 flights were cancelled at both O’Hare and Midway Airports, when whiteout conditions were reported.
City officials reported that more than 900 cars and buses were stranded on Lake Shore Drive, with some drivers and passengers being stranded for up to 12 hours. Eventually, tow trucks came and moved the passenger attended and abandoned cars to a parking lot, to be retrieved after snow clean up was finished.
23 Miami Thunderstorm
There is something beautiful about a thunderstorm in its ability to show nature’s beauty and fury. This picture captures lighting during a hurricane above Miami, Florida. Should lightning like this reach a beach it fuses with the grains of sand and forms a small glass-like tube, which is known as a fulgurite.
While lightning bolts like this seem enormous in the sky, they’re only a couple of centimeters wide, while the length of most lightning bolds is two to three miles long, with a charge that can be five times hotter than the sun.
22 Twisting Through Tornado Alley
There are several regions across the United States than other nearby regions that have a higher than average number of tornadoes each year. This is why the National Climatic Data Center has coined this area Tornado Alley.
Dry flat plains in the area allow for both cold air from the north and warmer air from the south to mix, and these tornados are formed by thunderstorms, rather than other area tornados that are caused by hurricanes.
Live Science says, the “Tornado Alley map starts in central Texas and goes north through Oklahoma, central Kansas and Nebraska and eastern South Dakota, sometimes dog-legging east through Iowa, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana to western Ohio.”
21 Alaska Earthquake 1964
The 1964 Alaska earthquake broke all sorts of records, in fact, it was strong enough to rock Seattle’s Space Needle, which is over 1200 miles to the south. The 9.2 magnitude earthquake was so intense it registered on all but three states, making history. People nearby talk about hearing grinding and crunching noises, while the quake caused breakage of sewage and gas lines, power outages and buckled railroad tracks, as pictured.
This quake was so large that it also triggered tsunamis and landslides. The quake lasted a staggering four minutes and thirty-eight seconds.
20 Twin Tornados In Kansas
While people have been taught, rightfully, to stay away from tornados, every Dorothy, Tinman, or Scare Crow can capture mother nature at her worst thanks to cell phones and digital photography, getting better images, even at greater distances. Once thought as a blue moon occurrence, two nearby tornados inflecting damage side-by-side is more common than previous meteorologist determinations, of only occurring once every decade or so.
Storms are unique, each capable of producing many different, destructive conditions depending on moisture, wind, or other seemingly innocuous factors.
19 Hurricane Andrew
It took 25 years for Hurricane Andrew to be dethroned by Hurricane Irma as the most destructive hurricane to ever pass through the state of Florida. Once the most ferocious, and expensive hurricane to hit land in the US, it inflicted damage to Bahamas, Louisiana, and South Florida (where it caused the most trouble), with wind speeds that hit up to 165 miles per hour.
Andrew was so powerful it ripped many homes of absolutely everything with only concrete foundations remaining, costing 27.3 billion dollars in damage.
18 Hawaiian Volcano
It made news everywhere when Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano spit out lava for two seasons straight, leaving a path of destruction, ruining homes, and displacing thousands of islanders. What most people don’t know, is that the volcano had been erupting for nearly 35 years before it caused massive damage.
While the drama was recent, after three months of no activity, scientist Don Swanson of the US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian says, “We’re in a pause of some sort. We just don’t know whether the pause is going to end with what we had before, or whether it’s going to be something different.”
17 Colorado Flooding
Anyone who has ever had to make an insurance claim for flooding knows exactly how much damage it can cause. Add in flooding caused at the hand of mother nature and the results can be epic. Flooding can be a result of intense rain (more than the local drainage systems can handle), river overflow, hurricanes and strong winds carried over from coastal regions, dams breaking, in addition to quick thaws of ice and snowmelts.
While many places are prepared for a lot of what nature dishes out, there are often some unfortunate surprises like this one.
