Fire whirls, aka fire tornadoes, aka fire devils, aka firenados, are frequently photographed but have only recently been scientifically validated based on data from the 2003 Canberra fires in Queensland, Australia. Although rare, the physics behind firenados is straightforward enough to create your own. The most devastating fire tornado was the "dragon twist" that devastated Tokyo immediately following the great Japan quake of 1923.
How does an ecosystem rebound from catastrophe? Thirty years after the blast, Mount St. Helens is reborn again. Interactive Graphic: Blast Zone. Also see National Geographic's feature article from 1981, chronicling that year's eruption. Previously on MeFi [more inside]
"It... picked up cars and equipment as though they were so many snow-draped toys, and swallowing them up, disappeared like a white, broad monster into the ravine below." Nearly 100 years ago, on March 1, 1910, the deadliest avalanche in United States history struck the small town of Wellington, Washington. Ninety-six people died as a massive wall of snow struck two Great Northern trains stopped at Wellington to wait for the tracks to be cleared, rolling them nearly 1000 feet into Tye Creek and burying the victims under huge piles of snow, trees, and debris. [more inside]
On March 3rd 1943, the worst civilian disaster of the Second World War killed 173 people, including 62 children. During an air-raid alert, the noise of a new anti-aircraft battery panicked the crowd trying to get into the shelter at Bethnal Green tube station. In the dark, wet conditions, someone tripped and fell at the foot of the stairs, blocking the pathway and knocking others over in a domino effect. More and more people continued to pile in at the top leading to a massive and deadly crush. [more inside]
"To suppose that the spirit of our people will not rise to the occasion is to suppose that our people are not genuine Americans. We shall make the fire of 1904 a landmark not of decline but of progress."
America's worst school violence ever was not a recent event, but the Bath School disaster of 1927. Andrew Kehoe, a school board member upset with his tax bill, used dynamite and some pyrotol from WWI-era military surplus to blow himself up along with the elementary school of Bath Township, Michigan, leaving 45 dead and 58 injured. See a 1927 book on the disaster, a list of victims, the coroner's inquest, a historical marker, a memorial park, an oral history from a witness, and a 1920s KKK rant denouncing Kehoe as an agent of the Roman Catholic conspiracy.
One hundred years ago today, 1,358 members of the Kleindeutschland, the German neighborhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, boarded a chartered ferry named the General Slocum for a picnic excursion to Long Island. A fire broke out in the ship's hold while it cruised up the East River, the captain ran the vessel aground on the rocky shores of North Brother Island amid the swift currents of Hell Gate, and when it was all over 1,021 people (mainly women and children) had perished by drowning or from the fire, and it remained the worst single-day New York City disaster until 9/11.