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27 (tie) Georgia

Major disasters since 1953: 72

Seventy-two disasters have struck the Peach State over the years, which is known for being the fifth worst state in the country for tornado fatalities, averaging four per year (tied with Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi), according to CNN.

The Weather Channel reported severe storms that battered several parts of Georgia in April.

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27 (tie). Virginia

Major disasters since 1953: 72

Virginia lies right on the Atlantic coast, so residents in the state better be prepared for a slew of weather-related concerns.

The top three major disasters in the Old Dominion State include severe storms (18), floods (16) and hurricanes (16), although it has also faced fires, snow and ice, two droughts and a 2011 earthquake.

Hurricane Camille in 1969 remains Virginia’s worst natural disaster — it dropped six months’ of rain in one night on Nelson County, cut power, wiped out roadways and structures and resulted in flooding and mudslides. It also killed 150 people.

25 (tie). Iowa

Major disasters since 1953: 73

Iowa is another state that sees more than its share of floods, including one in 2008 that pushed the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids to its highest level on record, according to the city’s website. Floodwaters covered more than 10 square miles and displaced 10,000 people.

In 2021, The DesMoines Register reported Iowa also averages over 40 tornadoes per year, though 2020 was one of the busier years, with 31 twisters.

Other storms tear through the Hawkeye State with combinations of high straight-line winds, hail, ice and snow. A Halloween blizzard in 1991 destroyed up to $5 million worth of corn still in the fields.

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25 (tie). North Carolina

Major disasters since 1953: 73

Beware of hurricanes in the Tar Heel State — 33 of them in the past 69 years have gained federal disaster status.

Hurricane Floyd in 1999 was one of the most destructive — resulting in 36 deaths in North Carolina and an estimated $6.5 billion in damages. Hurricane Isaias in 2020 also brought 15 tornadoes to the state, one causing two fatalities and 14 injuries.

The state has suffered from a number of severe storms, floods and fires as well. Heavy rains triggered flash flooding in North Carolina in 2020 and claimed at least 11 lives, The New York Times reported at the time.

24. Minnesota

Minnesota Raspberry Island flooding
Michael Hicks / Flickr
The Mississippi River flooded Raspberry Island in Minnesota in 2010.

Major disasters since 1953: 74

The Land of 10,000 Lakes has experienced a total of 28 floods and 24 severe storms since the '50s.

In September 2010, heavy rainfall triggered flash flooding across Southern Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. The damage in Minnesota was reported to surpass an estimated $64 million.

However, the state’s worst natural disaster was the 1918 Cloquet Fire.

An extremely dry season prepared the brush, while the state's lumber industry littered the countryside with logs and wood waste. The fire lasted less than 15 hours but reportedly left more than 450 dead as it burned through towns and villages over 1,500 square miles.

23. Alaska

Major disasters since 1953: 75

The Last Frontier might get a lot of snow, but it's not all blizzards making up this number. The state's major disasters include fires, landslides, floods, earthquakes and even tsunamis — an increasing threat thanks to climate change and rapidly melting glaciers.

According to the [National Park Service](https://www.nps.gov/articles/dena-history-1964-earthquake.htm#:~:text=%5B1%5D%20The%20Good%20Friday%20earthquake,in%20property%20loss%20(equivalent%20of) The Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964 killed a total of 139 people, including 124 killed by the tsunamis that followed the initial impact. The entire event caused $2.3 billion worth of damage.

Alaska’s 2004 fire season is reportedly the worst on record. More recently, 2.5 million acres of Alaskan forest were scorched in 2019, according to multiple media reports. That’s over three times the size of Rhode Island.

22 (tie). Nebraska

Major disasters since 1953: 75

Its central U.S. location means Nebraska endures severe weather coming from all directions, and during every season.

Disasters have been declared in the Cornhusker State due to winter snow and ice storms, spring tornadoes, summer fires and flooding virtually any time of year.

A major flood on the Missouri River in 2011 swamped Nebraska's Fort Calhoun nuclear plant and contributed to knocking it out of service for more than two and a half years. But there was never any radioactivity danger, officials said.

22 (tie). West Virginia

Major disasters since 1953: 75

Flooding and mudslides can be catastrophic in the Mountain State, particularly when storms dump rain in the hills and send water flowing into the populated valleys.

Epic floods in June 2016 killed almost two dozen people after as much as a foot of rain fell on parts of West Virginia in a matter of hours.

While floods and storms are the most common disasters in West Virginia, the state also has dealt with severe snows, fires and droughts, as well as remnants of a couple of hurricanes moving north.

