There are over 700,000 individuals who reside in Alaska. Many are not any strangers to pure disasters and hazards like extreme winters. Nonetheless, numerous Alaskans don’t notice simply what number of completely different pure disasters can happen within the state or how the danger for some disasters is growing.

Right here we are going to go over the most typical pure disasters in Alaska, the danger for varied disasters, the worst pure disasters to hit the state since 2000, and what residents can do to be ready.

Is Alaska At Threat of Pure Disasters?

Alaska has a low danger of pure disasters in comparison with the remainder of the nation. There have been 50 catastrophe declarations in Alaska since 2000. Of those, 35 had been Main Catastrophe Declarations. There have been 7 catastrophe occasions affecting Alaska, which brought about greater than $1 billion in damages.

Be aware that these numbers solely point out declared disasters in Alaska. Extra minor and native disasters happen far more steadily within the state: a catastrophe is asserted as soon as each 90 days in Alaska.

Nonetheless, as a result of Alaska is so sparsely populated, these disasters aren’t more likely to trigger substantial financial injury or require federal assist.

Worst Pure Disasters in Alaska Since 2000

Regardless that pure disasters steadily happen in Alaska, they aren’t more likely to trigger massive quantities of harm to non-public property or have fatalities. These are the worst current pure disasters in Alaska.

  1. 2004 Alaska Wildfires:  Included 701 fires which burnt greater than 6,600,000 acres
  2. 2008 Tanana Valley Flood: $10 million and no lack of life
  3. 2009 Alaska Floods: $29 million in damages and no lack of life
  4. 2009 Minto Flats South Fireplace: Burnt greater than 300,000 acres
  5. 2011 Bering Sea Cyclone: At the very least $24 million in damages and 1 fatality

Most Frequent Pure Disasters in Alaska

1. Earthquakes

Earthquakes happen very steadily in Alaska. There’s a mean of 1,000 earthquakes every month within the state. A few of these earthquakes are very excessive magnitudes.

On common, Alaska may have six magnitude 6 or 7 earthquakes per 12 months and 45 magnitude 5 or 6 earthquakes per 12 months. Seven of the ten largest earthquakes ever recorded had been in Alaska.

Nonetheless, most of those earthquakes happen alongside the Aleutian Trench, which has a inhabitants of simply over 5,000 folks. Due to this area’s low inhabitants and small communities, earthquakes in Alaska are unlikely to trigger fatalities or massive quantities of property injury.

Nonetheless, earthquakes in Alaska have brought about important injury earlier than. In 1964, for instance, a magnitude 9.2 earthquake and ensuing tsunami within the Prince William Sound space brought about greater than $2.3 billion in damages (as we speak’s worth) and 131 deaths. This was the second-largest earthquake ever recorded. 

As a result of earthquakes are inconceivable to foretell, Alaskans should be ready for earthquakes.

To get ready, learn: The best way to Put together for an Earthquake

alaska earthquake hazard map

2. Floods

Flooding in Alaska is quite common, particularly in spring. That is when melting river ice breaks up, floats downstream, and may trigger ice jams. The water can not move via the ice jam, and the encompassing areas flood. 

The worst current ice jam in Alaska occurred in 2013 when the Galena flooded, forcing residents to evacuate. A federal catastrophe was declared. Damages had been estimated at over $80 million.

Roughly 66,000 properties in Alaska are liable to flooding. Since Alaska solely has about 255,000 households in the whole state, this can be a enormous share of residents more likely to face floods. Due to local weather change, the danger of flooding in Alaska is barely anticipated to extend.

3. Wildfires

Alaska often sees wildfire pure disasters. Since 2000, there have been 25 disasters declared within the state resulting from wildfires. Whereas wildfires have at all times been a part of life in Alaska, the variety of wildfires is rising.

From 2000 to 2020, 2.5 occasions extra acres had been burned in Alaska than within the earlier 20 years. Due to local weather change, this quantity is projected to extend by 169% by 2050.

Houses in boreal forests, which incorporates these within the Anchorage space, are notably liable to wildfires. The Alaska Forest Division’s “Firewise” program advises residents to attenuate wildfires, akin to changing sure shrubs and bushes that burn simply.

alaska wildfire risk map

Picture credit score: “Wildfire hazard map offers residents vital danger info” by Jennifer Schmidt, discovered at UAA.Alaska.edu, CC BY-NC 4.0.

4. Typhoons

Whereas they don’t happen steadily, Alaska can get devastating typhoons. These storms can rip the foundations off houses, destroy boats, injury roads and trigger harmful coastal flooding. One instance is Hurricane Merbok in 2022, which brought about such intensive injury {that a} Federal Catastrophe was declared.

5. Extreme Winter Storms

Not surprisingly, Alaska steadily has extreme snow storms. Heavy winds from blizzards can injury houses and energy strains, leading to energy outages. Flooding and landslides often happen. Storm winds can also drive massive chunks of ice onto land, which leads to additional injury. Blocked roads imply that residents can get trapped of their houses.

Whereas Alaskans know to be ready for extreme winter climate, it doesn’t imply that there aren’t fatalities. The chance of dying from hypothermia is 10x increased in Alaska than in the remainder of the states. Individuals additionally die throughout winter storms in vehicle accidents and coronary heart assaults from overexertion.

6. Drought

Traditionally, Alaska just isn’t liable to drought: it is among the rainiest components of the USA. Nonetheless, in recent times, components of Alaska have skilled droughts. Southeast Alaska was below an “Excessive Drought” declaration from October 2016 to December 2019. As temperatures improve in Alaska, droughts are solely more likely to improve. 

A lot of Alaska’s infrastructure and economic system depends on water, akin to water for hydropower or salmon hatcheries. Due to this, drought in Alaska may trigger energy outages and financial injury. Drought additionally will increase the danger of wildfires, which Alaska is already plagued with.

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