CBS News Features Sperling’s Natural Hazards Ranking

On Tuesday, June 18th, CBS Morning News will be doing a feature based on our rankings of all 379 U.S. metros areas for their risk from natural disasters.  According to the producers, it should air about 7:45am local time.

We compiled this list at the request of the New York Times, which wondered – in the face of all these calamities (tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, floods, extreme cold and heat, hail and stifling humidty), where could one go to have a reasonable expectation of safety from natural disasters?

Here are the top ten metros with the lowest risk of natural disasters.  (there is a full list of all 379 metros at the end of this post.)

1  Corvallis, OR
2  Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA
3  Bellingham, WA
4  Wenatchee, WA
5  Grand Junction, CO
6  Spokane, WA
7  Salem, OR
8  Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA
9  Yakima, WA
10 Olympia, WA

And continuing our list, here are the ten places with the greatest risk from natural disasters…

370.  Fort Walton Beach-Crestview-Destin, FL
371.  Fort Worth-Arlington, TX
372.  Birmingham-Hoover, AL
373.  Austin-Round Rock, TX
374.  Shreveport-Bossier City, LA
375.  Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX
376.  Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX
377.  Corpus Christi, TX
378.  Jonesboro, AR
379.  Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX (riskiest)

The New York Times wrote an article based on our rankings, the focus of which was a beautiful infographic of natural hazard risk in the United States.

I gathered current and historical data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (and other sources) and created indices for the various disaster categories.  I gave more weight to recent events, and considered the impact of the events, such as the human toll and property damage from each tornado and hurricane.  Besides the “big three” (hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes), I included hail, wind, drought, flooding, and extreme weather such as the number of days annually over 90 degrees and below freezing, days below zero degrees, snowfall over 1.5 inches in a day, and days with a rainfall over 1/2 inch.  I’m still looking for a good measure of wildfire risk, and I think I have decided on some good methodology to include in an updated ranking.

Also, I didn’t include the effects of combining extreme heat with humidity, which can be deadly.  We do have a new Heat Index measure which we’ll be unveiling shortly, and that will be included in this Natural Disasters ranking.

You probably noticed that most of the places with the lowest risk are in the Pacific Northwest, which nevertheless has some of the highest probablities for a major earthquake.  Why aren’t these places penalized for this risk, and what about Los Angeles and San Francisco?

To create my index for assessing the risk from Natural Disaster, I needed to assign weights to the different categories.  Obviously, a hailstorm (though costly and surprisingly devastating) does not have the same impact as a major twister or hurricane.

I gave the greatest weight to tornados and hurricances because of their major impact and they can reasonably be predicted to recur on a regular basis and in specific locales.  Major earthquakes may have a frequency of several hundred years, and residents of an earthquake hotspot often live their entire lives hardly feeling a tremor.  Accordingly, I gave earthquakes a weighting equal to half the importance of tornados and hurricanes, which was also equal to metrics of flooding and droughts.

That said, when that major subduction-zone earthquake hits the Northwest, it will bring devastation that will be the greatest catastrophe in the history of our country and require decades of rebuilding.  As a youngster, I was in Kodiak, Alaska for the biggest earthquake ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere (1964).  The resulting tsunami overwhelmed the town and I lost several schoolmates in the flood.  Interestingly, after Kodiak our family moved to Corvallis, Oregon which tops our list as having the lowest risk of Natural Disasters.  From personal experience, I can attest that Corvallis is essentially free from drama resulting from the weather or other natural occurances.

Here’s the full Natural Hazards list, so you can see where your town ranks.  Or download the spreadsheet here.

