My family used to live on the edge of Tornado Alley. Since we saw tornado warnings every year, our 72-hour kits were extremely portable.
Now we live in an area where tornadoes are extremely unlikely, yet earthquakes are a real possibility. Our home does not stand in an area with a major flood or fire risk that could require immediate evacuation. So our 72-hour kit is less portable and in stronger containers.
If people know what natural disasters are more likely in their location, they can better prepare, argued Kevin Borden and Susan Cutter from the Department of Geography of the University of South Carolina in a 2008 study.
“Improved understanding of how to react in a hazard event will contribute to reduced deaths from hazard events in high-mortality areas,” they wrote.
Some types of natural disasters are prevalent everywhere.
Here’s a list of five common natural disasters with the highest mortality rates, according to the University of South Carolina study.
Heat or Drought
In 2014, heat killed an estimated 124 people, more than any other type of natural disaster, according to the National Weather Service.
A stagnant atmosphere and poor air quality creates prime conditions for heat-related illness, according to ready.gov. Urban areas face higher risk of heat disasters because asphalt and concrete store more heat during the day and release it more slowly at night than unpaved land does.
Drought can contaminate water supplies and create food shortages. It can also cause other natural disasters, like the 1988 Yellowstone wildfires.
This category includes fog, thunderstorms, wind, and hail. These types of weather can hit throughout the year.
Flooding killed an average of 71 people per year in the last 10 years, according to the National Weather Service. Almost half were due to people trying to cross flooded roads or overflowing streams or rivers, according to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. Vehicles float in only 18 inches of water. Six inches can make a person fall. Flash floods can require evacuation in minutes.
In the last 10 years, tornadoes killed an average of 110 people per year.
A category five tornado in May 2011 in Joplin, Mo., killed 160 people in 38 minutes. It was the costliest tornado in U.S. history, causing $2.8 billion in damages, according to 24/7 Wall Street. Another in Moore, Okla., in 2013, killed 49 people, more than 40 percent children, and caused nearly $2.5 billion in damage.
The first four types of natural disaster – heat, storms, winter weather, and floods – are fairly frequent in every state. Tornadoes are less frequent in some states though they have touched down in every one. According to the University of South Carolina study, it’s not as important how often deaths from natural disasters occur as where.
“Even if researchers could definitively assert the 'deadliest hazard,' a better issue to pose is where residents are more susceptible to fatalities from natural hazards within the United States,” they wrote.
You can find out what common natural disasters your state is most prone to at Your State Perils,
The Deep South and Mountain West have the highest mortality rates.
Alabama led the nation in per capita deaths from all types of natural disasters during the last five years, according to 24/7 Wall Street. In 2014, 63 people there died from extreme temperatures, 54 people died from wind, 47 died from tornadoes, and 38 died from flooding. Each figure was the highest in the nation.
The other eight states in 24/7 Wall Street’s story with high mortality rates from natural disasters include, in order from greatest to least, Missouri, Wyoming, Arkansas, Nevada, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Montana and Tennessee.
While there are more dangers than just the aforementioned occurrences, these five common natural disasters are definitely ones to watch out for. Know the threats in the area in which you live and travel and plan accordingly.
What are some common natural disasters in your area? Let us know how you prepare for them!