While they were a time of immense political and cultural upheavel, the fact is the 80s were a pretty quiet time in the natural disaster department. Nothing occured that could match the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, Hurricane Katrina wiping out an entire American city, or the recent earthquake/tsunami catastrophe in Japan. Thank the maker!
One notable exception occured on November 13, 1985 when the Columbian town of Armero was buried in the middle of the night under gigantic mudslides caused by the eruption of the nearby volcano Nevado del Ruiz. Nearly the entire population of 27,000 was buried alive. It was the second deadliest eruption of the 20th century.
If the Columbian government had been listening they would have heard the warnings the volcano had been issuing for a full year before the fateful eruption and relocated the town's inhabitants in time to save them. The National Bureau of Geology and Mines (INGEOMINAS) issued a report a month before the tragedy which declared that a moderate eruption would produce " . . . a 100 percent probability of mudflows . . . with great danger for Armero . . ." Sadly, like the warnings issued regarding the vulnerability of New Orleans, public officals in Columbia turned a deaf ear and the result was a tragedy of immense human proportions.
You can learn more about the tragedy here.