Not so long ago, we asked the BuzzFeed Community to share times they lived through a natural disaster – be it a flood, hurricane, tornado, volcanic eruption, earthquake, storm, or something else. Here are some of their amazing stories:
1. "I was visiting my family in Pakistan in 2015 when there was an earthquake of magnitude 8.1. My family and I were sitting in the living room when I suddenly felt dizzy, like someone was moving the couch I was sitting on. I was 12 and raised in the UK, so I'd never felt anything like that before. My grandmother, who's lived in Pakistan her entire life, recognised it was an earthquake and turned pale."
"She immediately shouted for everyone to go outside the house in case the roof fell in. I could barely walk straight because the ground was shaking so much and I remember the sheer fright of wondering whether I was going to die. Once I was outside, I saw people crying, mothers screaming for their children, and massive cracks in the road. Around 400 people died that day across the country. I still have PTSD from the event, and I get panic attacks whenever I feel something shaking."
2. "My mom grew up in rural Washington State about four hours from Mount St. Helens. In May 1980, when she was 15-years-old, she and a friend were on their way to a rodeo (I told you it was rural) when the ash started to fall. They didn't know what to do, so they went to the place my mom's friend worked at to find people. By the time they got there, my mom said she couldn't see her hand in front of her face."
"My mom ended up going back to her friend's house and she couldn't contact her family for three days because the power lines were down. She describes the ash as grey snow that wouldn't melt. My grandfather actually laid down cookie sheets and collected like 16 giant jars of ash, one of which my family has on our shelf. My mom says that was one of the scariest days of her life."
3. "You can't imagine what it's like going through a category five hurricane until you experience it first hand. It's loud, it's wet, and it's probably one of the most terrifying things you can go through. I survived one back in August 1992 when I was four. I remember my mom and I huddling under a piece of plywood trying to stay as dry as possible. Hurricane Andrew was ripping the roof off of the bathroom we were taking shelter in. Rain was pouring down on us. I looked up through a hole in the ceiling and could see lightning flashing across the sky."
"The wind was roaring and my dad and some of his coworkers were fighting to keep a door from being ripped away. I remember just sitting there with my mom holding onto me while the rain continued to fall on us and the roof was slowly being ripped apart. Hours later we were in the eye. I peaked outside and it was so dark I couldn't see anything except for lightning flashing in the sky. Minutes later, or so it felt, the other side of the storm arrived. It was just as loud, just as violent, and just as terrifying.
Nearly 30 years later and I still think about how lucky I am to have survived one of the strongest storms to ever hit the Miami area. When I think back on that day and the days that followed, it's pretty surreal. I can remember climbing over the wreckage of what used to be my home and other people's homes. I remember finding our vacuum cleaner and my mom finding a pair of my underwear hanging from a tree."
4. "In 2014, I was in Chile visiting my sister who was on her gap year. We were having dinner when we heard rumbling and noticed the ground was shaking. We left the restaurant and stood outside until it passed, which took roughly a minute. It turns out the earthquake was something like an 8.2, but as we were staying in the mountains we didn't get the worst of it."
"I remember my sister recognized it as an earthquake straight away. It's so strange how quickly you can get used to these events even though they have the potential to be life-threatening. My biggest concern at the time was that the earthquake would trigger a tsunami, which luckily didn't happen."
5. "I was terrified of storms until I survived a tornado alone when I was 12. My parents were out at the store and a storm was brewing. I wasn't too worried about it, so I put on my favorite DVD at the time, Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones. It was all fine until the power went out and I won't lie, I freaked out a bit."
"I remember the sky turned the most peculiar shade of green, like a real life version of the green filter in The Matrix. I did my best to remain calm and remember what to do in severe weather situations. I kept looking outside and listening to the radio until I heard sirens, and then I went to the only safe place in our duplex, the bathroom. After about 20 minutes I heard my parents pull up. They told me a tornado had passed within half a mile of the house. After living through that, storms didn't bother me so more anymore.
I also went through Hurricane Michael, and given the choice of a hurricane and a tornado, I'd definitely take a tornado."
6. "I've experienced tornadoes and flash flooding, but the scariest natural disaster I've lived through was an ice storm*. My family was lucky because our house was close to the electric company and our power came on first, but the storm was so severe that people were out of power a month or two later!"
*An ice storm is described as a freezing rain situation. Accumulations of ice – usually ¼" or greater – can pull down trees and utility lines resulting in a loss of power. Walking and driving during an ice storm can also be extremely dangerous.
7. "I live in 'earthquake country' so I've been through plenty of them. The first one that really scared me was around 2010. My husband and I were at home playing video games and in a flash he flew up against the wall. I grabbed our dog who was confused AF and crouched with her until it stopped."
"I remember looking out of the window as it was happening and watching a row of redwood trees in our front yard roll like waves while I just tried to breathe. It's important to note that because this is earthquake country, most buildings and homes are built to withstand quakes and damage is usually reserved for older, historical buildings. However, when the earth moves like an ocean wave you forget all of that."
8. "I've lived in Central Florida my entire life (22 years) and have experienced a few hurricanes. The scariest one was Hurricane Irma back in 2017. We went to my grandparent's house and brought our valuables with us. Sunday night and early Monday morning was when it hit. Around 10pm, the power finally went out after flickering for a while; the power line behind the house actually caught fire and blew up. I was nervous because I could see tall pine trees swaying back and forth, and those things are strong! The creepiest part was seeing these flashes of light which we thought was lightning, but was actually transformers blowing up."
