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Every State’s Worst Natural Disaster

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As one of the largest countries in the world, the United States is also one of the most geographically diverse — from forests to deserts to miles of coast line. While this comes with many advantages, this unfortunately leaves the country vulnerable to all kinds of natural disasters.

Different parts of the United States face different types of natural disasters. The West Coast is at risk of wildfires, earthquakes, and even volcanic eruptions. The Southern part of the country is frequently hit with tornadoes, and the East Coast faces the threat of devastating hurricanes every year. These natural disasters not only destroy property and present serious problems to the economy, but also claim hundreds of lives every year. Midwestern areas near rivers are often inundated with massive floods — these are the worst floods in American history.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed government sources on the weather event in each state’s history that caused the highest number of fatalities to determine the worst natural disaster in every state.

Thanks to their geography and location, some states have not faced any mass-casualty weather events. Many other parts of the country have been less fortunate, experiencing massive storms and floods that have claimed the lives of hundreds or even thousands of Americans. Many such events, like the 1900 hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas killed so many people that getting an accurate final death toll was virtually impossible, especially during that era.

American weather continues to become more volatile. In 2018, there were 14 weather events that each caused over $1 billion in damage. And in many parts of the country, these weather events could become even more destructive because of global warming — here are places where weather is getting worse because of climate change.

Here are the worst natural disaster in every state

1. Alabama
> Natural disaster: Deep South Tornado Outbreak
> Date: March 21, 1932
> Fatalities: 286
> Other event considered: Tornado outbreak-1932

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2. Alaska
> Natural disaster: Good Friday Earthquake
> Date: March 27, 1964
> Fatalities: 139
> Other event considered: Chilkoot Trail “Palm Sunday” Avalanche-1898

3. Arizona
> Natural disaster: Tropical Storm Norma
> Date: Sept. 4-5, 1970
> Fatalities: 23
> Other event considered: Yarnell Hill Fire-2013

4. Arkansas
> Natural disaster: Mississippi River Flood
> Date: May-August 1927
> Fatalities: 127
> Other event considered: Albert Pike Flash Floods-2010

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5. California
> Natural disaster: San Francisco Earthquake
> Date: April 18, 1906
> Fatalities: 3,000
> Other event considered: Los Angeles Flood-1938

6. Colorado
> Natural disaster: Big Thompson Canyon Flood
> Date: July 31, 1976
> Fatalities: 144
> Other event considered: Denver Flood-1965

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7. Connecticut
> Natural disaster: Great New England Hurricane
> Date: Sept. 21, 1938
> Fatalities: 85
> Other event considered: Great Flood-1955

8. Delaware
> Natural disaster: Gale of ’78
> Date: Oct. 23, 1878
> Fatalities: 100
> Other event considered: Mid-Atlantic Flood-2006

9. Florida
> Natural disaster: Lake Okeechobee Hurricane
> Date: Sept. 6-20, 1928
> Fatalities: 2,500-3,000
> Other event considered: Labor Day Hurricane-1935

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10. Georgia
> Natural disaster: Sea Islands Hurricane
> Date: Aug. 15, 1893
> Fatalities: 2,000+
> Other event considered: Atlanta Flood-2009

11. Hawaii
> Natural disaster: Aleutian Islands Earthquake/Tsunami
> Date: April 1,1946
> Fatalities: 159
> Other event considered: Hurricane Iniki-1992

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12. Idaho
> Natural disaster: The Big Burn of 1910
> Date: Aug. 20-21, 1910
> Fatalities: 87
> Other event considered: Borah Earthquake-1983

13. Illinois
> Natural disaster: Chicago Heat Wave
> Date: July 13-15, 1995
> Fatalities: 750
> Other event considered: Tri-State Tornadoes-1925

14. Indiana
> Natural disaster: The Great Flood of 1913
> Date: March 1913
> Fatalities: 100
> Other event considered: Tri-State Tornadoes-1925

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15. Iowa
> Natural disaster: The Armistice Day Blizzard
> Date: Nov. 11, 1940
> Fatalities: 154
> Other event considered: Great Flood-1993

16. Kansas
> Natural disaster: Great Plains Tornado Outbreak
> Date: May 25-26, 1955
> Fatalities: 80
> Other event considered: Great Flood-1951

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17. Kentucky
> Natural disaster: Louisville Cyclone
> Date: March 27, 1890
> Fatalities: 100
> Other event considered: Ice and snow storm-2009

18. Louisiana
> Natural disaster: Hurricane Katrina
> Date: Aug. 23-31, 2005
> Fatalities: 1,577
> Other event considered: Cheniere Caminada Hurricane-1893

19. Maine
> Natural disaster: Ice Storm of ’98
> Date: Jan. 4, 1998
> Fatalities: 8
> Other event considered: Great Flood-1987

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20. Maryland
> Natural disaster: Pan American jet hit by lightning
> Date: Dec. 8, 1963
> Fatalities: 81
> Other event considered: Rain storm and flood-1971

21. Massachusetts
> Natural disaster: Worcester Tornado
> Date: June 9, 1953
> Fatalities: 90
> Other event considered: Great New England Hurricane-1938

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22. Michigan
> Natural disaster: Great Michigan Fire
> Date: Sept. 5, 1881
> Fatalities: 282
> Other event considered: Flint tornadoes-1953

