Hazards and disastersThese are the most common disasters that can strike in King County. Click on topics to learn more about the effects of these hazards and what you can do to prepare and respond. Each section contains hazard-specific preparedness steps, response steps, and basic preparedness information along with related links leading to interesting and informative sites.
Want to find out where natural hazards impact your community - check out the King County GIS Center's iMap system to get information on floodplains, liquefaction areas, earthquake faults, and more!
Hazards in King County
- Avalanches: An avalanche is a mass of loosened snow or ice that suddenly and swiftly slides down a mountain, often growing as it descends and collects additional material such as mud, rocks, trees and debris.
- Dam failures: There are 87 dams in King County that can impact flood-prone and other areas if they should fail.
- Droughts: Drought is a condition of climatic dryness which is severe enough to reduce soil moisture and water below the minimum necessary for sustaining plant, animal, and human life systems.
- Earthquakes: An earthquake is a naturally induced shaking of the ground. Earthquakes are caused by the fracture and sliding of rock within the Earth's crust.
- Fire: King County experiences three types of fire threats: structure fires, forest fires and wildland/urban interface fires.
- Flooding: A flood is the inundation of normally dry land resulting from the rising and overflowing of a body of water.
- Hazardous materials releases: Hazardous materials spills might cause the short or long-term evacuation of an area.
- Landslides: The term landslide refers to the down-slope movement of masses of rock and soil.
- Pandemic Flu: A world-wide epidemic involving the spread of a flu virus which human beings have not been exposed to previously.
- Radiation hazards: There are a number of potential causes of radiation hazards, such as an accident at a nuclear facility, nuclear detonation, or accident at a research or medical facility utilizing radiological materials.
- Severe storms: King County is subject to various local storms that affect the Pacific Northwest throughout the year, such as wind, snow, ice, and hail.
- Terrorism: Terrorism has been defined by the FBI as "the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government; the civilian population; or any segment of it, in furtherance of political or social objectives."
- Transportation accidents: Transportation available in King County includes air, rail, water and road. All of these systems provide services on a national, regional and local basis. A major accident is possible on any of these modes of transportation.
- Tsunamis/seiches: Recent studies regarding the potential for a great Cascadia Subduction zone earthquake off the Washington, Oregon, and Northern California coastlines indicate that local tsunami waves may reach nearby coastal communities within minutes of the earthquake.
- Power and utility outages and energy shortages: King County's electricity infrastructure includes six hydroelectric plants, four coal-fired plants and six oil and natural gas-fired plants.
- Volcanoes/volcanic eruptions: Both Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens are active volcanoes, whose potential eruption could be destructive to our residents, businesses, and infrastructure.
Other natural hazards
Learn what you can do to plan for emergencies - for you and your family and for your business.