21. Missouri

Major disasters since 1953: 76

Tornadoes, flooding, ice storms, snowstorms, fires, drought — they've all shown up in the Show-Me State. Missouri's location smack in the center of the country means it gets practically every kind of weather.

One of the state's worst disasters on record was the Mississippi River Great Flood of 1993. Floodwaters swamped parts of St. Louis and climbed halfway up the grand staircase leading to the iconic Gateway Arch.

Floods can occur practically anywhere in the U.S., and here's an important reminder: They're one of the hazards not covered by standard home insurance, so you need government flood insurance to cover flood risks.

20. Arkansas

April 29 2017 Little Rock Arkansas River flooding caused by severe weather
Reed Means / Shutterstock
Floods often take a toll on Arkansas.

Major disasters since 1953: 79

Though it's inland, Arkansas is no stranger to hurricanes. They occasionally sweep up from the Gulf of Mexico and cause various kinds of trouble in the state that gave us Walmart and President Bill Clinton.

In 2008, disasters were declared in Arkansas due to flooding and damage brought by Hurricane Gustav and Tropical Storm Ike. The state also experienced some flooding and tornadoes from Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

But more typical Arkansas disasters include severe thunder-and-lightning storms, tornadoes, major ice storms and floods from heavy rain.

19. Kansas

Major disasters since 1953: 81

Violent weather in Kansas isn't just the stuff of The Wizard of Oz. Over the decades, the Sunflower State has been hit by dozens of disasters, typically severe storms combining tornadoes with heavy rain and flooding.

One of the worst Kansas twisters in history struck the suburbs around Wichita in April 1991. Seventeen people died in the tornado, which was a half-mile wide, had winds that topped 260 mph and did a reported $300 million in damage, a local newspaper reported.

FEMA says other Kansas catastrophes have included wildfires, ice storms and severe snowstorms. If you live in one of these disaster-ridden states and don't have an emergency fund, you'll want to start saving ASAP.

18. Tennessee

Major disasters since 1953: 83

Tennessee is called the Volunteer State — and that spirit of volunteerism is most appreciated after the disastrous weather that often whips the state.

Severe storms accompanied by tornadoes, flooding and even ice have often reached disaster status in Tennessee. The state saw 35 tornadoes touch down in 2020] alone, killing 28 people, harming hundreds and causing millions of dollars in damage, according to the National Weather Service.

In 2016, there were five separate disaster declarations over fires. Late that year, CNN reported a fire in Great Smoky Mountains National Park killed at least 14 people and threatened Dolly Parton's Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge.

16 (tie). Kentucky

Major disasters since 1953: 85

Like Kentucky Derby fans who go to the betting windows year after year but never win any money, some areas of the Bluegrass State are terribly unlucky.

The New York Times reported in 2018 that eastern Kentucky is one of the regions of the U.S. most often struck by disasters. The community of Grayson had been hit by costly storms and flooding nine times since 2002.

FEMA says Kentucky's most disaster-prone month happens to be March. The state has seen floods, tornadoes, mudslides and landslides.

16 (tie). South Dakota

Major disasters since 1953: 85

The Mount Rushmore State can be a stew of severe storms, flooding, blizzards and fires.

A December 2017 fire burned 84 square miles, making it the third-largest to ever hit South Dakota's Black Hills region, according to the state’s emergency services. Investigators determined that the Legion Lake Fire in Custer State Park started when a windstorm blew down a tree, which hit a power line.

Another disaster was reported in 2021 when a fire scorched over 2,000 acres and forced hundreds to evacuate as well as the temporary closure of Mount Rushmore.

15. Mississippi

A bridge that collapsed in Biloxi, Mississippi, during Hurricane Katrina in 2005
Andrew Ketchum / Shutterstock
Hurricane Katrina brought down this bridge in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Major disasters since 1953: 90

This state on the Gulf of Mexico has been pummeled by no fewer than 24 hurricanes over the last 69 years, including Hurricane Ida in 2021.

The worst was 1969's Hurricane Camille, a rare Category 5 similar to Hurricane Andrew, the one that tore up the Miami area in 1992.

Camille's more than 200 mph winds were reported to have caused 141 deaths along the Mississippi coast and resulted in over $1.4 billion in total damage. At least 30 people were killed celebrating the storm in "hurricane parties" near the shore.

Other Mississippi disaster declarations have involved severe storms, tornadoes, floods and a freak southern ice storm in December 1998.

14. Montana

Major disasters since 1953: 97

Fires have been the cause of more than half the disasters declared in this woodsy and mountainous state. A record 2,134 square miles burned in Montana in 2017.

