This new story I'm writing was born out of a dream with an excellent screenplay! :D

Basically what happens is, its a regular workday when the city is suddenly hit by tornados and hurricanes. Things are flying every which way and just as people are scampering for shelter, there's an onslaught of explosives (any other means of attack would work too). People, police, and army (of the victim area) first caught unawares by the natural calamities, are less effective/prompt in responding to the attacks. So damage to life and property is much higher.

  1. How would the offending army learn about the impending disaster, but not the victim group? Corruption and inside job are a possibility, but how can an entire country/region be oblivious to a destructive force of nature coming their way?
  2. In the face of a strong and destructive force of nature, which cripples the victim people (think hurricane Katrina or the 2004 Indian ocean earthquake & tsunami), how does the offending group stand strong enough to attack?

Answers to these questions will help me draft the action plan for the victim government, to give them the best chances to fight back now (after the initial shock), and to be prepared for a similar attack in the future.

P.S: There's no magic in this world. Advancement in technology is comparable to present day world, at least in the fields of meteorology and warfare.

Edits: Even an event as major as a meteor could work, IF the attackers could survive that. So basically, the limits of the question extend to whatever they can survive, but the victims cannot. But that's too broad. And I'm thinking they'd like to use forces that are more frequent and probable in a given region, like earthquakes in earthquake prone areas, and hurricanes in, well, hurricane prone areas. So I'm limiting the scope to terrestrial forces of nature that are a pattern for that part(s) of the world.

  • $\begingroup$ You aren't asking us how to help you with world building, you are asking us to construct plot points. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jul 11, 2017 at 12:13
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings But.. the plot points are already there - the offenders know about the impending calamity, the victims don't. The offenders can withstand it, the victims can't. Offenders 2, victims 0. And the question is, quite literally, in what world would that be possible! Would rephrasing the question help? $\endgroup$
    – insanity
    Jul 11, 2017 at 12:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I have no say in this matter, but I think this question is about as WB related as most other questions here are. However, I do not think that this can be answered properly without knowing what kind of disaster. "A meteor is about to hit" would give very different answers than "earthquake". You gave examples, but to me they sound just like examples for people that do not know what a destructive force of nature is and not that you just want water-related catastrophes. Also I do not think 1) is hard to answer: Google how your specific event can be "predicted" and then only one side has the means $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Jul 11, 2017 at 12:26
  • $\begingroup$ Are you talking about an insurgency within a region that's exploiting natural disasters as opportunities to attack? Or causing natural disasters and then exploiting that? $\endgroup$
    – Chris M.
    Jul 11, 2017 at 12:32
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisM. Just exploiting natural disasters, not causing them. Of course, this couldn't be their only MO, but they use it when they can. $\endgroup$
    – insanity
    Jul 11, 2017 at 13:15

5 Answers 5


Short answer: suprise attack/insurgency.

It's not likely, as you said, that your attackers are going to know about an impending natural disaster before everyone else unless they have some advanced meteorological technology that no one else has access to. From your given tech level, that's probably not true.

A region or population expecting inclement weather is going to prepare itself for that, especially if it's a natural part of their climate. It's much harder to prepare for an attack you don't see coming. While everyone knows that tornadoes/hurricanes/tsunamis are coming, only the attackers know they're going to attack. Also to the advantage of your attackers, human instinct (or possibly just American instinct) seems to be to wait until the last possible second to abandon home for safety, which creates bottlenecking on routes out of the area.

If I were planning such an attack, I'd wait until the worst of the weather has passed and then hit the already devastated areas, targeting relief efforts and congested routes out of town. The general chaos in the region will make for pretty effective hit-and-run. Armed forces (such as the National Guard) are often part of relief efforts, and they may not be prepared or organized for counter-insurgency. Carefully timing your attacks will keep responses off-balance and limit their effectiveness.

If relief efforts are government-run, you'll likely see an increase in forced evacuation by the military. Disaster areas will also be treated as potential combat zones. Martial law may be liberally applied in these areas to minimize civilian casualties at the expense of civil liberties.


In case of tornadoes, the scouts of the army are disguised as storm watchers. They ride in big SUVs and follow the tornadoes to the town. When the time is right they give the signal.

The data from the weather satellites is collected by a supercomputing center in Alabama to which the enemy has access because they bribed some employees or they are blackmailing them, or they simply hacked into it since the sysadmin is the son of the governor and is quite incompetent. Using their relatively well optimized machine learning algorithm, stolen from a silly professor at Stanford, whom they had the foresight to kill, the enemy can predict with a 50 percent accuracy where the tornadoes will strike.

