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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

what’s the most dangerous thing about the place where you live?

Oklahoma City tornado

Oklahoma City got walloped again last night by a series huge, deadly tornadoes, just two weeks after an even larger twister devastated its suburb Moore.

Inevitably, in the wake of such events, some people wonder anyone would keep living in a place where disaster strikes so regularly. But of course, many of us live in places that are subject to some sort of danger, natural or otherwise, that might threaten our lives or property.

What’s the most dangerous thing about the place where you live? And has it ever made you think about moving somewhere else to get away from it?

I think I’m probably pretty lucky in the places I’ve lived. New York and London are not prone to earthquakes, wildfires, or disastrous flooding… though the latter is probably the most likely danger encroaching on NYC in the climate-change era; London won’t face serious flooding until the seas begin their major rises. Even crime isn’t a significant danger in either city (as long as you’re not in a gang or working as a drug dealer). Probably the biggest “danger” in both places is the cost of living, which is outrageous. And yet I cannot imagine living anywhere but in either of these two cities. So I guess I’m stuck.


Photo from the AP’s The Big Story.

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • Isobel_A

    I’m in London, too, so not much! We do get occasional tornados in the UK, but not nearly as powerful as those Midwestern US ones, so I think am safe from them!

    I did use to live in coastal NZ though (Whanganui and Waiheke Island, both in the North Island). Regular earthquakes in Whanganui, which could also be affected if Mt. Ruapehu (currently dormant) erupts, and potential tsunami risk on Waiheke, as well as hurricanes and more volcanoes in the Gulf. In fact, the phone book had instructions as to how to proceed in case of tsunami, earthquake and hurricane.

    Also, Chrome needs to learn some (non-US) geography – those are not spelling mistakes, thanks, they’re place names!

  • David N-T

    Automobiles. Montreal drivers are notoriously aggressive and the answer to the question of who has priority between pedestrians and drivers is reversed in Montreal in comparison to other cities I’ve been to.

  • beccity98

    I live in Southern Callifornia, so earthquakes. And smog. I think my city gets more smog than Los Angeles, because we’re in a valley, surrounded by mountains, and the smog from everyone else drifts here and then can’t leave.

    I like living here. I don’t mind the earthquakes. Everywhere’s got something dangerous about it.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I grew up in L.A. I lived within 20 miles/30 km of the ’87 Whittier Quake, within 6 miles/10 km of the ’94 Northridge Quake. I also happened to be staying in a cabin about 10 miles/16 km from the ’92 Big Bear Quake (about 50 miles from the Landers Quake later that day). So, I’ve had my earthquakes. >.> But, to be honest, economics was the deciding factor to move, not earthquakes. They scare me a lot less than weather. There’s no such thing as “earthquake season”, nor do we listen for air raid sirens for earthquake warnings, nor pack up for “stable ground”, nor sit around for two days wondering if the quake will hit here pr up the coast somewhere.

    Currently, I live in Northern Colorado, between the I-25 and the foothills of the Rocky Mountain Front Range, an area with a remarkably low probability of natural disaster. The mountains themselves provide a buffer from seismic activity, and from severe weather. We joke, darkly, that you have to live on the other side of the interstate to get blizzards and tornadoes.

  • iakobos

    Considering I live in west Texas, tornadoes would be the most likely danger. I’ve only witnessed one, that was over 20 years ago. It was pretty big. I would guess it was an F-3 or F-4. It tracked across farm and ranch country about two miles north of us so no one was injured. One calf died and one fence was torn up. That was all the damage it did besides tearing up some trees etc.

  • Captain_Swing666

    Probably having a bee fly up my nose. Or dying from wine poisoning.

  • B E S

    I’m from a suburb of Dallas, TX and we’ve been pretty lucky so far with lack of natural disasters. We’ve never had a tornado touch ground and the most damage we’ve gotten has been from heavy winds and rain. We’ve even had a few very insignificant earthquakes (probably due to fracking). However, due to the mild winter, I wouldn’t be too surprised if we had another big West Nile Virus outbreak so I think that would be our biggest threat.

  • But you could die from wine poisoning anywhere.