16 The Slow San Andreas Fault
Just because damage may take its time doesn’t necessarily mean that it is any less destructive. The muddy spring of the San Andreas Fault has been slowly moving across land and encroaching on highways, railroad lines, and even oil pipelines and telecommunications lines in California.
The fault marks a 1,200 km distance in California and was first identified in 1895 and studied extensively since that time. The fault has had many notable earthquakes throughout time, including a 7.8 magnitude one in San Francisco in 1906.
15 Missouri Flooding
Climate change doesn’t just mean warmer winters, hotter summers, and earlier springs, in fact it then causes a variety of weird, wacky, and catastrophic weather. In Minnesota, it has impacted the wild rice crop and more. A recent report on climate issues talks about the draining of wetlands and the impact it can have, leading to an increased flood risk because trees can be used to reduce stormwater runoff.
For example, in December 2015, a storm called Goliath was a three-day rainstorm that flooded the area with nearly 10 inches of rain, causing all sorts of damage.
14 Look out below
Smelling of rotten eggs and sulphur, this natural phenomenon first showed its head in the 1950s. It didn’t move for decades, but for the past 10 years, the Niland Geyser is a muddy spring that is on the move again. Once moving 60 feet over the course of months it now moves 60 feet in a single day, with the speed increasing since 2015.
It’s been described by the Imperial County’s fire chief as a “slow-moving disaster” having quite a bit in common with sinkholes. The mud spring served as a threat to nearby rail lines (which have had to be moved) due to its slow but steady approach towards highway 111.
13 Torrential Rain in Richford
When the weather turns quickly it can leave people unprepared to take cover or prepare for the after effects. When six and a half inches of water rained down on Richford, Maryland, there was a huge rush of water that surged right down the main street of Elliot City. The result – damage to almost every single building in the town, and a handful of people getting washed away in the water.
This unusual event left the entire community in shock, as these types of torrents are incredibly rare.
12 Hurricane Katrina
Everyone remembers the incredible wrath of 2005’s Category 5 hurricane Katrina that caused damage ranging from Central Florida all the way to eastern Texas. Mother Nature had little mercy, and caused damage due to engineering flaws in the New Orleans flood protection system.
As a result, people from all over the world came together to help raise money and repair the broken city. This storm became the fourth most intense tropical cyclone known to reach land in the United States. Hurricane Katrina set records for catastrophe caused by a storm, as nothing as severe had been seen since 1928 with the Okeechobee hurricane.
11 Alaska 2018
Very recently a 4.8 magnitude earthquake hit Anchorage, Alaska, only a week after another high magnitude earthquake of seven hit the very same area. Over 200 people officially reported that they felt this quake. There seems to be a lot of movement in Alaska as of late, as this is the third noticeable quake in the area in 2018.
An average earthquake will last for around one minute, with causes ranging from geological faults, landslides, nuclear testing, mine testing, volcanic activity, as well as recently noted by experts – fracking for oil.
10 Alaska Tsunami
When the Great Alaskan Earth Quake hit in 1964, not all the issues occurred on land. While the earthquake itself caused a lot of damage, the really scary part was a number of tsunamis that hit the coast, towering up to 219 feet high. While tsunamis are often called tidal waves, they have nothing to do with ocean tides.
The majority of all tsunamis are caused by earthquakes such as this Alaskan one. Tsunamis can travel at whopping speeds of as much as 804km an hour.
9 California Drought
For nearly a decade there have been issues in the state of California related to climate and climate change. One of the worst droughts to ever hit California occurred very recently, lasting from December 2011 until March 2017, with the years 2011 through 2014 being the driest in the state since the time that people began keeping a record of droughts.
The US Forest Service reported that from 2011 to 2016, 102 million trees died, with 62 million dying in the year 2016 alone. Rainfall around periods of drought can lead to intense flooding.
