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Natural Disasters

Tornadoes, floods, volcanos, blizzards. Whether attributed to the wrath of God or global warming, such events have wreaked havoc from prehistoric times to the 21st Century. Fortunately, aside from floods and fires, Pittsburgh has experienced few of these.


Krist, Gary
The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche
QC929.A8 K75 2007
In February 1910, a monstrous blizzard hit Washington State stranding two trains full of people high in the Cascade Mountains. Great Northern Railroad crews worked round the clock to rescue the trains and then an avalanche struck.
Woodlief, Jennifer
A Wall of White: The True Story of Heroism and Survival in the Face of a Deadly Avalanche
QC929.A8 W655 2009
In 1982, an avalanche at a ski resort near Lake Tahoe took the lives of seven people and trapped a woman for five days under the snow. Woodlief tells the story of the ski patrol's efforts to save her.

Storms and Blizzards

Defoe, Daniel
The Storm
QC944.D43 2005
On the evening of November 26, 1703, a hurricane from the north Atlantic hammered into Britain: it remains the worst storm the nation has ever experienced and some 8,000 people lost their lives. For Defoe, bankrupt and just released from prison for his "seditious" writings, the storm furnished him with material for his first book, published in 1704. He later wrote Robinson Crusoe.
Tougias, Mike
Fatal Forecast: An Incredible True Tale of Disaster and Survival at Sea
GV530.S385 T68 2007x
On the morning of November 21, 1980, two small Massachusetts lobster boats set out for Georges Bank, as the National Weather Service had forecast typical fall weather. In fact, a colossal storm was brewing to the southeast, a furious maelstrom the National Weather Service did not accurately locate until the boats were already caught in the storm's grip.
Tougias, Mike
Ten Hours until Dawn: The True Story of Heroism and Tragedy Aboard the Can Do
G530.C237 T68 2005x
"Before The Perfect Storm, there was the 1978 blizzard that lashed the Massachusetts coast with blinding snow, 90-mile-per-hour winds and 40-foot waves. Into the juggernaut sailed the small boat Can Do and its crew of five civilians on a doomed mission to assist two other vessels imperiled by the storm." -- Publishers Weekly

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Forest Fires

Although many fires are started by man, there are still fires that are caused by lightning and even fires set by man can get out of control and then they are definitely ruled by nature.

Jensen, Sara E. and Guy R. McPherson
Living with Fire: Fire Ecology and Policy for the Twenty-First Century
SD421.J46 2008
Drawing on abundant historical and analytic information to shed new light on current controversies, Living with Fire offers a new paradigm for coping with fire that recognizes its critical environmental role.
Maclean, John N.
Fire on the Mountain: The True Story of the South Canyon Fire
SD421.32.C6 M235 1999
MacLean takes a long, hard look at the July 3, 1994, fire at Storm King Mountain in Colorado, where 14 firefighters, including four women, were killed.
Maclean, Norman
Young Men & Fire
(CD) SD421.32.M9 M33 2000x
The sobering story of the worst disaster in the history of the Forest Service (the Montana Mann Gulch fire of 1949) also embraces the themes of honor, death, compassion, rebirth, and the human spirit. After August 1949, he notes, the Forest Service came to recognize that not all fires need to be fought and that fire benefits most forest ecosystems. Read by John N. Maclean, Norman Maclean's son.
Porter, David L.
Hell on Earth: The Wildfire Pandemic
SD421.32.C2 P67 2008
With reduced precipitation over long periods of years in arid sections of the country, destruction of trees by insects, and insufficient land management and fire control, the threat of wildfires is real and growing.
Salisbury, Harrison E.
The Great Black Dragon Fire: A Chinese Inferno
SD421.34.C6 S25 1989
"For a full month, early May to early June in 1987, the fire raged on both sides of the Sino-Soviet frontier along the Black Dragon River, destroying some 10 percent of the world's conifer reserves before it was put out with the help of two Chinese armies." -- Publishers Weekly

