These Ten U.S. Cities Are Safest From Natural Disasters
Paying attention to the news cycle has never been particularly good for your mental health, but there’s something particularly upsetting about stories of natural disasters. Hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires—these catastrophic events will make anyone feel powerless and vulnerable. You can take steps to prepare your property and tape up all the windows you want—if a hurricane want to drop a tree on your roof, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Nature doesn’t seem inclined to stop serving up epic storms, thousand-year floods, and perpetual fires, so what recourse do you have? Focus on the things you can control. And the one variable you can shift in the natural disaster equation is where you live. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maintains a National Risk Index map that shows you the risk of natural disaster in every area of the country, which is a great starting point if you never want to be rescued from your roof via helicopter. Your risk of disaster ill never be zero, but these are the 10 safest U.S. cities you can move to.
Syracuse, New York
If you can stand the brisk winters and risk of snow storms, Syracuse is one of the safest places to live in the U.S. when it comes to natural disasters. Located well inland, the city is far removed from hurricanes, and it’s not in a seismically-active spot either. Its biggest threat is tornadoes, believe it or not, which FEMA rates as a “relatively high” worry—but there have only been two tornadoes in the Syracuse area in the last 70 years. The other risks are lightning, high winds, and ice storms, none of which are likely to threaten your entire existence.
According to FEMA, Dayton’s biggest worries are tornadoes and…hail. While a tornado is definitely a natural disaster you won’t want to experience—and multiple tornadoes did hit the Dayton area just a few years ago—it’s still considered one of the safest places to live because most of the regions tornadoes have been pretty small-scale (only 4 tornadoes in Ohio have been designated F5 since 1950), and Ohio isn’t even in the top ten states for tornado danger.
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Salt Lake City, Utah
Far from the coast, with an elevation that discourages tornadoes, and located in a warm climate, Salt Lake City avoids most natural disaster risk completely. While the surrounding area is at an elevated risk for avalanches, that’s not much of a concern in the city, where the biggest risk is lightning. Cold snaps and surprise snow storms can be problematic, but are typically more inconveniences than disasters.
Spokane, Washington’s main disaster threat is cold weather—FEMA ranks it as at very high risk for a cold wave, and gives it a moderate score on ice storms. But these events rarely last long, and rarely cause catastrophic damage (its score for “expected annual loss” due to these risks is “very low”). And Spokane is safe from just about every other form of disaster (in fact, it has exactly zero risk of heat waves, so if you despise being sweaty, this is the spot to be).
Bozeman, Montana scores low or very low for just about every category of disaster. The biggest threat in the area is of avalanches, but even that’s considered to be relatively low, and won’t much of a problem in a built-up area like Bozeman. It can get cold there, of course, but chances are you’re not going to be buried under tons of snow or driven from your home due to flooding or fires, so you can hunker down for the winter with relatively few worries.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Your biggest risks in Charlotte are going to be tornadoes and lightning, both of which get a relatively high rating from FEMA for the area. But storm activity is pretty sedate in and around Charlotte because of its geographical location between lakes and rivers, which tend to blunt approaching storm systems. Despite being surrounded by water, Charlotte only gets a relatively moderate risk score on flooding as well.
Although Hennepin County in Minnesota gets a high risk score for tornadoes, Hennepin County is enormous, and Minneapolis is a distinct exception: Tornadoes are relatively rare in the city. You will see some very cold weather and a lot of snow, but snow in areas that are used to it is rarely more than a one-day emergency. Your chances of experiencing a flood, hurricane, wildfire, or earthquake in Minneapolis are all very, very low.
Boulder’s high elevation might knock your jogging game down a notch, but that height and the surrounding mountain ranges blunt storm systems and make anything resembling a tornado nearly impossible. In fact, FEMA gives the area exactly zero “high” risk ratings, and considers cold waves and avalanches to be two of the biggest concerns—but the latter applies more to the less-developed areas outside the city.
Your biggest risk in Allentown is winter weather, which FEMA considers to be relatively high. It also gives Allentown a relatively moderate score on tornadoes, but when tornadoes do strike, they tend not to do much damage. Bottom line, if you can stand some rough winters and don’t mind shoveling snow, you can go to bed every night without worrying about dealing with a natural disaster of any real scale.
Detroit and its surrounding area might not be ideal in terms of economic performance, but in terms of natural disaster, they fare a lot better. There have been some powerful storm events in Detroit over the years, and FEMA considers tornadoes to be a relatively high threat, but generally speaking, your biggest worries will be cold waves, which Detroit is experienced in dealing with.
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