1.  Corvallis, OR (safest)
2.  Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA
3.  Bellingham, WA
4.  Wenatchee, WA
5.  Grand Junction, CO
6.  Spokane, WA
7.  Salem, OR
8.  Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA
9.  Yakima, WA
10.  Olympia, WA
11.  Tacoma, WA
12.  Kennewick-Richland-Pasco, WA
13.  Bremerton-Silverdale, WA
14.  Longview, WA
15.  Coeur d’Alene, ID
16.  Lewiston, ID-WA
17.  Eugene-Springfield, OR
18.  Bend, OR
19.  Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, OR-WA
20.  Medford, OR
21.  Missoula, MT
22.  Billings, MT
23.  Farmington, NM
24.  Great Falls, MT
25.  Flagstaff, AZ
26.  Duluth, MN-WI
27.  St. George, UT
28.  Logan, UT-ID
29.  Provo-Orem, UT
30.  Yuba City, CA
31.  Boise City-Nampa, ID
32.  Morgantown, WV
33.  Redding, CA
34.  Wausau, WI
35.  Green Bay, WI
36.  Fairbanks, AK
37.  Sheboygan, WI
38.  Santa Fe, NM
39.  Ogden-Clearfield, UT
40.  Visalia-Porterville, CA
41.  Wheeling, WV-OH
42.  Appleton, WI
43.  Honolulu, HI
44.  Merced, CA
45.  Madera, CA
46.  Modesto, CA
47.  Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, CA
48.  Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna, WV-OH
49.  San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA
50.  Pueblo, CO
51.  Chico, CA
52.  La Crosse, WI-MN
53.  Cumberland, MD-WV
54.  Napa, CA
55.  Weirton-Steubenville, WV-OH
56.  Salt Lake City, UT
57.  Stockton, CA
58.  Prescott, AZ
59.  Rochester, MN
60.  Vallejo-Fairfield, CA
61.  Hanford-Corcoran, CA
62.  Bakersfield, CA
63.  Charleston, WV
64.  Salinas, CA
65.  St. Cloud, MN
66.  Reno-Sparks, NV
67.  Fresno, CA
68.  Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA
69.  San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
70.  Oshkosh-Neenah, WI
71.  Anchorage, AK
72.  Pocatello, ID
73.  Elmira, NY
74.  Grand Forks, ND-MN
75.  San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA
76.  Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA
77.  Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV
78.  Roanoke, VA
79.  Casper, WY
80.  Burlington-South Burlington, VT
81.  State College, PA
82.  Johnstown, PA
83.  Rochester, NY
84.  Ithaca, NY
85.  Harrisonburg, VA
86.  El Paso, TX
87.  Idaho Falls, ID
88.  Santa Barbara-Santa Maria, CA
89.  Fond du Lac, WI
90.  Yuma, AZ
91.  Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, VA
92.  Bangor, ME
93.  Saginaw-Saginaw Township North, MI
94.  Las Cruces, NM
95.  Utica-Rome, NY
96.  Altoona, PA
97.  Bay City, MI
98.  Lynchburg, VA
99.  Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI
100.  Tucson, AZ
101.  Winchester, VA-WV
102.  Binghamton, NY
103.  Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH
104.  Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA
105.  Battle Creek, MI
106.  Eau Claire, WI
107.  Lewiston-Auburn, ME
108.  Scranton–Wilkes-Barre, PA
109.  Colorado Springs, CO
110.  Pittsburgh, PA
111.  Syracuse, NY
112.  Canton-Massillon, OH
113.  Erie, PA
114.  Dubuque, IA
115.  Albuquerque, NM
116.  Carson City, NV
117.  Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA
118.  Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY
119.  Boulder, CO
120.  Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ
121.  Danville, VA
122.  Las Vegas-Paradise, NV
123.  Sioux Falls, SD
124.  Reading, PA
125.  Rapid City, SD
126.  Racine, WI
127.  Glens Falls, NY
128.  San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA
129.  Williamsport, PA
130.  Sandusky, OH
131.  Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA
132.  Muskegon-Norton Shores, MI
133.  Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, ME
134.  Cheyenne, WY
135.  Bismarck, ND
136.  Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY
137.  Lebanon, PA
138.  Lancaster, PA
139.  Janesville, WI
140.  Norwich-New London, CT
141.  El Centro, CA
142.  Niles-Benton Harbor, MI
143.  Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA
144.  Columbus, OH
145.  Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA
