Their geography, climate and size make some states far more disaster-prone than others. Figures current as of the end of May 2014 and going back more than 60 years show presidents have declared nearly 2,000 major disasters in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. But the top 10 states have been responsible for nearly a third of that total. See if you live in one of the riskiest states — and if you do, you may want to review your insurance policies.
The Show-Me State has been shown disastrous weather in every month on the calendar: severe snow and ice storms in winter, tornadoes during the spring, summer and fall, and flooding at virtually any time.
Kentucky’s disaster roster has included landslides, mudslides and rockslides, as well as flooding and tornadoes. Major disaster declarations have stemmed from a wide range of calamities, such as: remnants of Hurricane Ike that ripped up the state in 2008; a record snowfall in late 2004; and chemical explosions in the Louisville sewers in 1981.
Arkansas has been thrashed by heavy rain, snow, ice, tornadoes and flooding over the years and has even taken poundings from tropical storm systems, though it’s not a coastal state. In 2008, storms and tornadoes associated with Hurricane Gustav littered streets with debris, damaged buildings, roads and bridges, and knocked out electric cooperatives.
This Gulf Coast state has been battered by hurricanes, including Isaac in 2012, Gustav in 2008, Katrina and Dennis in 2005 and Ivan in 2004. But tornadoes in April 2011 rivaled the hurricanes for destructive power, lashing the state with winds that exceeded 210 mph and leaving about 250 people dead and an estimated $1.5 billion in damage.
Louisiana won’t soon forget Hurricane Katrina, the now-legendary 2005 storm that government officials say killed nearly 1,000 residents and caused an estimated $80 billion in damage. Numerous hurricanes have ravaged the Gulf state, including 1969’s Camille, a Category 5 storm that came ashore with 190 mph winds. By comparison, Katrina was “only” a Category 3.
Florida has been roughed up by dozens of tropical storm systems since the 1950s, none worse than Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The Category 5 hurricane with gusts over 200 mph held the title as the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history until Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Severe freezes have been disastrous for Florida farmers on multiple occasions.
Across its empire that stretches from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic, New York has been punished by everything from blizzards to tropical storms. In 2012, Superstorm Sandy killed nearly 50 people in the state and caused more than $40 billion in damage. New York also received disaster declarations for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center and for the earlier bombing in the complex’s garage.
The monster tornado that blasted through the Oklahoma City suburbs in May 2013 is only the latest devastating storm to hit a state that has recorded an average of more than 55 twisters per year since 1950. The worst in recent history struck near Oklahoma City in May 1999 with winds over 300 mph and killed 36 people. Other disaster declarations have involved severe winter storms, wildfires, floods and the 1995 terrorist bombing that killed 168 people at the Oklahoma City federal building.
California has weathered wildfires, landslides, flooding, winter storms, severe freezes and tsunami waves. But earthquakes are the disaster perhaps most closely associated with the nation’s most populous state. The worst quakes in recent years have included a magnitude 6.9 quake near San Francisco in 1989 that killed 63 and a magnitude 6.7 quake in Southern California in 1994 that killed 61.
At least one major disaster is declared during nearly every calendar year in Texas, the second-largest U.S. state by area (after Alaska). The Lone Star State has dealt with tornadoes, floods, wildfires and fairly frequent coastal hurricanes. A recent disaster declaration not related to weather involved an April 2013 fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15 people.