By Daisy Luther
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. This is why it’s so important to perform a personal risk assessment – so you can be prepared for whatever is most likely to come your way.
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? Have you been through any major disasters? Share your in the comments section.
While I live in Texas, I live in The East part of the state. We rarely have any disasters here. A tornado on occasion, but not yearly.
Just a quick note to mention you left out Avalanches as Colorado Disasters.
I currently reside in Arizona where, aside from wildfires, flash floods and the occasional Haboob, we’re pretty much disaster free.
For California you can add economic disaster.
I am in NH which is fairly low on the list, however, in 1996 we were living on waterfront property during some pretty horrific flooding. Bad enough that we took a canoe through the front door of the house to attempt to rescue our pets, as we were not home for the evacuation. We lost nearly everything we owned, including one of our cars, as we carpooled the day of the flood. We did rescue the cats and were very grateful to have them. Then, in 2008, we had a power outage for 18 days during the ice storm. Just goes to show, bad things can happen in the safest of states. All we can do is prepare the best we can and make the best of whatever happens.
Thanks Daisy. I thought I was subscribed to your articles via email, but I haven’t received them lately, so I resubscribed.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours.
This was stupid. Of course TX and CA have more disasters….look at the SIZE of those states!
And using the number of state of emergency declarations as a metric is ridiculous, as the reasons for doing so are often political/financial, or for stupid reasons and or events which only impact a handful of people- like the current Amtrak derailment in WA. Really? Declaring a state of emergency because a passenger train comes off the tracks? So yeah, WA. makes this list, but I get the feeling WA declares a disaster if a leaf falss on the ground.
So this article is pretty much useless. FL is probably the only one that truly belongs on the list; oh, and NY, where everything is a disaster!
How about breaking it down into REAL disasters (as opposed to mere political declarations of such) by how many people they affect, and severity? THAT might actually tell you something.
Your input is courteous, as always.
A state of emergency and a disaster declaration are two different things. I thought I had explained thoroughly the parameters of the stats I used, but perhaps not.
I’m sure you did explain it…..admittedly, I just skimmed your article after seeing that the two states which contain almost a third of the total population of the US, and a good deal of the land mass (including almost the entire western coastline) were numbers 1 and 2….as expected.
I mean, really (and I ask this rhetorically, and not to be mean, but for your own furtherance) what useful information does an article like this convey? The whole idea of using political borders to determine risk is absurd. If you live near the beach, or on a bayou or delta or on low ground, there’s a good chance you will experience flooding. If you live somewhere else in the same state that contains those features….you probably won’t.
An article like this is fun for trivia…but using common sense and assessing one’s actual risks based on actual circumstances and conditions relative of a given locale would be far more profitable than using statistics.
To Nunzio’s point when California declares an emergency, residents are supposed to be able to acquire emergency monies for recovery. When DC declares California has an emergency, California is able to acquire Federal money. As an aside, Allstate Insurance pulled out of California as far as Home Insurance after having to payout for losses. We were told in a letter , we had four months to get 300’ of clearance around our home, or they wouldn’t renew our coverage.
Thank you, Cab Man.
Such things also have a lot to do with ensuring that state and county agencies and programs which exist to deal with disasters, have a convenient reason to continue to exist/receive funding/increase their budgets. No disasters=less funding; so to ensure that all of the plethora of agencies, and departments, such as the fuzz and EMS get more tax money, they have to keep them active- much like when some small-town PD or sheriff’s office receives federal funds/military gear, etc. They have to use them in order to ensure they will continue to get the same or more funding from DHS or FEMA or the DEA, etc. “Use it or lose it”- so in places where there really isn’t need for such stuff, like some small rural town with no crime, they end up using the SWAT team to serve parking ticket summonses on geriatrics! Same idea with “disaster preparedness and relief” agencies.