146.  Bethesda-Gaithersburg-Frederick, MD
147.  Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA
148.  York-Hanover, PA
149.  Akron, OH
150.  Kalamazoo-Portage, MI
151.  Kingston, NY
152.  Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ
153.  Jackson, MI
154.  Lansing-East Lansing, MI
155.  Elizabethtown, KY
156.  Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, MI
157.  Kankakee-Bradley, IL
158.  Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH
159.  Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
160.  Sioux City, IA-NE-SD
161.  Terre Haute, IN
162.  Charlottesville, VA
163.  Lincoln, NE
164.  Fargo, ND-MN
165.  Bowling Green, KY
166.  Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI
167.  Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI
168.  Asheville, NC
169.  Fort Collins-Loveland, CO
170.  New Haven-Milford, CT
171.  Barnstable Town, MA
172.  Flint, MI
173.  Fort Wayne, IN
174.  Michigan City-La Porte, IN
175.  St. Joseph, MO-KS
176.  Bloomington, IN
177.  Topeka, KS
178.  Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, MI
179.  Mansfield, OH
180.  Odessa, TX
181.  Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC
182.  Cedar Rapids, IA
183.  Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA
184.  Johnson City, TN
185.  Madison, WI
186.  Louisville-Jefferson County, KY-IN
187.  Nassau-Suffolk, NY
188.  Morristown, TN
189.  Lake County-Kenosha County, IL-WI
190.  Holland-Grand Haven, MI
191.  Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, NY
192.  Columbia, MO
193.  Muncie, IN
194.  Winston-Salem, NC
195.  Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA
196.  Hinesville-Fort Stewart, GA
197.  Clarksville, TN-KY
198.  Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, CA
199.  Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT
200.  Baltimore-Towson, MD
201.  Ann Arbor, MI
202.  Lima, OH
203.  Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA
204.  Owensboro, KY
205.  Jefferson City, MO
206.  Ames, IA
207.  New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ
208.  Newark-Union, NJ-PA
209.  Burlington, NC
210.  Ocean City, NJ
211.  Gary, IN
212.  Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
213.  Amarillo, TX
214.  Denver-Aurora, CO
215.  Greeley, CO
216.  Toledo, OH
217.  Greensboro-High Point, NC
218.  Atlantic City, NJ
219.  Laredo, TX
220.  Dover, DE
221.  Sumter, SC
222.  Monroe, MI
223.  Worcester, MA
224.  Brunswick, GA
225.  Essex County, MA
226.  Iowa City, IA
227.  Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA
228.  Lexington-Fayette, KY
229.  Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC
230.  Rockingham County-Strafford County, NH
231.  Springfield, OH
232.  Philadelphia, PA
233.  Knoxville, TN
234.  Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro, TN
235.  Danville, IL
236.  San Angelo, TX
237.  Wilmington, NC
238.  Raleigh-Cary, NC
239.  Pittsfield, MA
240.  Durham, NC
241.  Evansville, IN-KY
242.  Lawrence, KS
243.  Boston-Quincy, MA
244.  Salisbury, MD
245.  Anderson, SC
246.  Alexandria, LA
247.  Champaign-Urbana, IL
248.  Peoria, IL
249.  Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN
250.  Charleston-North Charleston, SC
251.  Dayton, OH
252.  Chattanooga, TN-GA
253.  Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC
254.  Kansas City, MO-KS
255.  Richmond, VA
256.  Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA
257.  Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, MA
258.  Midland, TX
259.  Naples-Marco Island, FL
260.  Columbus, IN
261.  Rockford, IL
262.  Florence, SC
263.  Lafayette, IN
264.  Wichita, KS
265.  Valdosta, GA
266.  Savannah, GA
267.  Greenville, SC
268.  Sebastian-Vero Beach, FL
269.  Kokomo, IN
270.  Vineland-Millville-Bridgeton, NJ
271.  Anderson, IN
272.  Hattiesburg, MS
273.  Manchester-Nashua, NH
274.  Edison, NJ
275.  Jackson, TN
276.  Tuscaloosa, AL
277.  Rocky Mount, NC
278.  Springfield, MO
279.  Wilmington, DE-MD-NJ
