Special Report

Every US State's Worst Natural Disaster

Bettmann / Getty Images

The United States is a large nation. Out of 195 countries, it comes in at third not only in population but in land mass as well. It also has an impressive geographical diversity and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are four regions and nine divisions based on geographic proximity. Depending on which division and region you are in, you can find a multitude of varying landscapes, often in the same state – from miles of coastline and deserts to forests and rivers.

These beautiful landscapes often come with many advantages but unfortunately, they are still susceptible to Mother Nature and what she brings, leaving the country vulnerable to many kinds of natural disasters. These powerful displays of nature not only destroy property and present serious problems to the economy but also claim hundreds of lives every year. There doesn’t seem to be any particular region that is free from these phenomena, making each area in America susceptible to different types of natural disasters.

The East Coast faces the threat of floods and devastating hurricanes each year. The Midwestern part of the country is frequently hit with tornadoes, and many areas close to rivers are often inundated with massive floods. The Southern region is faced with hurricanes, tornadoes, and coastal erosion, and the West Coast is at risk of wildfires, earthquakes, landslides, and even volcanic eruptions. (These are the worst floods in American history).

24/7 Wall St. reviewed government sources on the weather events in each state’s history that caused the highest number of fatalities to determine every U.S. state’s worst natural disaster. While some states have not faced any mass-casualty weather events, thanks to their geography and location, 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.

The United States ranks first globally in the number of extreme weather events and its weather continues to become more volatile. According to the National Center for Environmental Information, in 2023 there were 28 weather events that each caused over $1 billion in damage. In many parts of the country, these weather events could become even more destructive as a result of global warming — here are places where weather is getting worse because of climate change.

Here is the worst natural disaster in each state

1. Alabama

Source: Tom Pennington / Getty Images

  • Natural disaster: Deep South Tornado Outbreak
  • Date: March 21, 1932
  • Fatalities: 286
  • Other event considered: Tornado outbreak – 1932

2. Alaska

Source: Central Press / Getty Images

  • Natural disaster: Good Friday Earthquake
  • Date: March 27, 1964
  • Fatalities: 139
  • Other event considered: Chilkoot Trail “Palm Sunday” Avalanche – 1898

3. Arizona

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • 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

5. California

Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

  • Natural disaster: San Francisco Earthquake
  • Date: April 18, 1906
  • Fatalities: 3,000
  • Other event considered: Los Angeles Flood – 1938

6. Colorado

Source: Bettmann / Getty Images

  • Natural disaster: Big Thompson Canyon Flood
  • Date: July 31, 1976
  • Fatalities: 144
  • Other event considered: Denver Flood – 1965

7. Connecticut

  • Natural disaster: Great New England Hurricane
  • Date: Sept. 21, 1938
  • Fatalities: 85
  • Other event considered: Great Flood – 1955

8. Delaware

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • 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

10. Georgia

  • Natural disaster: Sea Islands Hurricane
  • Date: Aug. 15, 1893
  • Fatalities: 2,000+
  • Other event considered: Atlanta Flood – 2009

11. Hawaii

Source: Keystone / Hulton Archive /Getty Images

  • Natural disaster: Aleutian Islands Earthquake/Tsunami
  • Date: April 1, 1946
  • Fatalities: 159
  • Other event considered: Hurricane Iniki – 1992

12. Idaho

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

13. Illinois

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

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

14. Indiana

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • Natural disaster: The Great Flood of 1913
  • Date: March 1913
  • Fatalities: 100
  • Other event considered: Tri-State Tornadoes – 1925

15. Iowa

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • 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

17. Kentucky

Source: DEA / BIBLIOTECA AMBROSIANA / Getty Images

  • Natural disaster: Louisville Cyclone
  • Date: March 27, 1890
  • Fatalities: 100
  • Other event considered: Ice and snow storm – 2009

18. Louisiana

Source: Chris Graythen / Getty Images

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

19. Maine

Source: Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

  • Natural disaster: Ice Storm of ’98
  • Date: Jan. 4, 1998
  • Fatalities: 8
  • Other event considered: Great Flood – 1987

20. Maryland

Source: Barry Lewis / Flickr

  • Natural disaster: Pan American jet hit by lightning
  • Date: Dec. 8, 1963
  • Fatalities: 81
  • Other event considered: Rainstorm and flood – 1971

