Key Highlights

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) identifies 10 counties at highest risk for quakes, floods and fires
  • FEMA released its Natural Risk Index last week, ranking of 3,000 counties at risk of 18 types of natural disasters
  • Index focuses on frequency of occurrence, extent of damage to life and property and level of recovery preparedness

Natural disasters due to hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and higher sea levels, wildfires, earthquakes, etc. are becoming the norm. Such multiple, devastating events in certain areas of the United States are only increasing in occurrences and severity.  The time is now to recognize these realities in order that we better prepare for them.

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has just released its Natural Risk Index that ranks the counties nationwide most at risk of the natural disasters in terms of frequency, damage to life and property, and the counties’ level of recovery preparedness.

Here are FEMA’s top 10 riskiest counties in the US:

Los Angeles County 

  • This second largest city in the US lives with earthquakes and wildfires on a regular basis
  • Due to its proximity to the Pacific Coast, LA County is also at risk of tornadoes, a volcanic eruption or tsunami
  • Insurance rates are some of the highest in the country

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Bronx County

  • Severe winter storms, flooding and tornadoes threaten New Yorkers regularly
  • Due to high poverty rates in the Bronx, many residents may not have a necessary safety net to rebuild a destroyed home

New York County (Manhattan)

  • Increasingly frequent and severe winter storms and the county’s lack of preparedness for them render New York County’s high ranking on this risk list
  • Many historic buildings in Manhattan not built to withstand even minor natural disasters

Kings County (Brooklyn)

  • Kings County devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 due to the county’s density and proximity to the coast
  • Because county not commonly thought to be high risk area, there is no training in disaster preparedness nor is there any emergency preparedness county-wide

Miami County

  • Entire country now anticipates storm damage to the Florida Coast every September and October
  • Scientists estimate that human-caused sea level changes may put Miami underwater within the next 80 years

Philadelphia County

  • Risk of tornadoes is among the highest in the country here
  • City is ill-prepared to deal with both heat waves and snowstorms that have left citizens and power companies off-guard and flat-footed

Dallas County 

  • Severe storms reported annually in Dallas-Fort Worth since 2016
  • Dallas no stranger to any disaster type, save volcanic eruptions, from flooding to extreme heat to tornadoes
  • FEMA identified Dallas as being unmatched in terms of hail that rains down in droves

St. Louis County (Missouri)

  • Midwest is hotspot for hurricanes, tornadoes, storms, flooding, and extreme heat are constant risks
  • Residents and city workers are well-trained in how to respond to such natural disasters

Riverside County (California) 

  • Though protected from coastal water-related crises, Riverside County at high risk of wind-driven and fast moving wildfires
  • In December 2020, wildfires burned through over 2,000 acres of land and necessitated property evacuations in county known for dry weather and miles of flammable natural forests

San Bernardino County (California)

  • Neighboring Riverside County, San Bernardino County owns the same lethal combination of dry weather and national forest land that foster high rates of wildfires
  • Residents and county workers are well-prepared for wildfires and evacuations but as one of most populous counties in the state, this county is a risky place to build and insure a home

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