280.  Elkhart-Goshen, IN
281.  Joplin, MO
282.  Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO
283.  Indianapolis-Carmel, IN
284.  Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, NC-SC
285.  Port St. Lucie-Fort Pierce, FL
286.  South Bend-Mishawaka, IN-MI
287.  Dalton, GA
288.  Springfield, MA
289.  Florence-Muscle Shoals, AL
290.  Macon, GA
291.  Gainesville, FL
292.  Jacksonville, NC
293.  Goldsboro, NC
294.  Fort Smith, AR-OK
295.  Lake Charles, LA
296.  Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux, LA
297.  Hot Springs, AR
298.  Springfield, IL
299.  Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC
300.  Columbia, SC
301.  Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL
302.  Cleveland, TN
303.  Albany, GA
304.  Tallahassee, FL
305.  Auburn-Opelika, AL
306.  Bloomington-Normal, IL
307.  Greenville, NC
308.  Decatur, IL
309.  Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice, FL
310.  Spartanburg, SC
311.  Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield , FL
312.  Lubbock, TX
313.  Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, FL
314.  McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX
315.  Montgomery, AL
316.  Trenton-Ewing, NJ
317.  Abilene, TX
318.  Warner Robins, GA
319.  Ocala, FL
320.  Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL
321.  Pine Bluff, AR
322.  Punta Gorda, FL
323.  Athens-Clarke County, GA
324.  Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL
325.  Gainesville, GA
326.  New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA
327.  St. Louis, MO-IL
328.  Brownsville-Harlingen, TX
329.  Baton Rouge, LA
330.  Jacksonville, FL
331.  Camden, NJ
332.  College Station-Bryan, TX
333.  Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL
334.  Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
335.  Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL
336.  Dothan, AL
337.  Pascagoula, MS
338.  Fayetteville, NC
339.  Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, TX
340.  West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Boynton Beach, FL
341.  Orlando-Kissimmee, FL
342.  Little Rock-North Little Rock, AR
343.  Columbus, GA-AL
344.  Rome, GA
345.  Panama City-Lynn Haven, FL
346.  Texarkana, TX-Texarkana
347.  Tulsa, OK
348.  Decatur, AL
349.  Longview, TX
350.  Gadsden, AL
351.  Huntsville, AL
352.  Lakeland, FL
353.  Tyler, TX
354.  Wichita Falls, TX
355.  Sherman-Denison, TX
356.  San Antonio, TX
357.  Anniston-Oxford, AL
358.  Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA
359.  Gulfport-Biloxi, MS
360.  Memphis, TN-MS-AR
361.  Victoria, TX
362.  Lawton, OK
363.  Lafayette, LA
364.  Oklahoma City, OK
365.  Monroe, LA
366.  Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL
367.  Waco, TX
368.  Mobile, AL
369.  Jackson, MS
370.  Fort Walton Beach-Crestview-Destin, FL
371.  Fort Worth-Arlington, TX
372.  Birmingham-Hoover, AL
373.  Austin-Round Rock, TX
374.  Shreveport-Bossier City, LA
375.  Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX
376.  Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX
377.  Corpus Christi, TX
378.  Jonesboro, AR
379.  Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX (riskiest)

2 Replies to “CBS News Features Sperling’s Natural Hazards Ranking”

  1. Thanks for making the spreadsheet available. However, I see only the final results and not the values for individual hazards. Could you please provide a spreadsheet with all the data and your methodology? Thanks.

  2. My wife and I current reside in Medford, OR. We regularly visit your website comparing cities and states as we are searching for a permanent location to retire. All the info. you provide is very much appreciated and helpful. We are struggling to come up with a place that will hopefully meet our needs as well as a place that provides top fishing opportunities for numerous good places for fishing as well as bird hunting.

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