After last week's horrifying news of tornadoes that swept across the South, killing over 350 people, you had to wonder: Is anywhere in America safe? On the Mid-Atlantic coast, there's hurricanes, which every year seem to be getting more and more fierce; all across the south, tornadoes; and the West Coast lives under constant threat of a catastrophic earthquake. And enormous tracts of our country face severe droughts.
This astonishing infographic from The New York Times lays all those risks out -- and, most remarkably, compares them all against each other. What you get is a map that shows what cities are safest from and which are most threatened by natural disaster.
The larger the circle, the more people live there. The redder it is, the more risk of natural disaster. As you can see, Texas and Louisiana are pretty terrible places to set up huge cities, given all the immediate threats.
The data was crunched by Sperling's Best Places, and it takes into account the infrequency -- but greater threat -- posed by earthquakes, compared to severe weather.
They also produced this nifty set of heat maps, showing the threats posed by hurricane, earthquake, and tornado:
If anything though, this analysis isn't quite complete because while earthquakes and tornadoes are scary, maybe the most significant long-term threat to a city's well-being is drought. You can easily imagine San Francisco rebuilding after an earthquake (because it has). But if, say, Atlanta, saw a 20-year period of low rains, you can bet that the city's growth would slow and that the city would face an enormous drag on its economy, as a greater and greater share of dollars went to procuring just enough water to get by.
COMMENTARY: If you are afraid of earthquakes, the west coast of the U.S. is not for you. The New Madrid earthquake fault line has been very quite for narly 150 years so the Big One is overdue. The last time it woke up it moved the course of the Mississippi River. States near the New Madrid fault line include Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. If you don't like tornado's then you don't want to live in the southwest and central U.S.. If you hate hurricane's then the Gulf states and the states stretching from the Carolina's south to Florida is definitely not for you. If you don't want to experience heavy snow storms and blizzards, anything east of the Rocky mountains is definitely not for you. Having said this, natural disasters are totally unpredictable and can occur almost anywhere when you least expect them. From the looks of things, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska and the Dakotas are pretty safe from serious natural disasters.
Courtesy of an article dated May 6, 2011 appearing in Fast Company Design