UPDATED: APRIL 19, 2023 | 3 MIN READ
Natural disasters pose a serious risk to property and life. As the climate changes, there’s increased natural disaster risk, especially in some regions of the U.S. Tornadoes, wildfires, and other events may occur without warning throughout the country. Let’s look at natural disasters by state, including where they strike the most and where they hit the least.
What Are Natural Disasters?
A natural disaster is a severe weather event that threatens property and the environment. These events may also cause a loss of life. Examples of natural disasters include tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms, landslides, wildfires, and other serious weather events. When a disaster occurs and affects a state or territory, leaders request a disaster declaration. The President of the United States decides if an event warrants a natural disaster declaration.
After the request and the President agrees, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declares an event a disaster. Once FEMA declares, homeowners can begin filing a damage claim with their home insurance carrier. The 50 states see a variety of natural disasters; however, these are the most common natural disasters, especially in recent years.
Flooding events are the most common natural disasters in the United States. According to data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), floods occur in 90% of natural disasters. The states with the most flood damage each year are:
Since 1851, more than 300 hurricanes have hit the U.S. coastline and are some of the costliest major disasters. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data show hurricanes have affected 19 states. Florida and Texas are the states with the most hurricane activity. Texas’ Hurricane Harvey is ranked one of the costliest storms in U.S. history, with $127 billion in damage.
Tornadoes can spin off from hurricanes and other severe weather. Tornado alley, the region where tornadic activity most occurs, includes the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. Texas sees the most tornadoes each year.
Natural Disasters By State: Which States Have the Highest Risk
Some U.S. states are more likely to experience a natural disaster. While not every natural disaster may cause significant damage or loss of life, they still wreak havoc on infrastructure, properties, and the environment. States on the Gulf of Mexico coastline have a high risk for natural disasters, such as hurricanes and tropical storms.
Texas is the state most at risk for natural disasters. Its long coastline and location on the Gulf of Mexico make it prime for hurricanes and other severe storms. Floods are common in Texas, and the state has the nickname “Flash Flood Alley.”
Florida is at high risk for hurricanes, tropical storms, and other severe weather. These weather events may produce tornadoes, storm surges, and flooding, often leaving millions in damage. The most recent Florida hurricane, Ian, is the costliest in the state’s history, with an estimated $67 billion in damage costs. Ian is also the deadliest hurricane in the states, with a death toll of 125 people.
Well-known for Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana sees its share of natural disasters, including floods. Nearly 47% of all properties in Louisiana are at risk for flooding, some of the highest in the country. This is especially true during hurricane season in New Orleans.
Other states most at risk for natural disasters include Alabama, California, Oregon, and North Carolina. California, Washington, and Oregon repeatedly sees widespread wildfires, with over 7,200 California wildfires in 2022 as of October.
Natural Disasters By State: Which States Are the Safest?
Some areas of the United States are safer than others regarding natural disasters. While no state is 100% secure from any natural disaster, several states have low disaster risk.
The West: Colorado and Montana
While Colorado could see heavy winter storms and is subject to wildfires, it features a low risk of natural disasters compared to other areas. Montana has the lowest amount of federally-declared natural disasters at 68. Flooding, earthquakes, wildfire, and blizzards occur in Montana, but the state has seen relatively few disasters. The most devastating natural disaster in Montana’s history was in 1910 with a fire nicknamed “The Big Burn.”
The Midwest: Ohio, Michigan
Ohio sees a risk of tornadoes and flooding. However, the Buckeye State features three of the safest cities in the country regarding natural disasters: Dayton, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. Forest fires, earthquakes, and other natural disasters are rare in Ohio. Michigan also has a low risk for natural disasters, thanks to its location in the Great Lakes region.
The East Coast: DC, Maine, Maryland, and New Hampshire
Washington D.C., Maine, Maryland, and New Hampshire are among the least likely to experience a natural disaster by state ranking of FEMA data. The New England region may see the occasional hurricane, but nowhere near the same amount as the Gulf Coast states.
What state is most affected by natural disasters?
Mississippi is the state most financially affected by natural disasters.
What is the safest state with no natural disasters?
Michigan has the least natural disasters, but no state is without a natural disaster. Every state includes a natural disaster declaration over the last five years. When ranking natural disasters by state, Michigan has one of the lowest risks.
Which states are safest from natural disasters?
Montana, Ohio, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Vermont are safest from natural disasters.
What states have the most disasters?
States located in the Gulf of Mexico, such as Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Florida see the most disasters. These major disasters include hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods.
What is the most common natural disaster?
Flooding is the most common natural disaster. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 90% of natural disasters involve flooding in the United States.
Which state has the most hurricanes?
Located on the Gulf of Mexico, Florida has the most hurricanes. The Sunshine State saw 41% of all U.S. hurricanes. Several of the nation’s deadliest storms hit Florida.
What natural disasters are most common in the U.S.?
Floods occur most in the U.S. Texas is well-known for its flood potential, but Kentucky and Montana recently saw catastrophic flooding.
What states have the highest frequency of natural disasters?
California’s made the most disaster declarations of every state based on FEMA records. Most of California’s disaster declarations come from wildfires or earthquakes. The ongoing California wildfires burned 362,351 acres to date in 2022.
Protect Your Home from Natural Disaster Damage
Home insurance is one of the best ways to protect your home from natural disasters because it lets you rebuild your home after damage. Floods, wind, hurricanes, tornadoes, and more may damage a home’s structure, which is why you need a comprehensive home insurance policy. Start by comparing quotes for home insurance online today.