No matter where you live, there’s always a possibility that a disaster might occur in any of the states. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires…Mother Nature can get you regardless of your location. And it isn’t just Mother Nature we have to worry about – things like chemical spills, terror attacks, and explosions can also create a disaster scenario.
But, 12 states, in particular, are more disaster-prone than others and have had more than their fair share of disasters declared by presidents over the decades. These statistics are from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and only encompass crises in which an official declaration of disaster was made.
These 12 states are the most disaster-prone.
If you have been thinking, “Wow, it seems like there sure are a lot more disasters lately than there were before” you’re absolutely right. In some areas, as you’ll see, the disasters have tripled since the original article I located that was written only four years ago. The original list of disaster-prone states I found was on the Bankrate website and was published in 2013, but since then, there’s been a shocking uptick in disasters, with a number of previously less affected states bumping out some of the top 10 of 2013.
In reverse order of the number of disasters, here are the dozen states that have been hit the most since the 1950s.
#12) Arkansas: 70 Disasters Declared
58 disasters in 2013
This state has had more than its fair share of disasters from heavy rain, snow, ice, tornadoes, and massive flooding. Snow and ice are a tremendous problem there when they do happen because it’s so rare that the municipalities aren’t prepared with the correct equipment to deal with them. One particular ice storm in 2009 knocked the power out for nearly a month for some parts of the state. The New Madrid fault lies in the eastern part of the state, leaving it vulnerable to a potentially massive earthquake.
#11) Oregon: 73 Disasters Declared
not on the list in 2013
Oregon has dealt with numerous fires and floods, some severe storms, and even a tsunami. The Cascadia Subduction Zone puts the state at risk for an extremely serious earthquake one of these days.
#10) Kentucky: 74 Disasters Declared
56 disasters in 2013
Variety also reigns in Kentucky, with disasters declared for landslides, mudslides, rockslides, flooding, blizzards, and tornadoes. As well, in 1981, a chemical explosion rocked the sewers of Louisville.
#9) Louisiana: 75 Disasters Declared
60 disasters in 2013
Who can think of Louisiana without thinking of Hurricane Katrina? The storm killed more than a thousand residents, and it is far from the only one to hit the state. Flooding and severe storms are also issues in Louisiana.
#8) Alabama: 79 Disasters Declared
58 disasters in 2013
Alabamas issues have all come from the weather. Not only do they have to contend with hurricanes, but they’ve also been devasted by some of the worst tornadoes in America.
#7) Colorado: 80 Disasters Declared
Not on the list in 2013
Wildfires have been a serious issue for this mountainous state, followed by flooding and severe storms. It’s important to note that in the years after a wildfire, landslides and flooding frequently occur because the soil is no longer anchored by trees and brush.
#6) New York: 93 Disasters Declared
68 disasters in 2013
New York has been hit with everything from tropical storms to hurricanes to floods to blizzards. Notably, Hurricane Sandy devastated New York City and Long Island, leaving some residents without power for more than 3 months. Of course, on Sept. 11, 2001, planes hit the Twin Towers in a devastating terror attack.
#5) Florida: 122 Disasters Declared
67 disasters in 2013
Surprisingly, the number one disaster in Florida has been fires. Unsurprisingly, tropical storms and hurricanes make up another larger portion of disasters for the southernmost state in the USA. (Hurricane Irma recently caused a lot of damage.) A few hard freezes have also caused a state of emergency, particularly affecting citrus growers. As you can see, disasters since 2013 have nearly doubled for Florida.
#4) Washington: 132 Disasters Declared
Not on the list in 2013
Washington state has risen quickly on the disaster scale over the past few years, skyrocketing due to the number of wildfires, floods, and landslides. They’ve even had a volcanic eruption, Mount St. Helens, in 2008. Like Oregon, they’re also on the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which means that a very serious earthquake could occur in the state.
#3) Oklahoma: 167 Disasters Declared
75 disasters in 2013
Oklahoma gets an average of 55 tornadoes PER YEAR, and one recent twister was clocked at more than 300 miles per hour. Other disaster declarations have involved severe winter storms, wildfires, floods, and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. With the fracking-induced uptick in earthquakes, it’s not out of the question that the state could be hit with a major quake one of these days. The disasters in this state have more than doubled since 2013.
#2) California: 250 Disasters Declared
79 disasters in 2013
Having lived there for 5 years, I can confirm that the state is a death trap. Disasters have been declared for earthquakes, wildfires, landslides, flooding, winter storms, severe freezes, and tsunamis. Poor infrastructure maintenance makes each disaster worse, as roads crumble (or open up with sinkholes) and dams break after heavy rains. (Remember Oroville?) And who can overlook the severe 5-year drought the state just dealt with? The disasters in California have tripled since 2013.
#1) Texas: 254 Disasters Declared
88 disasters in 2013
Barely edging out California, Texas has a declared disaster just about once a year. They range from tornadoes, floods, wildfires, and coastal hurricanes. One non-weather related disaster they suffered was when a fertilizer plant exploded in 2013 and we just witnessed the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey as well as its deadly aftermath. This state has also seen disasters nearly triple in the past 4 years.
How disaster-prone is your state?
If you want to check the disaster statistics for the state where you live, go here and select your state from the drop-down box. You’ll be provided with the reasons why declarations were made and can click around to explore further.
It isn’t always practical to just say “MOVE” when someone lives in an area that is more likely to suffer a disaster. While that is a popular refrain from many who live in areas that are less at risk, we all have reasons we live where we do. Maybe we have family members for whom we have responsibility who are not willing to relocate. Perhaps we have good jobs or our children are in school. Maybe we’re upside-down in our mortgage and can’t sell our homes. Moving just isn’t always an option, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a victim.
Knowledge of what the most likely possibilities are for your area is power. It means that you can get prepped for the things that could target your home. For example, if you live in an area prone to flooding, you can take steps to make your supplies more water resistant through packaging and where you store them. If you live in an area with frequent tornadoes, you can build a sturdy shelter and stock it well. Those in hurricane-prone areas should keep supplies on hand for boarding up windows and riding out a power outage. Everyone should have emergency food and water supplies and be prepared for a power outage.
So, how does your state measure up?