Where Natural Disasters Strike Most in the United States

From Category 5 hurricanes that sweep up the coasts to fires that ravage forests and homes alike, natural disasters in the U.S. can do tremendous damage. Some regions in particular find themselves in harm’s way more often than others. This infographic examines which counties have declared the most natural disaster emergencies and how many of each natural disaster they’ve experienced.


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Which Counties Have the Most Natural Disasters?

Out of the top ten counties with the most natural disasters, five are located in California. Natural disasters in California are most commonly fires. Wildfires in California are a relatively frequent occurrence, with 7,860 wild fires reported in 2019 alone. Southern California’s prevalence on the list makes it one of the most dangerous places in California in terms of natural disasters.

Counties in Oklahoma rank high on the list as well. The most common natural disasters in Oklahoma are severe storms and fires. Oklahoma is in a region of the United States called Tornado Alley: Cold air travels south across the Great Plains while humid air from the Gulf of Mexico travels north, meeting in the middle and making Oklahoma a hotbed for violent storms.

The top ten U.S. counties with the most natural disasters are:
1. Los Angeles County, CA: 72
2. Riverside County, CA: 56
3. San Bernardino County, CA: 50
4. San Diego County, CA: 45
5. Ventura County, CA: 45
6. Chelan County, WA: 43
7. Oklahoma County, OK: 41
8. Collier County, FL: 39
9. Caddo County, OK: 38
10. Creek County, OK: 38

What Are the Most Common Types of Natural Disasters?

Since the United States government started recording state and county disaster declarations in 1953, there have been many different types of natural disasters in America, ranging from wildfires to ice storms. The following are the most common types of natural disasters declared:

• Severe Storms: A storm is generally classified as “severe” when it causes hail one inch or larger, wind gusts exceeding 57.5 miles per hour, or a tornado. Severe storms are most prevalent during the spring and summer months and can happen anywhere in the country.
• Hurricanes: Hurricanes are tropical cyclones that start in the Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean. The Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale classifies hurricanes based on their wind speeds and can give some insight into how much damage and flooding a hurricane will cause once it makes landfall. The most severe hurricanes are classified as Category 5, which includes storms that have sustained wind speeds of 156 miles per hour or more.
• Floods: Seeing as many natural disasters, like severe storms and hurricanes, can lead to flooding, it’s not surprising that floods are so common in the United States. Flooding can also lead to other dangerous natural disasters, like mudslides.

What Is the Most Dangerous Natural Disaster?

Hurricanes are frequently the costliest and deadliest natural disasters around the world. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more than half of the costliest weather and climate disasters in the country were hurricanes. Hurricane Katrina, which tops the list as the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, caused an estimated $170 billion in damage and claimed more than 1,800 lives.

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