Worst Natural Disaster in Every State

April 8, 2019 by John Harrington

As one of the largest countries in the world, the United States is also one of the most geographically diverse — from deserts to forests 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. Midwestern areas near rivers are often inundated with massive floods. 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.

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 climate change.

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.

Click here to see the worst natural disaster in every state
Click here to see our methodology

Source: Tom Pennington / Getty Images

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

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Source: Central Press / Getty Images

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

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Source: NOAA / Wikimedia Commons

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

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Source: Steve Nicklas / Wikimedia Commons

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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Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

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

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Source: Bettmann / Getty Images

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

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Source: Sheldon Dick / Wikimedia Commons

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

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Source: National Weather Service

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

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

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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Source: American Red Cross / Wikimedia Commons

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

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Source: Keystone / Hulton Archive /Getty Images

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

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Source: US Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons

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

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Source: Ralf-Finn Hestoft / CORBIS / Corbis via Getty Images

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

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Source: Library of Congress

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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Source: HappyMario64 / YouTube

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

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Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia Commons

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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Source: DEA / BIBLIOTECA AMBROSIANA / Getty Images

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

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Source: Chris Graythen / Getty Images

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

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Source: Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

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

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Source: Barry Lewis / Flickr

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

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Source: NOAA / Wikimedia Commons

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

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Source: State of Michigan

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

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Source: Minnesota Historical Society

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

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Source: Mark Wilson / Getty Images

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

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Source: pixabay

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

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Source: U.S. Forest Service

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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Source: Wikimedia Commons

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

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Source: Ethan Miller / Getty Images

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

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Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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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Source: Mario Tama / Getty Images

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

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Source: Ralph Crane / Getty Images

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

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Source: Library of Congress

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

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Source: Fema / Getty Images

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

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Source: State Historical Society of North Dakota, 11063-233

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

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Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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

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Source: NOAA / City of Woodward

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

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Source: National Weather Service / Wikimedia Commons

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

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

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

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

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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Source: American Red Cross

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

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Source: Fred Ross / Toronto Star via Getty Images

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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Source: Courtesy of Tennessee State Library and archives

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

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Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / Department of Commerce

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

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Source: Utah State Historical Society

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

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Source: Vermont Historical Society

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

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Source: The Library of Virginia / Flickr

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

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Source: Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons

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

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Source: Bettmann / Getty Images

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

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

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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Source: U.S. Forest Service

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

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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. 24/7 Wall St. 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.