But what's still regarded as the worst natural catastrophe in the state's history was a 1964 flood on the Blackfeet Indian reservation.

At least 30 people died in the flooding, caused by torrential rains. An area spanning nearly 30,000 square miles — roughly 20% of this massive state — was inundated, according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.

12 (tie). Alabama

Major disasters since 1953: 99

Thanks to its location on the Gulf Coast, Alabama has found itself in the bullseye of catastrophic hurricanes far too many times. eporlabama disaster declarations, including several that have become household names: Katrina, Irma, Camille. And in 2020, the state was hit with a record-breaking 30 storms, according to media reports . But none of those is considered the worst calamity to ever hit the state.

That distinction goes to an outbreak of 62 tornadoes that struck Alabama over four days in April 2011, according to the CDC. The most powerful cut a 25-mile path with 210 mph winds. Over 240 people were killed, and hundreds were injured.

12. (tie) Nevada

Major disasters since 1953: 99

Things can get very hot in Nevada — and we're not just talking about summertime temperatures. Devastating wildfires have been the cause of well over half the state's disaster declarations.

Officials said the 2017 fire season was the worst in over 10 years and torched about 1.3 million acres, according to the University of Nevada.

Nevada also has been battered by floods, snowstorms, drought and earthquakes. Twin quakes in 1954 had magnitudes of 7.3 and 7.1, according to the Online Nevada Encyclopedia, and damaged not only roads but also the Nevada Capitol building in Carson City.

Like floods, earthquakes are excluded by standard home insurance. Homeowners need special coverage for quake risks.

10 (tie). Colorado

Major disasters since 1953: 101

Colorado is another western state where fires are a major and regular threat. According to property inspection firm HIE, Colorado is a magnet for fires because of its dry climate, thick vegetation and mountain peaks that are like lightning rods.

The 2020 Cameron Peak fire near Chambers Lake was the largest in Colorado history, scorching almost 209,000 acres. In fact, Colorado dealt with three of its largest fires in history that year alone.

Other Colorado disasters have included floods, droughts and snowstorms. A March 2021 blizzard marked the fourth snowiest storm in Denver history.

10 (tie). Louisiana

seven months post-Katrina, this collapsed church still sits in the deserted Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans
Pattie Steib / Shutterstock
Louisiana faced a long recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

Major disasters since 1953: 101

Since 2005, disaster in Louisiana has meant one word: Katrina.

The state is still recovering from the costliest and one of the deadliest hurricanes the U.S. has ever seen.

It slammed into Louisiana with 140 mph winds and a storm surge of up to 30 feet. The horrific toll inflicted on the state included nearly 1,600 deaths and $25.3 billion in insured losses, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Because of Louisiana's location on the Gulf Coast, hurricanes have become an unfortunate habit. Katrina is just one of 36 that have given the state disastrous poundings over the decades.

9. Arizona

Major disasters since 1953: 105

They don't call it "Aridzona" for nothing. America's 48th state is known for being hot and dry — which is the perfect combination for fires.

About three-quarters of the state’s disasters over the years have been triggered by fires. In 2020 alone, the state dealt with three of the biggest wildfires in Arizona history, which were collectively bigger than Washington DC, San Francisco, Baltimore, Chicago, Miami, Minneapolis and Manhattan combined, according to The Guardian.

The state does get rain — sometimes too much of it. Fifteen Arizona floods have reached the level of a disaster in recent decades.

8. New York

Major disasters since 1953: 107

The Empire State stretches from the Great Lakes to the East Coast, with farm country and mountains in between. Given its mix of climates and terrain, New York faces a variety of disaster threats, too.

Presidents have declared disasters in New York because of: floods; blizzards; tornadoes; fires; ice storms; a 2002 earthquake that wrecked roads and chimneys; and a dozen hurricanes.

Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was the worst storm to hit the New York City area in modern times. It closed stock exchanges, left more than 8 million without power, swamped subway stations and caused an estimated $50 billion in damage.

7. New Mexico

Major disasters since 1953: 108

In some states, hurricane season is a thing. In others, spring is thought of as flood season. In New Mexico, there's a fire season, which tends to start in May or June and last until fall.

More than half the time a disaster is declared in New Mexico, it's because of a forest or brush fire. The worst ever was the Whitewater-Baldy fire in 2012, which burned an estimated 465 square miles — about double the size of Chicago.

New Mexico has seen not only the extremely dry conditions that lead to fires but also monsoon-style rains that have caused flooding and mudslides.

6. Oregon

Major disasters since 1953: 139

The Great Northwest is a land of natural beauty — and natural threats. Oregonians have had to deal with destructive fires, floods, mudslides, snowstorms, drought, earthquakes and even a tsunami.