The strike happens just as the tornadoes mops through the city. Ten large army helicopters bring the strike team with all the tools at the outskirts of the city, where the tornado won't touch down, and do the damage as follows. They destroy the statue of the most revered historical figure in town, they shoot rockets in the Shopping Mall, they smear with radioactive waste the entrances to the main bank buildings. Then they ride back their motorcycles to the helicopters and leave in full glory.

At all times during the attack, the storm watchers give the attackers the information on how to stay out of the tornado's way.

You could imagine a similar scenario with an earthquake. Only this time the ground attack can be replaced by some nice carpet bombing. It's harder to argue that a supercomputer gathering seismic data would ever predict earthquakes, but another group at UCLA works on such a grant offered by a mysterious organization (the enemy). The enemy uses data to predict earthquakes and speculate on the stock market. They attack the afflicted areas only to destroy food and fresh water supply with the thought to make those people refugees. They come dressed as FEMA guys hell bent on making their country great.

  • $\begingroup$ I like the storm chasers and the whole tornado scenario. Bonus points for it all going down just like in my dream! (nightmare?) We'd just ran inside a building to escape the violent winds and suddenly explosives were being thrown into the building! $\endgroup$
    – insanity
    Jul 11, 2017 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ Wait, you mean that isn't what FEMA is for? $\endgroup$ Jul 11, 2017 at 15:24

I would suggest something like a Megatsunami event.

If the attacking nation were to set (lots of) explosives along a natural fault line they may be able to cause the displacement of enough water to cause one. They would therefore know the event is about to happen, while the victims would have no idea.

In terms of capitalising on the attack, following the wave with an amphibious fleet would allow the army to act very quickly after the initial impact/shock. In this scenario, the attacking force wouldn't need to survive the disaster themselves, only arrive quickly enough after to capitalize on the advantage.


The key point here is the goal of the offensive group. What does the attacking group want?

  • If their goal is terror, then I think carrying out their operation during some natural calamity would dilute their objective. Terror requires publicity. It is not that terrifying if no-one knows except the poor folks at the epicenter. It is less terrifying if other terrifying stuff for other reasons is going on simultaneously.

  • If their goal is robbery then that would be fine. Looters and robbers thrive during disaster and disruption. We saw that in the US with Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Here is a link about crime in London during the blitz. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/aug/29/blitz-london-crime-flourish-blackout.

-If the goal is sabotage, carried out by some resistant movement that would be great. Saboteurs are the opposite of terrorists: they do not want to be known or identified as such. Saboteurs could cripple a power plant or a dam or take down a bridge and make it look as though it was a result of the natural calamity. I could imagine a small group of saboteurs actually being ready to take advantage of a calamity when opportunity knocks.

  • If the goal is to capture and hold territory then this would be in the context of or at the start of a real armed conflict. There is not a lot of precedent for such operations that I know of. I think in these circumstances the defenders are less disadvantaged by bad surface conditions than attackers: defenders have their stuff and are hunkered down where they are but attackers need mobility and resupply capability, both of which would be impaired by broken bridges / washed out roads etc.

ADDENDUM: I could imagine an offense taking advantage of natural phenomena to level the playing field. For example if you rely on infantry and fear the defender's air strikes / air cavalry an operating during a storm could keep defenders grounded.

  • $\begingroup$ I disagree that carrying out their operation during some natural calamity would dilute their objective. It would increase the damage, the mayhem and terror, with nowhere to run and armed forces occupied elsewhere (relief efforts and such) or unresponsive. The group does go public after, and the whole world does come to know of their new and deadly M.O. Publicity and fear soars. $\endgroup$
    – insanity
    Jul 11, 2017 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ @insanity. Think about scale. The terrorist Mumbai attacks killed 164. Flooding in Mumbai 3 years prior killed over 1000. But I heard about the Mumbai attacks and not the floods. Terrorism relies on publicity, not impact in terms of death toll. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jul 11, 2017 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ And they will get publicity, because of the ingenuity of timing their attacks and how they pulled that off. The terrorist group will go public, and issue a warning along the lines of "Next time too, when nature strikes, we strike". The attention and resources of the public, rescue teams, and military of the victim country is going to divided from now on, while preparing for possible natural disasters. $\endgroup$
    – insanity
    Jul 11, 2017 at 14:40


Most of Europe is veined with all kinds of rivers and year after year we see them flood wide areas which can affect a large region and several citiites along one of the major streams liek Rhein or Danube. Creating clouds and having them rain is scientifically possible and could not be predicted by any meteorological system. The simpler and easily executable alternative is to blow up a reservoir dam along one or several rivers in the region and let the resulting flood hit the land downstream.

If you use the timing when the countryside has suffered from hot dry weather for a few weeks such that the soil will not be able to take up the water you will have wide area effects inland and along rivers which have the potential of carrying the problem downstream creating enough havoc to occupy the countries military and keep them from efficiently defending the country while they still fight the disaster.


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