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Barry, John M.
Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America
F354.B47 1997
The Mississippi River flood of 1927, which killed more than 1000 people and left 900,000 homeless, triggered an exodus of Southern blacks to Chicago and Los Angeles and shifted U.S. opinion toward favoring a more activist federal government.
Clark, Robert
Dark Water: Flood and Redemption in the City of Masterpieces
DG738.792.C58 2008
This dramatic account of the flood that ravaged Florence, Italy, in November of 1966 weaves heartbreaking tales of the disaster and stories of the heroic global efforts to save the city’s art treasures.
Jackson, Jeffrey H.
Paris under Water: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910
DC761.J33 2010
In the winter of 1910, Paris' much loved river, the Seine, became a force of destruction, flooding the Metro and sewers, streets, homes, businesses, and museums.
Oppenheimer, Stephen
Eden in the East : The Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia
GN635.S58 O66 1998x
British geneticist Oppenheimer proposes that the flood at the end of the last Ice Age drowned the huge continetal shelf of Southeast Asia (Sundaland), and caused a population dispersal which fertilized the Neolithic cultures of China, India, Mesopotamia, Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean, thus creating the first civilizations. Learn more about Oppenheimer's Journey of Mankind.
Ryan, William B. F. and Walter Pitman
Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About the Event That Changed History
BS658.R93 1998
Pitman and Ryan theorize that the Black Sea was a freshwater lake before rising seawaters due to glacial melting broke through the Bosphorus Strait. It was this deluge that is referred to in Genesis and Gilgamesh. Learn more on the PBS/Scientific American site The Truth Behind Noah's Flood.
Wilson, Ian
Before the Flood: The Biblical Flood as a Real Event and How It Changed the Course of Civilization
BS658.W538 2002x
Wilson elaborates further on the Black Sea hypothesis put forward by Pitman and Ryan (above) as the basis for the story of Noah's flood.

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Akin, Wallace E.
The Forgotten Storm: The Great Tri-State Tornado of 1925
QC955.5.U6 A64 2002
Wallace Akin was two years old when the Tri-State Tornado picked up his house with him and his mother inside and dropped it atop two other collapsed buildings. It ripped through southeast Missouri, southern Illinois, and southwest Indiana, killing 695 people and wounding 2,000, in a record-breaking 219-mile, 3-hour path of destruction. Yet few people have heard of the Tri-State Tornado, aside from meteorologists.
Bechtel, Stefan
Tornado Hunter: Getting Inside the Most Violent Storms on Earth
QC955.5.U6 B427 2009
Tornado chaser Tim Samaras recounts 5 episodes of tracking down deadly tornadoes to record their behavior from the inside. Learn more about the TWISTEX project.
Levine, Mark
F5: Devastation, Survival, and the Most Violent Tornado Outbreak of the Twentieth Century
QC955.5.U6 L483 2007x
On April 3, 1974, a megastorm spawned 148 tornados in the central U.S., six of which attained "F5" category with winds over 260 miles per hour. Hundreds were killed and the property damage was in the billions. Levine focuses on the experience of Limestone County, Alabama.
Timmer, Reed
Into the Storm: Violent Tornadoes, Killer Hurricanes, and Death-Defying Adventures in Extreme Weather
QC941.8.T56 2010
Reed Timmer, a star of the Discovery Channel's Storm Chasers, chases down big weather and collects data about it.

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Bruce, Victoria
No Apparent Danger: The True Story of Volcanic Disaster at Galeras and Nevado Del Ruiz
QE523.N48 B78 2001
Scientist and journalist Bruce traces the fascinating recent history of Colombian volcanoes and the scientific community's politics, wherein intellectual property generates fame and near-fortune, in an insightful, spellbinding account.
Scarth, Alwyn
Vesuvius: A Biography
QE523.V5 S283 2009x
Italy's Mt. Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 A.D and has caused death and destruction in periodic eruptions since then, but it also creates the fertile soil that nourishes the San Marzano tomato.
Winchester, Simon
Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883
QE523.K73 W56 2003x
"An erudite, fascinating account by one of the foremost purveyors of contemporary nonfiction, this book chronicles the underlying causes, utter devastation and lasting effects of the cataclysmic 1883 eruption of the volcano island Krakatoa in what is now Indonesia." -- Publishers Weekly
Zeilinga de Boer, Jelle and Donald Theodore Sanders
Volcanoes in Human History: The Far-Reaching Effects of Major Eruptions
QE522.Z43 2002x
When the volcano Tambora erupted in Indonesia in 1815, its gases and dust particles changed weather patterns around the world, resulting in the infamous "year without a summer" in North America, food riots in Europe, and a widespread cholera epidemic. Zeilinga de Boer and Sanders tell the story of nine such epic volcanic events.

Browse the Catalog

For additional titles, browse the library catalog under the subjects:


Web Sites

  • Storm Chasers
    Check out videos from this Discovery Channel TV program about the teams who chase and measure tornadoes.
  • GDACS (Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System)
    The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System provides near real-time alerts about natural disasters around the world and tools to facilitate response coordination, including media monitoring, map catalogues and Virtual On-Site Operations Coordination Centre.