By Tuan Nguyen
Posting in Cities
Map reveals where not to live if you want to stay out of the way of nature's wrath.
As adept as humans have become at designing and building safer cities, we're still far from immune to the kind of devastation brought on by natural disasters.
Americans received a reminder of this last week when violent storms battered the south, and in the wake, claimed 300 lives. But one thing we do know, at the very least, is that some regions are more prone to nature's wrath. For instance, California is nested on a major fault that makes it susceptible to earthquakes. The southeast coastal region is, at certain times of the year, hurricane country.
But to give people a more precise understanding of the kinds of risks posed by living in a city like, say New Orleans, publisher Sterlings BestPlaces fed available statistics and other historical data on natural disasters into a computer and generated a very telling infographic that maps out the various natural disaster hot spots throughout America.
The best infographic maps are designed to be as self-explanatory. In this case, higher populated regions are, the bigger the circle and areas with increasingly higher risks of natural disasters are represented by intensifying colors.
Here are some highlights of the map, recently published in the New York Times:
- Some of the most hazardous places to live are located close to the border area of the Gulf of Mexico, a region that includes the eastern part of Texas, Louisiana, and Florida.
- The map points out that Dallas, Texas has highest risk of natural disasters.
- Some of the safest places to live are concentrated in the Northwest in states like Washington and Oregon.
The researchers also produced separate maps that shows which areas are vulnerable to specific threats such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes.
The data is interesting. But what do you think? Would this sway your decision of where in the country you would be willing live?
(via New York Times)
Image sources: Sperling’s Best Places; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (tornado map); University of Miami (hurricane map); U.S. Geological Survey (earthquake map)
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May 5, 2011
Mr. Nguyen, you deserve all of the abuse that can be generated by this article. If the point of the original article was to inform people then this totally fails. You have insulted every rational person that reads this by not providing the context and rational for the ratings. Risk analysis is always a product of the opinions (reasable, informed or otherwise) of the analyst. Without that information this is a waste of time and space. If you argue that you simply posted what was given to you or even worse edited it to remove the references then you should be fired immediately.
In agreement with almost all the opinions voiced here, I must point out that the conclusions illustrated in the first map graphic are just definitely NOT supported by the illustrations shown in the smaller maps below. The top map concludes that the Dallas/Fort Worth TEXAS area, the Corpus Christi, TEXAS area, the Houston, TEXAS area, the Beaumont/Port Arthur, TEXAS area and the Austin, TEXAS area are at a higher risk for natural disasters than anywhere else. The facts, common sense and just general observation obviates the fallacy of such a conclusion. At the same time, look at all those large green spots on our left coast and around our Nations Capital the most disaster prone locations on the face of the earth. Maybe the conclusion should be that these areas are really the homes of UN-Natural Disasters or Liberal-made disaster areas. I think it is quite astonishing to compare the red state/blue state maps from the 2008 elections. Do you see any resemblance? Id respectfully suggest, Tuan, that you re-visit not only your input data but your conclusions as well. Thanks.
Along the ring of fire we have major faults and some dormant volcanoes that can cause far more devastation than tornadoes. Along the western Washington Coast and into Puget Sound we have the risk of a tsunami similar in scope to the Indonesian tsunami. Such a tsunami would wipe out whole towns and cities along the coast. Some of these towns are built on low lying peninsulas that have limited escape routes that thousands of tourists and locals would crowd onto but with only 20 minutes of advanced warning. And this assumes the path isn't blocked by downed power lines.. The egress would be swept over by a tsunami flow. In fact, we're told by the Feds if and when 'the big one' hits, we along the coast are on our own for as much as 10 days while they focus on Seattle and the I-5 corridor.
While Hawaii has enjoyed the safest version of volcanoes, all those areas in the Northwest can't say the same.
For instance, nobody would have anything other than temporary, minor inconvenience and minimal damage from hurricanes if they constructed buildings the way they do in Okinawa: foot thick, reinforced concrete homes not built in flood zones, or if built in a flood zone, are on concrete stilts set into deeply planted solid pilings. Added bonus for that kind of construction is that the homes are also proof against 7.0 earthquakes. They aren't real pretty, and they do cost twice a frame house, but you'll lose at least 2 frame homes and everything in them before you lose anything with those houses. We can build homes that don't disintegrate in tornados too; but they certainly aren't FEMA trailers!
I agree with all the negative criticisms made here so far. I believe what we have here is some major bias coming from Sperling's Best Places (a source of the "data analysis"), its owner Fast Forward Inc., and that company's president Bert Sperling. Where are all three located? Why, of course in Portland, Oregon, on the west coast. I'm sure it's not all Sperling et al., that others influencing or even controlling them are behind it as well. Are we surprised that the west coast is all green? This pretends to be scientific, but it is not. It is partially pseudo-scientific, but mostly politics. You can see this right away where the three individual tornado, hurricane and earthquake maps have scientific references, but the main map is sourced with Sperling, a social website and company.
