People Who Survived Natural Disasters Describe The Most Terrifying Moment.

If you've ever seen the fury of the Earth unleashed, you know there's that one moment when you realize that your day is about to get turned upside down.

This piece is based on an AskReddit thread. Link on the last page.

1. Our family vacation turned deadly in a matter of minutes. I was sitting on the beach, talking with my brother when he noticed the water was bubbling. We went, "That cant be good." So we started packing our stuff up.

We were headed back to the hotel when we looked back and realized that we were about to experience a tsunami. I saw the water pulling back and rising and just about died.


We started running as quick as we could. There was a women about 20 feet in front of us with three kids one in her arms. My brother grabbed one, I grabbed the other, and the three of us just ran. We were lucky and got to high enough ground, but I'll never forget that sound.


2. I had just moved to the beach in South Carolina about 4 months earlier. About 3 weeks after moving down, Hurricane Matthew was heading toward the state.

Initially, I didn't plan on leaving, but the most astonishing part for me was that two days before the storm, the lines to get into gas stations were MILES long. Like, it took around 2 hours for people to get gas.


I decided to leave the next day, and the State Government decided to reverse both lanes of I-26. Nothing is freakier than seeing both lanes of the interstate going the same direction. Thats when you know youre part of an official panic.


3. We live in Japan. It was mid-afternoon, and since we were at home on holiday, my wife and I were getting ready for some afternoon delight. We were naked but hadn't started, when the house started shaking. (continued)

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I've felt a lot of earthquakes, so I immediately knew this one was bad. I jumped up, grabbed a pair of jeans, and told my wife to evacuate. We got the kids--I grabbed the baby, my wife herded the rest--out of the house and escaped into a nearby field.

Our neighbors shook their heads and looked as us like we were overreacting, but when the shaking didn't stop and actually worsened, they stopped smirking and joined us in the field.

From our vantage point, we could see the whole neighborhood swaying. It was surreal. When I re-entered my house, the bookshelves had all fallen over, and appliances had toppled. And part of the ceiling had collapsed.

Evacuating was the right call.



4. Went upstairs during a hurricane and saw that there was no longer a roof on my house. Id say that was a red flag.



5. During a tornado in a house without a basement. It wasn't even predicted to come this way but I looked to the west, saw the sky, and headed inside. When the windows on the west side started bowing inward and leaking water, I went to my interior room, put on my hard hat and goggles and pulled a mattress over myself.


I started thinking I was dead when the house began shaking and I heard metal somewhere outside tearing apart (it was the side and doors on the barn).

It stopped after about ten minutes. By stopped, I mean the wind died down to about 60 mph.

And that was just a little tornado; a small incident during the big May 2003 outbreak. I don't want to see a big one.


6. When I glanced up towards the front window while huddling with my family under the dining room table and I saw the roof of our next door neighbors house go flying past. Thats when I knew we were going to die. (continued)

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I was about 8 years old and my brother and I were outside playing. I remember looking over at my brother who was standing there staring at the sky kind of stunned at the sudden change and then realizing that I could hear my mom yelling. I looked back and she was running towards us and screaming for us to come inside.

Once inside, my mom had us hide under the big oak table in the dining room and to keep us calm she put on our favorite record. After that I just remember the constant rumbling roaring noise from the tornado and watching debris and the aforementioned roof flying past our big front window.


The roof has really stuck with me over the years because it flew by kind of tilted sideways and I could see the individual tiles flapping in the wind as it went past in seemingly slow motion.

And then, just as suddenly as it had arrived, it was gone. We went outside and the houses on either side of ours were completely destroyed. We got very lucky that day.


7. My whole tornado experience was surreal, including being in the same parking lot as a spin-off tornado. However the most "this is real" moment was seeing a huge body builder guy show up at the apartments we were staying at after the tornado went by.


This dude was 230lbs of muscle and visibility shaking. He had just gotten done holding his bathroom door shut as hard as he could while the building disintegrated around him. I'll never forgot the look on his face.


8. The Joplin, Missouri tornado. Came out of my then brother in law's basement. Saw smoke above the trees. Saw a crapload of emergency vehicles pass by from the nearby city. Tried to call my family - no reception. Texted my mom "Hey, you guys didn't die in a tornado, did you?" No response.

Then, ten minutes later, FWAM! (continued...)