  • Captain_Swing666

    But I drink the most at home – so the odds increase :)

  • I live in a very volatile part of London and would say that gang violence feels like the most dangerous thing though I know that it isn’t. Aside from the cost of living (especially the cost of living healthily) I’d say the biggest danger to me are the vehicles. My own road safety is not brilliant and the driving is reckless. Any death for me that is not illness will probably come from a car.

  • Melissa Doucette

    I drove in Damascus, Syria, and I described it as Montreal without traffic rules.

  • Melissa Doucette

    Probably our biggest danger is the weather. Every so often we get walloped by a hurricane, but even when we don’t we always have some pretty big wind/rain storms that cause a lot of damage in the fall. Hurricanes cause damage here, but not like down south (I’m in Atlantic Canada).

  • I live in NE Illinois(about 45 minutes SW of Chicago). We get all sorts
    of nasty thunderstorms, but tornadoes are rare. They DO happen, though,
    and have caused their share of death and damage over the years.

    live in a relatively peaceful neighborhood, but it’s not all that far
    away from what is considered a “bad” part of town. Gang violence and
    such. While nothing has happened around here outside of the occasional
    break in by punk ass teenagers, including our own home, it still sits in
    the back of my mind.

  • “Trulia expands Map Visualisations”. May 29 dailyfinance.com. New and brilliant combination of FEMA quake and flood hazard mapping for all USA cities with real estate rental and sales pricings. That new bargain won’t be so nice if you’re on the coast and a storm surge or tsunami strikes one day.

  • halavana

    Kansas doesn’t get the number or intensity of tornados that Oklahoma does, but pretty close.

  • RogerBW

    Very little, round here (outside High Wycombe). We get scare-stories about crime, and the post office nearby was ram-raided a few years ago, but many of my neighbours casually leave doors open and cars unlocked so it can’t be terrible!

  • althea

    I live in (what would now be called inner-city) Dallas, and your thoughts are somewhat like mine. I actually joke that Fort Worth is a kind of windbreak, since storms hit there far worse before they get here, most of the time. But still, when disasters like Moore – or heaven forbid Jarrell – happen, I find myself thinking, “Just you wait, one day it could be your turn. Remember Salt Lake City? Right downtown, my dear.”

  • Jonathan Roth

    Blizzards and Ice storms in the winter are the biggest risk, even though the community is pretty well prepared for them. Occasional Microbursts or surprise tornado in the summer. Ontario’s pretty safe weather wise.

  • Isabelle May

    The biggest danger I get from living in Cornwall is the slightly higher background radiation caused by sitting atop a metric gigaton of granite. I lead a daring, hair-raising, thrills-a-minute life.

  • LaSargenta

    They never seem that aggressive to me. But, I drive in New York City … maybe that has something to do with it.

  • LaSargenta

    NYC actually does get earthquakes. They just aren’t very large ones and aren’t destructive. However, some years ago, seismic design got added to the building code. We’ve got a lot of old buildings that have been known to collapse completely from adjacent construction work, let alone the ground wiggling. (In fact, I personally consider construction-related accidents my biggest risk. Of course, I work in the biz…I have a large exposure ratio.)

    Here I think the danger is mostly storm-related. Flooding is a big deal. While we aren’t known for dramatic floods, there have been lots of “events” exacerbated by how we’ve altered the landscape that have had big effects on the city that many people aren’t actually aware of. Back in summer 2008 there was a thunderstorm that dumped a lot over western Long Island and Brooklyn/Queens. I was in the railyards at Atlantic Avenue at the time and water filled the LIRR cut and then tunnels and poured downhill into Atlantic and Sunnyside Yards. We had evacuated after getting alerts over the radios from the tower in Hempstead, iirc…might have been Jamaica.

    Then there’s the lovely sewage events that can happen when too much water gets into the CSO at one time. Everything runs through the sewage treatment plants, storm water doesn’t have a seperate sewer here. If anyone ever complains that too much money was spent on enlarging our WTPs (wastewater treatment plants), just know that it was done to increase capacity and reduce the amount of untreated sweage accidently released during a storm. The beaches are better places for it. And the oysters and fish in the estuary are, too.

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