8 California Landslides
California residents may ask for resurfacing of their faces and Hollywood bods, but we’re pretty certain no one was looking for the reshaping of the California coastline in 2017, but they got it anyway. In May, a massive landslide changed the look of the Big Sur area forever when it buried a quarter mile long section of Highway 1. This slide resulted in tons of rocks and mud engulfing the area, just 60 miles away from the tourist destination, Monterey, showing that Mother Nature doesn’t care where we put our roadways.
7 Southern US Snow
Those in the northern states are pretty used to having snow. Like good boy and girl scouts, we’re prepared with snow tires, warm coats, salt and shovels. Our cities are also prepared with plows and trucks ready to be dispatched as soon as the first flakes of snow hit the ground. People who live down south don’t usually need to worry about this kind of weather. Because of this, they are very ill-prepared when unusual weather patterns hit, with snow and ice storms leaving them stranded for days.
Weather.com reports the following ‘usual’ southern snow trends each year, “Two days in Dallas, Atlanta and Charlotte; Four days in Norfolk, Virginia; Knoxville, Tennessee and Ft. Smith, Arkansas; Six days in Nashville and Oklahoma City, and up to 11 days in Amarillo, Texas.”
6 Lake Storm Aphid
Christmas snow came early in 2006, in fact it came before Halloween in Buffalo, New York. While it’s often colder in this area than other parts of the states, October is really early for a snowstorm. This unusually early storm was caused by ‘lake effect’ snow and impacted the northwestern US, as well as Canada, on October 12 and 13. The storm, named Aphid, was named by local weather professionals, although people living in the area affectionately called it an October Surprise or Arborgeddon.
5 Blizzard of 2016
January blizzards aren’t unheard of, but when the governors of eleven states, and the mayor of Washington, D.C. declare a state of emergency because of the storm coming, it’s something people need to brace for. On January 20th through 22nd, 33 million people were under official blizzard warnings. Over 13,000 flights were cancelled at the hand of the storm, and thousands of National Guards were put on standby with millions of gallons of salt and brine to help restore the roads to drivable conditions.
The storm was given the nicknames Winter Storm Jonas, Blizzard of 2016, and Snowzilla.
4 The Chicago Heatwave of 1995
Some summers are hot. Others have heat waves that people will remember for their entire lives - the 1995 Chicago heat wave was one to remember. Over July 12 to 16 the temperature skyrocketed to 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Weather experts say that the heat was even worse in the not so windy city thanks to an ‘urban heat island’ (because of all the giant cement buildings that absorb the daytime heat) that increased nighttime temperatures by three and a half degrees, making the city get hotter, and stay hotter.
3 New Jersey Nights
Stormy weather hits quickly, and this storm led to lightning hitting trees, and even hail in some nearby areas. Hail is more common in the summer than it is in the winter, and hailstones can measure anywhere from five to 200 mms in diameter. Because hailstones fall so quickly, they don’t have time to melt before they hit the ground, no matter how warm it is outside when they fall. Because of this the hailstones can be damaging, for houses, cars, and even crops, and can costs farmers a lot of their harvest for the year.
2 Mountain Avalanches
Avalanches are a danger to anyone who frequents backcountry trails as a skier, snowmobiler, hiker, or mountain climber. Experience on such trails makes no difference once an avalanche hits, as avalanche causes range from rain, snow, warming sun, ice, and artificial influences, like the people who are spending time trekking on the mountain. Most avalanches happen within 24 hours following a large snowfall.
Rocks, dirt and other debris can also behave in a similar manner, causing the same unfortunate and destructive results as a snow-based avalanche.
1 Sunset Tornado
Anyone who has ever chased a tornado is probably familiar with the times of day and year that they’re most likely to occur, planning their outings around these trends. A cheat sheet for the rest of us reveals that tornados are most likely to happen in March through May with peak months in the north being summer time.
While tornados can happen any time of day, the highest concentration is between 3PM and 9PM, which is why gorgeous images like this sunset tornado aren’t as rare as many may think.