21. Massachusetts

  • Natural disaster: Worcester Tornado
  • Date: June 9, 1953
  • Fatalities: 90
  • Other event considered: Great New England Hurricane – 1938

22. Michigan

Source: victormaschek / Getty Images

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

23. Minnesota

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • Natural disaster: Cloquet Fire
  • Date: Oct. 12, 1918
  • Fatalities: 450
  • Other event considered: Twin Cities Tornadoes – 1965

24. Mississippi

Source: Mark Wilson / Getty Images

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

25. Missouri

  • Natural disaster: Joplin Tornado
  • Date: May 22, 2011
  • Fatalities: 158
  • Other event considered: Great Flood – 1951

26. Montana

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

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

27. Nebraska

Source: Jacob Boomsma / iStock via Getty Images

  • Natural disaster: Schoolhouse Blizzard
  • Date: Jan. 12, 1888
  • Fatalities: 100
  • Other event considered: Blizzard – 1949

28. Nevada

Source: Ethan Miller / Getty Images

  • Natural disaster: Heatwave
  • 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: Heatwave – 1911

30. New Jersey

Source: Mario Tama / Getty Images

  • Natural disaster: Superstorm Sandy
  • Date: Oct. 29, 2012
  • Fatalities: 43
  • Other event considered: Hurricane Connie – 1955

31. New Mexico

Source: Ralph Crane / Getty Images

  • Natural disaster: Blizzard
  • Date: Dec. 14, 1967
  • Fatalities: 51
  • Other event considered: Cero Grande Fire – 2000

32. New York

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • Natural disaster: Great Blizzard of 1888
  • Date: March 12-14, 1888
  • Fatalities: 200
  • Other event considered: Superstorm Sandy – 2012

33. North Carolina

Source: Fema / Getty Images

  • Natural disaster: Hurricane Floyd
  • Date: Sept. 16, 1999
  • Fatalities: 26
  • Other event considered: Hurricane Hazel – 1954

34. North Dakota

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • Natural disaster: Schoolhouse Blizzard
  • Date: Jan. 12, 1888
  • Fatalities: 235
  • Other event considered: Red River Flood – 1997

35. Ohio

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

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

36. Oklahoma

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • Natural disaster: Glazier-Higgins-Woodward tornadoes
  • Date: April 9, 1947
  • Fatalities: 113
  • Other event considered: Tornado outbreak – 1999

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

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • Natural disaster: Great New England Hurricane
  • Date: Sept. 21, 1938
  • Fatalities: 100
  • Other event considered: Great Gale – 1815

40. South Carolina

Source: American Red Cross

  • Natural disaster: Sea Islands Hurricane
  • Date: Aug. 15, 1893
  • Fatalities: 2,000+
  • Other event considered: Charleston Earthquake – 1886

41. South Dakota

Source: Fred Ross / Toronto Star via Getty Images

  • Natural disaster: Black Hills Flood
  • Date: June 9-10, 1972
  • Fatalities: 238
  • Other event considered: Schoolhouse Blizzard – 1888

42. Tennessee

Source: Kruck20 / iStock via Getty Images

  • Natural disaster: Southern United States Tornado Outbreak
  • Date: March 21-22, 1952
  • Fatalities: 67
  • Other event considered: Nashville Tornado – 1933

43. Texas

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • Natural disaster: Galveston Hurricane
  • Date: Sept. 8, 1900
  • Fatalities: 8,000
  • Other event considered: Brazos River Flood – 1899

44. Utah

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • Natural disaster: Bingham Canyon Avalanche
  • Date: Feb. 17, 1926
  • Fatalities: 36
  • Other event considered: Flash flood – 2015

45. Vermont

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • 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

47. Washington

  • Natural disaster: Wellington Avalanche
  • Date: March 1, 1910
  • Fatalities: 96
  • Other event considered: Mount St. Helens Eruption – 1980

48. West Virginia

Source: Bettmann / Getty Images

  • Natural disaster: Great Appalachian Storm
  • Date: Nov. 24-30, 1950
  • Fatalities: 160
  • Other event considered: Tornado outbreak – 1944

49. Wisconsin

Source: Wikimedia Commons

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

50. Wyoming

Source: U.S. Forest Service / Wikimedia Commons

  • 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 every U.S. state’s worst natural disaster.

Sponsored: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us?
Contact the 24/7 Wall St. editorial team.