There are a great many considerations to be made when choosing where to live. Local stores and amenities. Suitable entertainment and transport links. Affordable rent or mortgage prices. Good schools for the kids. And there’s safety.
When most of us think about whether an area is safe to live in, we think about personal security. We check the crime statistics and ensure that we’ll feel safe walking the streets. Something that also needs to be considered is whether the area is a natural disaster hotspot.
With climate change on the lips and radar of an increasing number of people, it’s understandable that we keep one eye on potential extreme weather. Now, it seems that natural disasters are on the rise – and some parts of the country are more at risk than others.
From bad to worse, to disaster
It doesn’t feel like long ago that natural disasters were a terrifying aberration. A reminder from Mother Nature that we are guests on her planet. Every once in a while, she’d threaten to revoke our right to stick around.
Take the devastation of Hurricane Katrina as an example. New Orleans has never been the same since this devastating incident, and in truth, it may never be again. Events like this leave scars on the psyche of a state and nation, even when the debris has been cleared away. Now, such anomalies are increasingly common.
Between 1980 and 2016, the USA averaged around six natural disasters per year. Obviously, this was still a worrying statistic. That was six too many for the unfortunate souls caught in the eye of a hurricane, or feeling the heat of a rapidly spreading forest fire. In 2018 alone, though, the country was impacted by 14 disasters.
Whether it was the western wildfires that tore through California, Washington, and Oregon, the tornadoes and hurricanes that swept through the east coast, or just the wide range of extreme weather that impacted various states, it was a tough year.
It wasn’t just personal property that was impacted, either. The National Center for Environmental Information claims that natural disasters cost the American economy in excess of $91billion dollars. Good luck convincing an insurance firm to pay out on that eye-watering figure.
Unsurprisingly, more and more Americans are factoring the wrath of the elements into their decision-making. Migration is on the rise; it’s always better to jump from a height before we’re pushed, and it’s certainly preferable to move by choice before being displaced by the weather. According to Anthony Oliver-Smith of the UN, and an increasing number of Americans agree.
Is your home at risk?
Not all states are equally at risk of extreme weather, and the potential to be impacted by a natural disaster. Obviously, an Act of God could strike at any time, in any place. This is the nature of such concerns. Some territories are far more likely to experience such issues, however. Four, in particular, stand out.
Texans are famously hardy and no-nonsense, and that’s just as well. Citizens of this state are more likely than any other to experience difficulties stemming from natural disasters. In the last forty years, Texas has been forced to spend over $250 billion in disaster recovery.
Hurricanes and tornadoes are a common worry, which can lead to flooding, but extreme heat and freezing conditions are also commonplace. This variety of issues makes it difficult for the local authorities to plan accordingly. A one-size-fits-all policy is not necessarily helpful when so many different problems can arise.
California famously struggles with a range of fundamental issues. In addition to polluted skies and regular wildfires, the latest of which was considered the most devastating of all time, the Golden State is famously prone to earthquakes.
Work in the infrastructure of California is ongoing, which will theoretically minimize the future risk of these tremors. For now, however, they remain a constant risk of Californian residents – and the potential for significant damage remains ever-present.
Florida isn’t the first location that many people think of when they consider natural disasters. For the most part, the state is comparatively safe. Unfortunately, when disasters do arise – 2018’s Hurricane Michael, for example – the damage is substantial and devastating.
As more and more coastal properties are built in Florida, more and more homes are placed at risk. Another hurricane could decimate the landscape. Flooding also remains a constant risk, with the sea level rising a little more each and every year.
Louisiana faces similar problems to Texas, in that the state experiences a wide range of all-weather disasters.
Unfortunately, as a smaller state with fewer resources, Louisiana struggles to keep up with the financial demands of recovery. This is why the state is still feeling the impact of Hurricane Katrina.
Ultimately, Louisiana will often be catching up on repairing its last disaster when the next one invariably strikes. This means that, while it’s undeniably a unique and beautiful place to live, it’s not without problems.
These are the most high-risk states, but how about the safest? Experts believe that anybody concerned by natural disasters should consider relocating to Utah. While there is no such thing as a failsafe location – this inland state can face drought during the long hot summer, and some fierce storms during the winter. However, those living in Utah are less likely to experience hurricanes or flooding.
What can you do?
The entire country packing their bags and moving to Utah isn’t a realistic option. The Beehive State just doesn’t have the capacity. With that in mind, what steps can be taken to minimize the impact of natural disasters?
Obviously, we all need to take steps to prevent climate change from growing any worse. The latest National Climate Assessment confirms that assuming that global weather conditions will remain stable is unrealistic.
Changes that we can all make include:
- Switch from fossil fuels to a renewable energy source.
- Use our cars less, making use of carpooling or public transport for commuting.
- Drastically cut down on our food, water, and energy waste.
- Fly less to minimize our carbon footprint.
- Vote for politicians that take the threat of climate change seriously, and vow to carry the appropriate action.
Obviously, individual action is just a drop in the (increasingly tempestuous) ocean. If everybody does their part, however, we’re one step closer to a safer, more stable planet.
Of course, we also need to look to our nation’s leaders to play their part. For every dollar that the central government sets aside for future disaster recovery, $6 will be saved. This means that, when an unavoidable disaster does strike, infrastructure can be repaired and restored as quickly as possible. Lobby your local congressperson to ensure that your tax dollars are being used appropriately.
Natural disasters have always been a part of life. There is no denying that they are becoming increasingly common, though, and that some territories are in greater jeopardy. Bear this in mind before spending big on a mortgage in the high-risk region. It may prove to be a lousy investment that – literally – sees your money go up in smoke.
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