23. Minnesota
> Natural disaster: Cloquet Fire
> Date: Oct. 12, 1918
> Fatalities: 450
> Other event considered: Twin Cities Tornadoes-1965

24. Mississippi
> Natural disaster: Hurricane Katrina
> Date: Aug. 23-31, 2005
> Fatalities: 238
> Other event considered: Mississippi River Flood-1927

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25. Missouri
> Natural disaster: Joplin Tornado
> Date: May 22, 2011
> Fatalities: 158
> Other event considered: Great Flood-1951

26. Montana
> Natural disaster: The Big Burn of 1910
> Date: Aug. 20-21, 1910
> Fatalities: 87
> Other event considered: Flood-1964

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27. Nebraska
> Natural disaster: Schoolhouse Blizzard
> Date: Jan. 12, 1888
> Fatalities: 100
> Other event considered: Blizzard-1949

28. Nevada
> Natural disaster: Heat wave
> Date: July 14-23, 2005
> Fatalities: 17
> Other event considered: Flash flood-1974

29. New Hampshire
> Natural disaster: Great New England Hurricane
> Date: Sept. 21, 1938
> Fatalities: 13
> Other event considered: Heat wave-1911

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30. New Jersey
> Natural disaster: Superstorm Sandy
> Date: Oct. 29, 2012
> Fatalities: 43
> Other event considered: Hurricane Connie-1955

31. New Mexico
> Natural disaster: Blizzard
> Date: Dec. 14, 1967
> Fatalities: 51
> Other event considered: Cero Grande Fire-2000

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32. New York
> Natural disaster: Great Blizzard of 1888
> Date: March 12-14, 1888
> Fatalities: 200
> Other event considered: Superstorm Sandy-2012

33. North Carolina
> Natural disaster: Hurricane Floyd
> Date: Sept. 16, 1999
> Fatalities: 26
> Other event considered: Hurricane Hazel-1954

34. North Dakota
> Natural disaster: Schoolhouse Blizzard
> Date: Jan. 12, 1888
> Fatalities: 235
> Other event considered: Red River Flood-1997

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35. Ohio
> Natural disaster: Great Ohio Flood
> Date: March 23-27, 1913
> Fatalities: 467
> Other event considered: Ohio River Flood-1937

36. Oklahoma
> Natural disaster: Glazier-Higgins-Woodward tornadoes
> Date: April 9, 1947
> Fatalities: 113
> Other event considered: Tornado outbreak-1999

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37. Oregon
> Natural disaster: Heppner Flash Flood
> Date: June 2, 1903
> Fatalities: 247
> Other event considered: Vanport Flood-1948

38. Pennsylvania
> Natural disaster: Johnstown Flood
> Date: May 31, 1889
> Fatalities: 2,209
> Other event considered: Flood-1996

39. Rhode Island
> Natural disaster: Great New England Hurricane
> Date: Sept. 21, 1938
> Fatalities: 100
> Other event considered: Great Gale-1815

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40. South Carolina
> Natural disaster: Sea Islands Hurricane
> Date: Aug. 15, 1893
> Fatalities: 2,000+
> Other event considered: Charleston Earthquake-1886

41. South Dakota
> Natural disaster: Black Hills Flood
> Date: June 9-10, 1972
> Fatalities: 238
> Other event considered: Schoolhouse Blizzard-1888

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42. Tennessee
> Natural disaster: Southern United States Tornado Outbreak
> Date: March 21-22, 1952
> Fatalities: 67
> Other event considered: Nashville Tornado-1933

43. Texas
> Natural disaster: Galveston Hurricane
> Date: Sept. 8, 1900
> Fatalities: 8,000
> Other event considered: Brazos River Flood-1899

44. Utah
> Natural disaster: Bingham Canyon Avalanche
> Date: Feb. 17, 1926
> Fatalities: 36
> Other event considered: Flash flood-2015

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45. Vermont
> Natural disaster: Great Vermont Flood
> Date: Nov. 2-4, 1927
> Fatalities: 84
> Other event considered: Great New England Hurricane-1938

46. Virginia
> Natural disaster: Hurricane Camille
> Date: Aug. 19, 1969
> Fatalities: 153
> Other event considered: Hurricane Isabel-2003

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47. Washington
> Natural disaster: Wellington Avalanche
> Date: March 1, 1910
> Fatalities: 96
> Other event considered: Mount St. Helens Eruption-1980

48. West Virginia
> Natural disaster: Great Appalachian Storm
> Date: Nov. 24-30, 1950
> Fatalities: 160
> Other event considered: Tornado outbreak-1944

49. Wisconsin
> Natural disaster: Peshtigo Fire
> Date: Oct. 8, 1871
> Fatalities: 1,500-2,500
> Other event considered: Barneveld tornadoes-1984

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50. Wyoming
> Natural disaster: Blackwater Fire
> Date: Aug. 18, 1937
> Fatalities: 15
> Other event considered: Gros Ventre landslide-1925

Methodology

24/7 Wall St. reviewed natural disasters in each state and determined the worst event by the number of fatalities. For this list we considered disasters caused by a naturally occurring event — tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, floods, ice storms, heat waves, avalanches, and volcanic eruptions.

We used government sources such as the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the United States Geological Survey as well as media reports about these events to create the list of the worst natural disaster in every state.

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