Wow - you Austinits are sure sensitive! Being proud of where you come from is positive, but makes me think twice about visiting your Paradise On Earth.....
This is such BS, this lists the primary threats being Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Hail, Wind, and Drought? REALLY??? PLEASE!!! Austin has a higher risk rating than Anchorage, Alaska? Hmmm which one of these cities had a 9.2 mega-earthquake, Forest Fire(s), Typhoon remnant induced flooding, hurricane force wind storms every January called Chinooks and has had dozens of major air crashes in the past 50 years? From the graphics you would think tornados are the most destructive force known to mankind. Flooding makes the list far higher in my book. Austin has never had a recorded earthquake, tornado's generally happen to the north near Buda, and Hurricanes are spent by the time they hit the Hill Country, so I'm still baffled at how Austin risks are higher than Anchorage, Alaska, the Hurricane Coast, or California. Like I said i think the data is skewed to make the mid-South look bad and the result is B.S.
On the surface, the evaluation of risk appears questionable. For example, while the yearly risk of occurrence of tornados would surely be higher in the central plains (Dallas), the risk of damage from a nearby event is relatively low. On the other hand, yearly risk of occurrence of a significant earthquake event would be much lower, but the chance that damage would occur from a nearby event would be much higher than with a tornado. I would guess a hurricane would fall in between in terms of both risk of occurrence and area affected by an event. Furthermore, it would be helpful to understand what risk is being described - permanent damage, repairable damage, loss of life, etc. Perhaps a better measure would be normalized insurance claims, though you would have to address how to normalize for dollar value, population density etc.
The maps account for the type of event and city size, but are scewed for few reasons. 1. Flooding and flood risk is ignored. Take the recent quake in Japan. The quake itself caused little damage and life loss as compared to the tsunami it created. The vast majority of the Katrina damage was flood realated. Someone above mentioned Sacremento which could be wiped from the map by a flood. Flooding, especially floods resulting from man-made levy/damn failure, is not easily predicted either. 2. Major cities with their vast populations are at almost no risk for tornados. The nature of how tornados work require flatter expanses of land to form and grow. Cities with highrise buildings don't allow for this just as hills, mountains, and valleys do not. So they are common in outlying areas where there is lesser populations and people are prepared for these storms. I have lived in the Mid-West my whole life and have been through a couple of tornados. That is why any house I will ever own will have a basement to hide in. And while the tornados are not "predictable" the conditions for them are so it isn't hard to know when to run for cover. 3. Event predictabilty is also ignored. This is why I think earthquakes are the most dangerous event. Earthquakes come with no warning and can hit major metropolitan areas catching people by surprise. Tornados are also not very predictable, but the conditions are and most of us in "Torndado Alley" know when to bunker down. Hurricanes to me are the least dangerous because you generally have days of advanced notice. I say this with the exception of the flooding potential brought on by the storm, but then this goes back to point 1.
What idiots made this map? Dallas higher risk than SanFrancisco? The only risk in Dallas is 105 degree heat all summer. The three Hurricane/Tornado/Earthquake maps show Austin is only light brown for tornados, while San Francisco is dark brown for earthquakes, but on the title map, San Francisco is lowest risk but Austin is highest risk. I've lived in Austin for 54 years. Tornados are rare hear, although we've had a few. The area north of Austin/south of Waco is the tornado trap. Hurricanes? We actually want hurricanes to come here, because it's how we get our late summer rains. No hurricanes, no rains. We do have drought of course, and hail. But drought and hail don't kill the way the earthquakes do.
It seems to me this map is currently oriented toward tornadoes because of the recent disasters in the Southeast. To my way of thinking, floods are responsible for the most natural disasters. Remember that the greatest, most widespread damage done by Katrina in New Orleans was not wind damage but the ensuing floods caused by the breaching of levees and flood walls. In fact, hurricane insurance in NO is separate and costly and is really flood insurance. Because I live five miles from the San Andreas Fault and, in fact, have experienced a major earthquake on the second day of the World Series in 1989 (Loma Prieta) I certainly agree with tech_ed above: How are west coast states at a lower risk of natural disaster than, say, Dallas?
Interesting insights everyone. Now I'm wondering would this discourage you from living somewhere because of the potential hazards? I'm just curious. - Tuan
Seismologists are predicting a horrific 700 year earthquake event that is due in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). As was learned by the Chilean earthquake, our earthquake construction standards aren't adequate. We have designed our structures for a 20 second shake, not like the 2 - 3 minute shake that destroyed buildings in Chile. The Chilean engineers used the same standards as the PNW employs.
