Hurricanes: States in the Eye of the Storm

Every June through November hurricanes pummel the south and southeast coastline with whipping winds, heavy rain and storm surge. They leave a path of destruction that can often take years to repair. For coastal cities, hurricanes and severe tropical storms are inevitable, but being prepared can make a world of difference in terms of protecting your property, valuables and safety. We took a look at 18 coastal states to find out which are the most prepared for hurricanes. Check out the infographic below to see how they rank.

Depending on their size and strength, hurricanes can reach and affect the interior United States, but coastal states receive the brunt of the impact. Since 1953, south and southeast states have experienced more than 240 disaster declarations due to hurricanes, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A disaster declaration is defined when both the state and local governments are not capable of responding to a weather event due to its size, strength or destruction. Recent disaster declarations caused by hurricanes include Hurricane Harvey, which caused more than $125 billion in damage—second only to Hurricane Katrina, which had an approximate cost of $161 billion.

It’s no surprise that Florida has the highest number of disasters caused by hurricanes with a total of 39. Louisiana is right behind the sunshine state with 26. Florida and Louisiana rank No. 1 and No. 2 on our list of least prepared states for hurricanes, respectively.

The number of disasters caused by hurricanes wasn’t the only factor we considered when compiling our ranking. We looked at three other factors including, each state’s emergency disaster relief budget, number of National Guard troops, as well as their infrastructure grade. All four factors were weighed, which allowed us to calculate an overall score for each state.

New York ranked No. 1 on our list for the most prepared state for hurricanes. The state has only had 12 disasters caused by hurricanes since 1953, according to FEMA. It also has a large number of National Guard troops per capita, which helped boost its overall score. Massachusetts comes in at a close second, followed by Georgia, Connecticut and Virginia.

After witnessing the destruction caused by recent hurricanes such as Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Harvey, never has the phrase “preparing for the worst” been truer.

Methodology:

In order to compile our ranking, we looked at four key factors and weighed the results to calculate an overall preparedness score. The first factor we considered was the frequency of disasters caused by hurricanes in each state. Using data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), we looked at the number of disaster declarations in hurricane prone states since 1953. A disaster is declared when both the state and local governments are not capable of responding to a weather event due to its size, strength or destruction.

Next we ranked each state by the size of its emergency management budget. An emergency management budget is a set of funds allocated to disaster response. Considering that every state’s budget varies, we divided each state’s budget by its population to calculate a budget per capita.

Our third factor looks at how well prepared states are to respond when disasters such as a hurricane, flood, tornado or severe storm strikes. Activated by governors, the National Guard is the first to respond to domestic emergencies such as natural disasters, so we ranked each state by its number of National Guard members per capita.

Finally, we looked at how well each state’s infrastructure can withstand a disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado which bring high winds. In order to factor this ranking, we researched each state’s infrastructure score, which is graded by the American Association of Civil Engineers.

Sources:

Federal Emergency Management Agency

National Guard

American Society of Civil Engineers

State budgets

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