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My phone starts lighting up with texts. With pictures. With news. I wanted to drive to my parents, maybe see what I could do to help, but my in-laws insisted we stay with them.

ALL of it seemed unreal. Like it wasn't really happening. It wasn't until the next day, when my husband and I went into town, that the reality hit me. The town looked like a flattened garbage dump. Every landmark, gone.


And then there was the bizarre stuff that showed how strong the winds were - metal siding wrapped around poles, semi trucks knocked over like dominoes. Cars on top of other cars. An apartment building that looked like someone took a knife to it and sliced it in half.

Even now, though I have the memories, and I can see pictures online, and the streets look vastly different from before the storm, it still doesn't seem quite like it happened. I think the brain sort of keeps you from taking it all in when it's a place you called home.


9. I still remember the Northridge Earthquake awhile back. Lived near the epicenter. Woke up to the sound of clanging dishes, only this time everything was moving. Violently.


It felt like forever (though it was less than a minute), and when it stopped, there was this eerie calm (aside from all the car alarms going off).


10. Black Saturday was a huge bushfire that killed nearly two hundred people, injured four hundred and destroyed three thousand plus buildings including over two thousand homes, in Victoria, Australia in February 2009. Some of the people that died or were injured were people I knew or knew of.

We were a bit stupid; we'd moved from an area where bushfires were very rare and the yearly disaster of choice was floods. So we didn't really have a plan in case of bushfire- which, if you live in a fire-prone area, for the love of God make one. So we weren't listening to the radio, we weren't packed to go, we didn't have an escape plan. (continued...)

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The 'oh, this is real' moment was when I was standing on the top of a hill, overlooking the paddocks, the sky was black and orange and in the distance I could see this line of orange. And I went 'oh, that's pretty close.'


Then we just started hosing everything down, because it was too late to run. The fire got within five-ten minutes of us, my friend's property was partially burnt, went up to their shed before the wind changed.

We were very, very lucky.


11. When I was a teenager, I went outside during a tornado warning to look around when it got quiet, then looked up and saw the clouds circling like water around a drain directly over my house. Apparently that particular funnel cloud was retracting, hence the break in storm noise as it passed overhead. Very humbling sight.



12. "I think I'm in labor."


My wife gave me that news while Hurricane Gloria was whipping the hell out of Long Island. Fortunately it was a long labor, because we couldn't leave for the hospital till the storm calmed down. The worst of it was when we returned home, because we didn't have power for the first two weeks of our first child's life.


13. I was in Michigan during the Ice Storm of 2013. Most of my city went without power for a week, with some areas going as long as 12 days. I was without power for 9.

It's not unusual to lose power in Michigan (a lot of our power lines are old and need replacing), especially in winter. It was a Saturday night when power went out, so I just piled on extra blankets onto my bed and figured power would be back on in the morning. That exact thing had happened at least 10 times in the past to me that I can remember.


It wasn't until the next morning, when I woke up to a house that was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit inside that I realized this was serious. (continued...)

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I ended up having to use my fireplace for those nine days and making a blanket-bed on the floor near it to keep from freezing. My pipes actually did freeze, and I had to slowly warm those up before I could use them. At the coldest, I think my kitchen (the farthest room from my fireplace) dropped down to just barely above freezing.



14. Hurricane Sandy for me. I have so, so many stories to tell. That entire month felt like living in a recently-occupied war zone. And I was on Long Island, which, for those who don't know, is not only a coastal region, but a coastal region completely surrounded by water (the Atlantic to boot), and barely above sea level. You can imagine the results. It was a hell of a time.

I knew it was horrible. But what really got me was when I was sleeping on the cement floor in my basement (the rest of the house was cold as ice), and I turned on a battery-powered radio for some noise.

Every station was playing little infomercials about donations and relief efforts. About Sandy. Inspirational speeches with government officials. About Sandy. Heart-felt stories, interviews with survivors, the artificial voices of celebrities calling for the listener to have a soul, and help.


And at that moment, in the second week living in a leaking, powerless, heatless, hole-riddled house, on a ripped up street littered by fallen wires and tress, I understood that the rest of the country and a bit more actually pitied us. I'd never been pitied before. It felt bizarre. So I turned the radio off.


15. Massive hail storm hit West Texas when we lived there, baseball sized hail showed no mercy on our brand new Honda Civic. It was totalled.




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