I lived there 25 years and the only "natural hazard event" I can recall was the bicentennial parade being rained out. 15 subsequent years in Houston have given me two hurricanes, so that one I understand. But Austin? I'd really, really like to see how they came up with these rankings. Anyone have a quick link?
If they would have added a fourth map for snow events, the overlapping of the four maps would have virtually covered the entire country. The types of tornadoes we've seen this year are rare. Major snow events don't kill hundreds, but they kill dozens and they occur every winter. Perception is an amazing thing. They seem to de-emphasize the risk associated with earthquakes, whereas I, who live in the Houston area, am not especially afraid of hurricanes.
Dangerous volcanic eruptions in the Pacific Northwest are so infrequent that your odds of being caught in one are extremely low. Plus, they give advance warning - no one needed to die in the Mt. St. Helens eruption; the government ignored the hazard maps drawn up by the geologists so the timber companies could keep logging nearby. The area closed to entry was ridiculously small. What I question is, why did they leave out heat waves? They kill more people than any other weather event. Of course, the Northwest would have looked even better then - extreme heat is rare, and humidity is low when it does get hot. Perhaps, to be fair, they should have included the risks from the Northwest's gloomy winters. Many people get very depressed when they don't see the sun for a month at a time. Difficult to quantify just how many suicides and accidents are directly caused by this, though.
It has nothing to do with pride. It has everything to do with facts. -Austin has floods every 10-20 years that kill people (who drive across flooded bridges or low water crossings during the flood). -Austin has hail every few years, but few if any die from that. -Austin has few tornados (I can count on one hand the tornados we've had in 50+ years. -Austin doesn't have earthquakes. -Austin has 100+ degree heat for 2 weeks or more every year, but few if any die from this. We're used to it, and we have air conditioning and cold spring pools. The only "killer" disaster in Austin are the floods, and those are not annual. I've lived here a long time, and it's not a high risk natural disaster area. Facts : San Francisco 1989 earthquake: 63 people deadthroughout northern California, 3,757 injured, and 3,000-12,000 people homeless. The 1964 Alaska earthquake killed 128 people. Austin flood deaths - 38 in 51 years: November 15, 2001 - 1 dead May 24, 1981 - 13 dead November 23, 1974 - 13 dead October 28, 1960 - 11 dead It's not pride that says that San Francisco and Alaska earthquakes kill more than floods in Austin, it's factual history. Yet Achorage, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are are low risk and Austin is high risk. The map is idiotic because it's wrong.
I don't know that this is my most important determining factor, but it does at least help to sway me against it when my husband argues for moving to a coast and I know the worst I've seen here is a flash flood every fifteen years and an occasional tornado that hits a couple of blocks out of the entire city. Oh, and one earthquake that was a level 4 thirty-some years ago. Ice storms, massive flooding, ocean storm systems and so forth certainly do pop up in my mind when he talks about moving back East, alongside population density, cost of living and various smaller concerns. I like living where the weather doesn't usually try to kill me.
Greetings, Tuan...I live in New Orleans, went through Katrina, and will go through more. Many of us here have a quality not quantity attitude to life, so no, living in a potential hazard area does not necessarily make people move away. Tragedy can happen anywhere at any time...no guarantees for anyone.
But, the PNW quake I think was left out, because the last occurrence was before the statistics that generated the map occurred. Another, the tidal wave and ground liquifaction are the real threats in PNW. The fault type there is closer to the ones that generated the Japan and Indonesian quakes, an offshore subduction fault that can potentially have a 9.0 range quake and did in 1700. The San Andreas does not cause quakes this big, because of the fault type. Also, aside from tsunami risks, with construction to account for them, earthquakes do not cause the kind of complete destruction that some storms do. In some cases, tornadoes and hurricanes completely destroy relatively modern buildings to the foundations. This would only happen with an earthquake if the quake caused a tsunami or landslide.
Austin is threatened every two years when the Republican legislature is in session. We get MAJOR rain storms every 20 years or so also.
I wondered the same thing...Austin?? Unless they mean 'events in the general area' maybe...Buda and Jarrell for instance have had some nasty tornadoes. The last thing I recall for Austin tho' is hail....(I live in San Antonio, where we haven't even gotten fallout from the big hurricanes of the past several years...maybe a flood once a blue moon...)
I think it's frequency as well as severity. Earthquakes can be bad but they're rare. Tornadoes (no offense intended toward the recent victims) happen every year. Notice the big green dot northwest of San Francisco. Sacramento is earthquake safe but it's the biggest metro area in danger of a major flood - more in danger than New Orleans.
Ohhh please.. check out Christchurch, New Zealand.. We have had two major earthquakes, the latter being 22 February, which has all but destroyed the CBD, not to mention badly damaged thousands of other buildings, and wrecked land. Christchurch was not regarded as earthquake prone. Now there are faults turning up like bad relatives.