A 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan sent shockwaves across the Pacific to the Oregon coast, where high waves damaged docks and left boats stacked on top of one another. Several boats sank or were washed out to sea.

The Oregonian newspaper in Portland reported that two men were hurt when they were swept off a beach, and a body was found in a boat. $10 million was estimated in damages to the dock and port area in Brookings.

5. Florida

Mexico Beach, Florida, United States October 26, 2018.  16 days after Hurricane Michael. The Mexico Beach Public Pier area, what is left of houses in this area
Terry Kelly / Shutterstock
Hurricane Michael ravaged communities along the Florida Panhandle.

Major disasters since 1953: 168

The way Florida dangles there on a map, at the northern edge of the Caribbean, you'd probably assume hurricanes are the top danger for the Sunshine State. But you'd be wrong.

Florida has seen more disaster declarations from fires (67) than from hurricanes (49). April and May are the peak fire danger months, coming off the winter dry season. In April 2017, more than 115 wildfires were burning at one time.

But that's not to dismiss the threat from hurricanes. Hurricane Irma in 2017 led to mass evacuations, and 2018's Hurricane Michael was a Category 5 storm that devastated the Florida Panhandle and required at least $1.2 billion in federal disaster relief.

4. Washington

Mt. St. Helens
Peder Digre / Shutterstock
Washington state's Mount St. Helens volcano killed 57 people when it erupted in 1980.

Major disasters since 1953: 190

Though Washington is known for its lush, green forests, the state does have its dry spells — which have resulted in devastating forest fires every year since 2000.

The 2020 fire season was called one of the worst on record and destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres by a local news station.

Washington also has endured floods, mudslides, landslides, earthquakes — and an infamous volcano eruption.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey When Mount St. Helens blew its top in 1980, 230 square miles of forest were scorched, 200 homes were destroyed, 900,000 tons of volcanic ash buried roads, an estimated 7,000 large game animals were killed, and 57 people died.

3. Oklahoma

MOORE, OKLAHOMA (USA) - MAY 20th 2013. EF5 tornado strikes the city of Moore, Oklahoma. The whole town is abolished. These images show the heavy damage. Moore, Oklahoma (USA) - May 20th 2013.
Minerva Studio / Shutterstock
A powerful 2013 tornado demolished the town of Moore, Oklahoma.

Major disasters since 1953: 217

Though it's a midsize state — ranked 28th by population and 20th for area — Oklahoma is near the top as a disaster zone.

Most of it lies within the central U.S. "Tornado Alley," so the state is plagued by twisters. One of the worst was the Moore tornado in 2013, which CNN reported killed 24 people and caused an estimated $2 billion in damage with 210 mph winds.

Oklahoma also endures wildfires, floods and severe winter storms. Twelve ice storms have been bad enough to bring about presidential disaster declarations.

2. California

Overpass that collapsed on Highway 10 in the Northridge/Reseda area at the epicenter of earthquake in 1994
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock
The Northridge earthquake was destructive and expensive.

Major disasters since 1953: 355

America's most populous state is also one of the most disaster-prone, according to FEMA data.

California is often associated with earthquakes. The state has seen a dozen disastrous ones over the last 67 years, including the 1994 Northridge quake, the costliest in U.S. history. Fifty-seven people died, and more than $20 billion in damage was done.

But a far more frequent threat in California is wildfires, which get more destructive every year. News station KDRV called The 2020 fire season one of the worst in the state's history.

Thirty-one people were killed, and more than 10,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed. The August Complex fire in the Coast Range of Northern California alone grew to more than a million acres.

1. Texas

Houston, Texas - August 27, 2017: Cars submerged from hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, USA. Heavy rains from hurricane Harvey caused many flooded areas in Houston.
michelmond / Shutterstock
Hurricane Harvey put the Houston area under water.

Major disasters since 1953: 368

The disaster risks in Texas are as big as the state's reputation. The sprawling Lone Star State takes beatings from fires, floods, tornadoes, hail, winter storms and — let's not forget — hurricanes.

FEMA officials have said that 2017's Hurricane Harvey would likely go down as the worst natural disaster Texas has ever seen.

The storm dumped more than four feet of rain on Houston, leading to historic flooding that sent homeowners rushing out to their rooftops to escape the rising water. Officials said the storm took 88 lives and tallied up $125 billion in damage, according to the Texas Tribune.


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Serah Louis is a reporter with Moneywise.com. She enjoys tackling topical personal finance issues for young people and women and covering the latest in financial news.


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