Thursday, August 25, 2011
Top five: Natural disaster stories

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today we're looking at some of the most memorable natural disaster stories submitted to iReport.


Over the past five years, iReporters have stolen the spotlight here at CNN whenever a natural disaster occurs. They are the first people on the scene, so naturally they are the first people we turn to when we need information.  Throughout iReport’s history, iReporters have never hesitated to show the world their firsthand encounters with nature (as long as they can do so safely, of course!). Today we look back at five of those stories that showed devastation through the eyes of those living it.


Iowa City floods - a personal home tour



On June 12, 2008, the Iowa River overflowed its banks, forcing the surrounding communities to evacuate. Andrew Sherburne and his wife had just bought a house in the area and never imagined having to evacuate their home, because it was in an area that is considered a 500-year flood plain.


Authorities knocked on their door at 1:30 a.m. and gave the couple 30 minutes to evacuate. Trying to save their most valuable possessions, the Sherburne’s took two hours to collect what they could and almost got arrested for not evacuating in a timely manner.


The day after they were forced to leave, the couple decided to head back to their home by canoe to see what else they could save. This is the video they filmed as they went to save what was left of their home.


Last house standing after Hurricane Ike



Warren and Pam Adams from Gilchrist, Texas, lost their home in 2005 to Hurricane Rita. Wanting to stay in Gilchrist, the couple decided to rebuild, but this time they put their home on stilts, 14-feet above the ground. Three years later, in September 2008, Gilchrist was hit by Hurricane Ike, which flattened most of the town. But their home remained standing.


Helicopter pilot Ray Asgar captured an aerial photograph of the Adamses’ home after Hurricane Ike tore through most of the roughly 200 homes in the neighborhood.


Bushfire in Australia



Jim Baruta filmed this video of a wildfire heading toward his home in Victoria, Australia, on February 7, 2009. “It just kept coming and coming,” Baruta told CNN’s John Vause in a later interview. Baruta said there was no warning about the fire so he did not have time to evacuate. He says had he left, he would have never made it out.


Baruta stood on his porch, watching the fire come closer and closer. He took shelter in a concrete bunker he built, but eventually left the bunker to try to save his home. For hours, Baruta used a hose to fight the fire that tried to overtake his home.


After the fire was out, only Baruta and one other neighbor on his street still had houses.


Collapsed Roof Tokyo Theater



On March 11, 2011, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake shook Japan. It was the most powerful earthquake to hit the island nation in recorded history.


Almost immediately after it struck, we started to receive videos and photos showing what happened, giving the rest of the world a view of the experience and in some cases, the tragedy.


The day after the earthquake, Aaron Lace shared his experience with CNN iReport. Lace was attending a college graduation at a theater in Tokyo when the Earth started to shake violently. Lace said the emcee of the graduation told the people in the theatre to remain in their seats, but Lace decided to leave and head outside. When the quake was over, Lace headed back into the theater only to find that a part of the roof had collapsed, trapping several people and injuring many others. This video shows what Lace saw as he headed back in.


Tuscaloosa tornado aftermath



University of Alabama professor John Myrick captured this video of a devastated Tuscaloosa, Alabama, about an 1½ hours after a tornado touched down in the college town on April 27, 2011. He was on his way to his church, which was in one of the heavily damaged areas. “The entire neighborhood was destroyed,” Myrick said. “(It) was probably the most surreal thing I witnessed in my life.”


CNN’s coverage of these stories would not have been the same without these iReporters. Stories like these have put a new, much needed perspective on how we cover these disasters in the news. Thank you for sharing.

August 25, 2011
Click to view phearis's profile

A lone, barely damaged house sanding in a wasteland is pretty powerful. What's not mentioned in this story is that a couple of weeks later, a cleanup crew came in and mistakenly tore the house down, thinking it was condemned.

August 25, 2011
Click to view DVKK's profile

I'm sorry phearis but you are mistaken. The house is still standing and was never torn down. I was just there a week ago. It is an ongoing misconception however...not true.

August 25, 2011
Click to view youcantican's profile

phearis, You're wrong about the house being torn down. A simple 30-second Google search would have confirmed that. Hope you're not thinking about getting into journalism.

August 25, 2011
Click to view jcrisp's profile

My family had a place at Indianola before and after Hurricane Carla (September 1961) - had family there during the storms in 1875 and 1886, too.  I saw the beach as a young child shortly after Carla, and it was an amazing thing to see.  The beach, which is oyster shell hash, was completely bare and stark white as far as you could see along the curve of Matagorda Bay - miles of stark white, with little vegetation and no green; the trees survived but were bare of leaves.  The structures were completely gone except for one ruined masonry structure and one house on pilings.  Even the debris had been pushed inland to an old storm ridge.  Of our place, only the concrete foundation remained, and it had been turned maybe 45 degrees.  Even the profile of the land had been changed between our place and the shore.

August 25, 2011
Click to view BamainVA's profile

Don't want to compare tragic events, but I was in Tuscaloosa during the tornado and can't imagine anyone having to live through something like that again.  I took pictures from outside of my apartment as the funnel was approaching and after it went over...needless to say I have a hard time looking at them.

August 25, 2011
Click to view Kelley2's profile

phearis, They are both correct, I own this house, and it's repaired and we are back living in it full time again....the home that was mistakenly demolished was further down towards the Bolivar Ferry....We have added a wrap around deck which makes it even stronger...we love living here, the Bolivar Peninsula is coming back strong....

August 26, 2011
Click to view dutchess550's profile

Kelley, how did your house remain so complete when everything else was destroyed? How long before you were able to move back into it?

August 26, 2011
Click to view storminfo's profile

A great hurricane site is

September 9, 2011
Click to view stribling's profile

There are states being flooded and Texas is having a lot of fires. Don’t the military have equipment to recycle water? Can they go to the areas the flooded areas and get the water recycle it and dump the water on to Texas fires?

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