This is why, here in KY where I now live (I’m from NY- another “disaster” state…LOL) when there was a small tornado that affected a few buildings near the downtown of a tiny town (no injuries)…of course, a “disaster” was declared. Ditto when there was some light flooding in a few counties…. Yeah, some farmer’s driveway was underwater, and a few roads were temporarily impassible- hardly a “disaster”- but of course, by declaring it such, the counties and towns became eligible for all sorts of federal BS- from preparedness grants to funds to rebuild things which weren’t even near the flooded areas; to grants for “preparedness training” of local gov’t employees…..yada, yada,….your money being wasted…I mean “in action”- LOL.
Just like we now have to go through a metal detector at the Court Clerk’s office (where we do our DMV stuff here)….because they got “free money” from DHS for “anti-terrorism” BS. which they had to spend on such nonsense- even though they’ve never had need for such.
What would be considered everyday life in Alaska, is considered a “disaster” if it happens in WA. or upstate NY. ……
So I’ve lived here in KY for 16 years now, and it’s been the calmest, most uneventful places I’ve ever lived. And although I lived in CA. for a while (I was young…had no choice in the matter!) the two earthquakes I’ve experienced have been in NY and here in KY. (No damage…not disasters).
Ahh, you are from New York. That explains why you are so rude.
I’m not sure why you chose an ad hominem attack to begin your post? States are states, regardless of their size. And that was what Daisy blogged about. Re California: a state that seems to have a fire season that lasts 12 months out of the year! The people in Napa lost homes. Santa Rosa looked like it was firebombed. Fires are burning in Santa Barbara. There are people being displaced from their homes due to these disasters. Discussing strategies about what would you do, are you prepared, and would you move there, are you leaving that state are of interest to me. Name calling is not.
It happens from time to time. I get that. But will you continue to choose to live in an area that if prone to disasters. And you choose to do this you should be on your own. The reason why you choose to live there is it relevant. If a natural disaster hits and one of these areas you should be on your own no federal or state assistance available if you’re supposed to weigh and Raging Water then die
By the second or third time something happened in an area generally speaking you should leave the area if you’re not smart enough to figure this out you need to die and decrease the Surplus population stupid people so that the smart people will be left benefit the people
Extremely helpful article Daisy and an amazing site to check out! I love that it gives the breakdown by month as well as by county and disaster.
Interestingly, Idaho only declared a fire disaster ONCE in 1967, which I believe was the really horrible one that there’s even a museum to in Coeur d’Alene. The point is, normally Idaho wildfires are pretty much dealt with in-house. But then suddenly, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, we’re having “wildfires” all over the place! There was not one single one declared between 1967 and 2007. There is no question the land is burning, my goodness is it ever on fire. The point that I find interesting is the huge uptick in number of fires especially when according to the National Parks Service, “As many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans.” (https://www.nps.gov/fire/wildland-fire/learning-center/fire-in-depth/wildfire-causes.cfm)
I find that… interesting.
Thank you for your time and dedication to make us aware of issues otherwise not thought of. I enjoy your articles and take what knowledge is useful and don’t concern myself with what I can’t. I’m puzzled why some readers are so hateful and discontented with your writings. They don’t have to subscribe or take your warnings seriously. If they feel you are in error maybe they could start their own blog and use their time and money to better inform us. Keep up the good work. Many of us appreciate it.
Thank you, Cathy. 🙂
Great article as always. We can’t predict when the next storm or earthquake will hit but if you want to chose which areas might not be as prone, good information to have.
PS – minor correction. Mt St Helens blew here in WA in March, 1980.
PPS – a good pair of prepper fiction books addressing what could happen if the Big Earthquake hits are by Austin Chambers; the Cascadia Fallen series.
What the state-wide disaster totals don’t address are the local or regional patterns which are researchable. I live in one of the states on Daisy’s list but that’s never been a problem. Before my house was built in 1983 our research showed that even as far back as 1800s Indian times tornadoes always bypassed this area. And such bypassing has continued up through the present day.
While there are sometimes wildfires in other parts of the state … it’s never a problem here. I’m also on very high inland ground so flooding and hurricanes are never an issue.
Again … local or regional research can easily trump state-wide totals.