My name is Michelle and I am a Geology and Geological Engineering student at UAF. Prior to moving to Fairbanks this past summer, I have lived in Utah, Washington, and New England. Alaska is a beautiful place and I am happy to be here. I am taking this course because I have always been fascinated by natural disasters. Natural disasters can change a landscape in a second, and I’d like to look into these disasters from a geology perspective.
The natural hazard I find the most interesting are hurricanes. I chose hurricanes because they are the natural hazard that I have the most experience with. After growing up in the beautiful desert and mountains of Utah, I had never encountered a hurricane. This changed when I moved to Connecticut when I was 20 years old. While I was not living on the coast at the time, I was about 50 miles inland. I lived in a small town and news began to spread that a hurricane was going to hit Connecticut. I did not know how to prepare for such an event, and I wasn’t really worried since I was pretty far from the coast. I was cautioned by neighbors and co-workers to make sure that I had all the essentials and to get ready to hunker down. I did not heed their advice and simply carried on as usual, all while there was a run on the grocery store for bread and water.
When the hurricane was coming through, there were strong winds and torrential rainfall. As this was an August hurricane, there were plenty of leaves and branches to take down power lines. I had never lived in the woods prior to this, and was used to suburban living. The power was out for 10 days. Since I was using well water for the first time, I quickly learned that the water stops working when the power is out. This was a surprise because I was used to being on city water that works even without power. At the time, I was working at a bank about 10 miles from where I lived. The roads were impassable for a few days until the powerlines and trees were removed from the road. Once I was able to make it to work (which had power), my co-workers and I each made use of the water in the bathroom by taking turns taking “showers” in the sink.
Everything in my freezer and fridge went bad, and I had a windshield wiper get ripped off of my car. While this was not significant damage, I learned really quickly how unprepared I was. From then on, I became fascinated with hurricanes. To add insult to injury, a Nor’Easter came through about a month and half later and knocked out power for two weeks. I quickly learned, trial by fire, how to be prepared for some of the natural hazards of the area and living in the woods. The next year, a tornado hit a few miles from my home. The experience prompted me to add a motorcycle helmet to my safety kit, just in case. Being in a new place, I learned a lot in a short time.
After my experience with Hurricane Irene, I looked forward to tracking the hurricanes during hurricane season. I would see the spaghetti models on the Weather Channel, and how they compared to the European model. From there, I would try to guess the track that the hurricane would ultimately take. I was there for other tropical storms, and when Sandy hit. Being present for various hurricanes and tropical storms helped give me a new perspective on government response, individual preparedness, and the destruction that can occur in such a short time.