Caught in the Middle of Disaster – Fiction Debunked


You have probably seen dozens of disaster movies. Hollywood’s is full of them. Some probably left you amazed while others made you wonder who writes scripts like that and how on earth did the cast mentally survive the shooting. This article is not about pinpointing holes in their respective stories anyway. The staff of Gizmo Snack is interested in emphasizing the realism over special effects. In the event of a real cataclysm, would things look as bad as we see in the movies? You’re probably just as curious as we were when we were researching for this piece.

The short answer?  Yes – most of us will end up dead when caught up in the middle of these disasters. Leaving our curious take on morbidity aside, let us use science and see what exactly occurs in these situation, and how will we die in the process.

The Big Tornado

A tornado

There is no denying tornadoes are terrifying forces of nature. Most common in the United States of America, these destroy millions of dollars every year. We saw movies where the characters are sort of dragged upwards when sucked by tornadoes. More amazingly, they come unscathed despite hitting an EF 5 category tornado. The reality however completely different.

It is totally useless to hide in your car, nor stay under the bridge when a tornado comes in your way. Also, you are not going to twirl up when you are caught in it. Of course, the winds can carry you but you will be thrown sideways. An EF-5 tornado boasts wind speeds over 250 mph, enough to toss you like a light feather. Along with you are flying debris, now deadly shrapnel, which impales you on the spot. By the way, the wind speed alone is enough to kill you in instant. The human body cannot withstand the force, hence, limbs will be torn from the torso.

Ironically, the eye of a cyclone is a region of calm weather. Note that only strong cyclones develop a distinct eye. You can even see clear skies (or stars at night) when you are there. Hence, many people fell under the wrong impression that the storm is already over. Who will not be relieved when the 150 mph winds suddenly stop? Some may even think they are saved. They couldn’t be more wrong. The eye wall packs the most severe thunderstorms, that are more than ready to send you flying through debris. Common materials like wood become deadly bullets in these times. A tornado is even worse if it catches you when you are cruising in the ocean. Winds move in all directions in the eye wall, and rogue waves are as high as 150 feet.

The Volcanic Explosion

Pompeii Movie

This scenario looks like someone opened a curse and the gods went berserk to punish everything around them. But the question here is “Are human beings actually going to melt once the lava and other pyroclastic materials hit them like in the movies?” We think they could and here is why.

Imagine a mixture of ash, lava and hot gases 1,000 degree hot running at 700 kph towards you. Running or riding a land vehicle will do no favors, so let us examine the horrors of these volcanic materials do to your body. You will instantly burn on the spot, as your skin will collapse and turn black just by the sheer heat of the lava. Yet hey – you’re still alive by then. The metal you are wearing will sear your flesh akin to a meat being grilled. Assuming the lava now hits you – your poor human body is sautéed on spot.

Then your muscles will contract, similar to the victims of Mt. Pompeii explosion in Italy. If you are still alive by then, prepare to be suffocated as the lava boils your internal organs. Finally, your head will explode due to the pressure from the trapped gasses in your boiling brain.

The Acidic Lake

Acidic Lake

Last 2016, a poor man tried to dip his fingers in one of Yellowstone’s lakes then he fell and died. We wouldn’t bring this up, but he completely dissolved in just 24 hours. You might as well wonder if you will be reduced in a pool of goo instantly or it’s going to be a protracted death. The details, while fascinating, are nothing short of gruesome.

The first thing your body will do is to send signals to your brain that you are bathing in boiling water. Yes – imagine the pain as long as your nervous system can register the pain. The process lasts for about a minute. This is because your skin will disintegrate by then, and so will its sub layers. Rapid blood loss occurs after, which might (fortunately) end your suffering. Assuming you are still alive by then, your nervous system enters in a shock and is irreversibly damaged. Multiple organ failures come next, if your body didn’t collapse in the intense heat first.

Oh, the entire process doesn’t even last for three minutes so you are up to an almost instant death if you fall there. Then the acidic conditions will dissolve your poor corpse within mere hours.

The Fall in Middle of the Ocean

In the Middle of the Ocean

Heaven forbid you encountered a situation which left you floating in the middle of the ocean. If you are floating thanks to your swimming skills, chances are you will die from drowning as soon as you get exhausted. Being in a lifeboat is a different story though.

Dehydration is the most fatal enemy of those who survived the initial impact of a disaster in the oceans. Seawater is not potable in any means, and it will do more harm to your body once you drink it. Dehydration can even kick in hours. This is because our body evaporates water whether we like it or not. You may survive for three to five days without water before you experience multiple organ failure. Hypothermia is also apparent, granted that seawater is cold (except the tropical areas).

Lastly, those films got it right. Sharks may eat people if they’re hungry. After all, you are just a slab of meat in their eyes.

What are your thoughts? Can you think of other disasters? Voice these in the comments!

I love rambling about technology and science fiction. I enjoy reading good mangas, watching anime series and playing 2D games. Most of my friends are virtual.