Special Report

Cities With the Most Dangerous Natural Disasters

7. Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC
>Natural disaster index:
130
>No. of natural disaster types at risk for: 2
>Hurricane risk: Very high risk
>Pct. area at risk of wildfires: 24.1%

The Augusta-Richmond metropolitan area, on the border of South Carolina and Georgia, is at high risk of wildfires. Roughly one-quarter of the metro area’s land mass is at very high risk of wildfires, which is 16th highest among the nation’s 382 metropolitan areas. Augusta is also at severe risk of damage from hurricanes. Many of the area’s worst storms happened in the late 1880s. According to The Augusta Chronicle, August hurricanes in 1881, 1893, and 1898, all of which made landfall in Savannah, decimated parts of Augusta. The 1881 storm alone killed 700 people. More recently, Hurricane Hugo tore through the region in 1989.

6. Columbia, SC
>Natural disaster index:
130
>No. of natural disaster types at risk for: 2
>Hurricane risk: Very High Risk
>Pct. area at risk of wildfires: 19.8%

Columbia, South Carolina, is at relatively low risk of tornadoes, flooding, or earthquakes. However, like Augusta, the metropolitan area is under the threat of both severe wildfires and hurricanes. Nearly one-fifth of the region’s land is at the highest level of risk of a serious fire. The region has been in the path of major storms such as Hurricane Hugo in 1989, which made landfall just north of Charleston as a category 4 hurricane and moved inland. Hugo was responsible for an estimated $7 billion in damage in the United States.

5. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA
>Natural disaster index:
130
>No. of natural disaster types at risk for: 2
>Hurricane risk: Moderate risk
>Pct. area at risk of wildfires: 21.1%

Most of the areas with the most dangerous weather are in the southeastern part of the country, where hurricanes are a factor. The Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metropolitan area, known as the Inland Empire, spans more than 27,000 square miles and encompasses a significant portion of the inland area of California. The San Andreas Fault — the divide between the Pacific and North American plates — goes through the region and runs through the middle of San Bernardino. The fault has been the cause of the many earthquakes that have hit parts of California over the years, including the devastating 1906 San Francisco quake. According to the United States Geological Survey, there is an 89% chance that a 5.0 magnitude earthquake will hit the region in the next 50 years.

4. Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville, AL
>Natural disaster index:
135
>No. of natural disaster types at risk for: 1
>Hurricane risk: High risk
>Pct. area at risk of wildfires: 14.1%

The Anniston, Alabama metropolitan area is at moderate risk of flooding, and high risk of wildfires. Like many of the cities with the most dangerous weather, the biggest risks to the area are hurricanes and tornadoes. On Palm Sunday, 1994, a massive outbreak of tornadoes swept across parts of the southeastern US, killing 42 people and injuring more than 300, including one person in the metropolitan area.