Disasters by Region: Your Statistical Risk

Have you targeted your disaster prep to the most common natural catastrophes in your region? Depending where you live, you may statistically be at higher risk for wildfire, earthquake, flood, tornado or another natural disaster based on weather variances, terrain and ocean proximity.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends that all Americans adopt an attitude of preparedness in response to the unprecedented uptick in natural disasters that cost the nation more than $1 billion. Review the numbers so you can implement smart planning targeted to state-specific dangers.


Flash floods pose an issue for families who leave near the Mississippi, Missouri and their tributaries. Flood preparation is non-negotiable for residents of Iowa, Nebraska and other states in proximity to these waterways.

The Midwest is also the northern nexus of Tornado Alley, which starts in the Dakotas. Cold, dry Canadian air collides with warm, wet Gulf of Mexico air throughout the center of the country, dramatically increasing the likelihood of tornados in these states. Oklahoma, found almost completely in Tornado Alley, ranks third in the U.S. for the number of natural disasters since 1953 according to the FEMA.

The Red Cross notes that earthquakes can happen in Missouri and Illinois. In addition, wildfires can occur in North Dakota and South Dakota.


If you live in the swath of Texas from north of Dallas to below San Antonio, you’ve probably heard this region called “Flash Flood Alley.” The desert valleys and canyons here project torrents of floodwater at unstoppable speeds. FEMA reports that Texas has the second-highest rate of natural disasters in the nation since 1953.

Tornado Alley extends into the southernmost part of Texas, and parts of Florida are also susceptible to tornados. These storms have especially ravaged Alabama, where 350 tornados took place in so-called Dixie Alley in 2011 alone, causing more than 300 fatalities. Florida has also had 45 wildfires over the past six decades.

Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky families are at risk for landslides. The Red Cross also indicates a high risk for earthquakes and hurricanes in most of the south.


Wildfires are the most common natural disaster in California, increasing dramatically in prevalence in recent years. Dry, warm conditions have created both the largest and deadliest wildfires in history in the past several years.

The West Coast is situated over the Ring of Fire, the location of about 80% of the world’s earthquakes according to the U.S. Geological Survey. According to the Red Cross, people who live in the western states should also be prepared for landslides. FEMA reports that California has had 305 natural disasters since 1953, more than any other state, while Washington ranks fourth because of the prevalence of West Coast wildfires and earthquakes.

Other Regions

The Mountain Region of the U.S. comprises Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. The Red Cross lists the most common natural disasters in these states as earthquakes and wildfires, followed by debilitating winter storms. Earthquakes and winter storms are also the primary weather concern in New England along with the Mid-Atlantic region, which includes Washington DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and New Jersey.

Most basic emergency planning principles hold true for different types of disasters. Regardless of location, the incidence of costly disasters has increased dramatically in the U.S., making it harder to predict when and where severe weather will strike next. Protect your family by creating and rehearsing a solid emergency plan, having a store of nonperishable food and bottled water, maintaining a full gas tank, and keeping important documents such as Social Security cards and passports in a safe place in case of unexpected evacuation.