"Honestly, the worst part is after the storm passes and the sun comes out. It's hot, you have no power, no air conditioning, and your phone is dead. The county also issues curfews and won't let you travel until it's safe, so you're stuck inside the house. The damage takes a long time to repair and power lines are still down and damaged. Irma was definitely not the worst storm of the season, but it's not something I'll ever forget."
9. "For years I worked in memory care facilities in the middle of nowhere in Illinois. One day I was finishing up with a patient when the tornado sirens started going off. I had to help get all of the residents to safety, and of course this is memory care, so no one is super co-operative. When the wind started picking up and the sky turned black, all of the lights went out. One of my patients started screaming at the top of her lungs that it was the end of the world and everyone was going to die, which of course made everyone start screaming and fighting."
"Eventually we got the all clear and I booked it out of there. There were trees down everywhere, roofs torn off, and debris littering the streets. It turns out a tornado did cut right through the town my facility was in. Had I not stayed put, I would've never made it home before it hit."
10. "I've driven through floods and fires before. When the levees broke in Watsonville, California in 1998, my mom and I got trapped in our car. I had to lean out of the window to help my mom navigate the roads and keep us out of a four foot deep ditch. The car barely made it, it was so tense."
"10 years later there was a fire between Aptos and Watsonville. My 2-year-old was in daycare at the time and I had to get to her. A lot of the roads were cut off by police, but I found a route to take. It was like driving through hell; there were trees on either side of me on fire and it was so hot parts of my car got damaged. I made it to my baby though."
11. "The eye of Hurricane Sandy went over my college/college town. We had class canceled for two days; luckily everyone was safe and no power was lost, but it was definitely scary. My parents (in NJ) had no power for about a week, which was worse for them."
"Also, I've dealt with major snowstorms and blizzards. One professor in college said to his students that he would ski to class if necessary. I also nearly couldn't come into work one day due to all the flooding from Hurricane Ida, which shut down a lot of the subway system in NYC."
12. "I remember in 2004 I was about 7 and I was in the car with a couple of my cousins and my grandma. We dropped off one of my cousins at her house and as soon as we turned back onto the road we saw this huge tornado. It felt super close and we saw plenty of debris flying around."
"We later found out that the debris was from a skating rink downtown. There was still some of the building left the first time we drove past in the aftermath, but we've not had a skating rink since then."
13. "A little over seven months ago, an F3 tornado ripped through our neighborhood. It was unexpected and very strong. It ended up levelling the house next door to me, and some of the house ended up in my back yard. We ~just~ made it to the basement when it hit; I was thrown down as a 2x4 crashed through the window and landed on the floor near my daughter. Then there was two minutes of sheer hell – I'm talking explosion after explosion!"
"I really thought my house was going to come apart, it lifted and shook that much. As soon as it ended, I went upstairs with my family and we ran to our van and got in. When I pulled out of our drive I saw my neighbors house was gone. I remember getting out of the car and just screaming, 'they are in there, we have to get them out!' I kept yelling and then another neighbor came over to tell me to get my family out. It was two hours of hell waiting to find out if they got out, but they did.
My house may be standing, but it's badly damaged. We had to live in a hotel for three months while they did some repairs and we still don't have windows. they are either boarded up or have plastic covering them. The experience was life-changing and very traumatizing."
14. "Years before I was born, my mom's family were living in the Philippines at the time Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991. There wasn't a whole lot you could see at first because there was ash everywhere. While they were being evacuated, one my uncles died in a freak chemical explosion."
"The whole event caused my mom's family to split apart – her mom went to stay with family and her dad stayed to help with the aftermath of the eruption. My mom – who was a 23-year-old single mother at the time – basically had to start over on her own. She's definitely one of the most resilient people I've ever known."
15. "In Louisiana, we have to deal with the occasional hurricane. One that comes to mind is Hurricane Laura. I remember leaving my home in Lake Charles to find safety and just praying. The next morning I returned to sheer destruction. It took six hours to drive back because I couldn't take the direct route due to the damage. Buildings has been levelled, homes destroyed; we had a 1,000 acre state park and one out of every three trees had to be removed. Almost all the cell towers were ripped out of the ground and thrown on to buildings. The amount of debris made getting around town almost impossible. Not to mention the looters! They went around the city stealing from the destroyed homes. I had to call the cops for my next door neighbor."
"Through it all, I know I can still count on others. We all pitched in to help each other after Laura. When the linemen came to fix our destroyed power grid, my neighbors and I would cook for them and give them drinks. It takes a strong person to stand with their back to their destroyed home and feed and care for complete strangers. What some people don't understand is how thankful we were to have power again – just to take a hot shower and wash our clothes!
The people of Lake Charles survived together. It’s been a while since Hurricane Laura and there are still abandoned buildings. There are still people living in homes with no roof other than a mangled blue tarp. It's been said that 40% of the people that lived here before Laura have not and will not return. It's so cathartic to write this. I haven't really thought about it much, mostly because I'm so damn busy fixing everything and getting everything ready in case another hurricane hits. I pray for everyone who has experienced a natural disaster."
Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.