Safest, riskiest places in U.S., geographically speaking

A large earthquake, hurricane or forest fire draws tremendous press coverage. Because of this, we tend to think the San Andreas Fault area in California or Hurricane Tornado Alley in the Texas panhandle as especially risky places to live. A new study by Kevin A. Border and Susan L. Cutter, however, shows that other parts of the U.S. are even more hazardous.

This study compiled natural hazard moralities from 1950-2004, defined as deaths due to severe weather including heat and cold, as well as floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, and the like. The data was taken from the Spatial Hazard Event and Loss Database for the United States.

The top killers were not the most newsworthy. Number one was heat/drought, accounting for one in every five deaths, followed by severe summer weather and severe winter weather. Earthquakes, wildfires and hurricanes together accounted for less that one in every twenty deaths.

So what areas have higher or lower than average risk of death from natural hazards? Surprisingly, California is, in general, a rather low-risk state. The entire upper Midwest also shows a low risk profile.

Among the highest risk incidence states are South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Arizona and the Rocky Mountain states.

The lesson to take from this study? Extreme heat and cold and summer severe weather are far more likely to kill you than earthquakes and hurricanes.

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