States Ranked: Where Concern Over Natural Disasters Reigns Supreme

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Need to Know from SafeWise
  • Heat waves, flooding, tornadoes—and more extreme weather events—have been on the rise across the U.S. We polled 5,000 Americans to see which states worry the most about natural disasters.
  • The South and Northeast are the most concerned parts of the country.
  • Strong winds are the biggest worry, with 52% of Americans citing it as a top concern.
  • Worry is driving action, with 6 in 10 people in the U.S. preparing for natural disasters at home—that jumps to 8 in 10 in the top 2 most worried states.

There’s nary a corner left in the U.S. that’s not been affected by extreme weather in the past year day. Whether you’re currently “enjoying” the extended heat wave covering most of the country, facing toxic smoky air from wildfires, or bracing for flooding and the upcoming hurricane season, chances are the wacky weather system has impacted your life or the life of someone you love.

With natural disasters becoming par for the course, anxiety about severe weather—and its fallout—is on the rise. CNBC recently released a list of the states that are least-prepared for extreme weather. News like that, combined with natural concern about what’s coming next (freak hail storms? flash floods?) isn’t comforting.

Instead of grinding our teeth (is that just me?) and hiding in the basement, we decided to find out how stressed out Americans really are. We asked 5,000 people from across the country (at least 100 in every state) how concerned they are about different natural disasters—and what they’re doing about it.

Interestingly, four of our top 10 most-worried states are also included in the CNBC report of those least prepared for a natural disaster. The good news is that many individuals in these states are proactively preparing for the coming storm. Here’s a look at the most-concerned states and how they’re getting ready for the wrath of Mother Nature.

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10. (tie) Kentucky

Moody clouds over Kentucky

Image credit: Wanda Jewell

The Bluegrass state is tied with Alabama as the tenth most-concerned state when it comes to natural disasters. Nearly four in 10 respondents told us they worry about weather-related events every day. It's no wonder when Louisville alone saw 27 noteworthy weather events in 2022, including 22 tornadoes. This year didn’t start out any better, with more destruction this spring from floods and tornadoes. And even though Kentucky got an early pass on the heat wave impacting most of the country (June was one of the 20 coolest the state has seen), the high temps finally settled in.

  • Percent worried about natural disasters: 38.43%
  • Number under evacuation orders in 2022: 10%
  • Weather people worry about most: Strong/high winds (57%)
  • Percent who prepare for natural disasters: 60%
  • Preparation method used most often: Family emergency planning

10. (tie) Alabama

Damage from Fultondale AL tornado 2021

Image credit: philfoster440

Alabama is just as worried as Kentucky when it comes to extreme weather, but it's a bit less prepared for it. Alabama tied with New York as the tenth least-prepared state on the CNBC list. And the bad news keeps coming. Alabama had more severe weather reports than any other state as of March this year—kicking 2023 off with 29 tornadoes in January. That's a daunting start to a year that follows one that experienced the second-highest number of tornadoes ever in the state. But Alabamians are taking steps to be better prepared. The state declared February 5–10, 2023, Severe Weather Preparedness Week.

  • Percent worried about natural disasters: 38.43%
  • Number under evacuation orders in 2022: 12%
  • Weather people worry about most: Strong/high winds (64%)
  • Percent who prepare for natural disasters: 60%
  • Preparation method used most often: Emergency kits

9. New York

Man trying to clear snow on sidewalk and cars buried in snow in Brooklyn NY

Image credit: Dmitry Vorobyev

Heat is the word right now, but extreme cold and blizzard conditions froze out western New York late last year. As of December 26, the Buffalo area saw 28 fatalities from the devastating storm. This year hasn't been much kinder, with deadly floods, dangerous smoke-filled air from wildfires in Canada, and record temps scorching The Empire State. The National Weather Service and New York Office of Emergency Management declared a Severe Weather Awareness Week for the state in April, which only bolsters the efforts of the 63% of New Yorkers doing their own prep at home.

  • Percent worried about natural disasters: 39.57%
  • Number under evacuation orders in 2022: 7%
  • Weather people worry about most: Strong/high winds (53%)
  • Percent who prepare for natural disasters: 63%
  • Preparation method used most often: Emergency kits

8. Arkansas

Cloud to cloud ligtning in Jonesboro, AR

Image credit: Rdlamkin

June 2023 was the most active storm season The Natural State has seen since 2000. Tens of millions of dollars in damage was reported in the aftermath of a swath of severe storms that kicked off in the second week of June. Not to be outdone, the sun got in the game at the end of the month, creating extremely hot and humid conditions in a state already ravaged by extreme weather events. Thankfully, Arkansas didn't land among CNBC's top 10 states unprepared for natural disasters, which may explain why nearly 7 in ten who call the state home are proactive when it comes to emergency planning. Impressively, over half the residents we surveyed have a family emergency plan in place.

  • Percent worried about natural disasters: 40.00%
  • Number under evacuation orders in 2022: 11%
  • Weather people worry about most: Strong/high winds (62%)
  • Percent who prepare for natural disasters: 67%
  • Preparation method used most often: Family emergency planning

7. Mississippi

Pearl River flood water rising in a neighborhood in Jackson MS August 2022

Image credit: CRobertson

Mississippi broke records this past June for giant hailstones measuring nearly five inches, but the wild weather didn't stop there. The Magnolia State also saw the strongest June tornado in 66 years, with winds estimated at 150 MPH. That massive tornado was one of 19 that hit the state in June, smashing the previous record of seven in June 1974. As if that weren't enough, Mississippi was drenched by heavy rains in July, leading to  flash flooding from Jackson to Winston County. After 76 tornadoes hit the state in 2021, Governor Tate Reeves declared October 17–22, 2022, Fall Severe Weather Preparedness Week—it may have worked, as more than seven in 10 residents told us they actively prepare for natural disasters.

  • Percent worried about natural disasters: 40.14%
  • Number under evacuation orders in 2022: 14%
  • Weather people worry about most: Strong/high winds (63%)
  • Percent who prepare for natural disasters: 72%
  • Preparation method used most often: Family emergency planning

6. Georgia

Hurricane Dorian causes dangerous surf along the beaches of Coastal Georgia in 2019

Severe weather is the gift that keeps on giving in Georgia. There's not a month in the year when the Peach State is clear from some kind of extreme weather event. 2023 came in swinging with intense thunderstorms and 32 confirmed tornadoes in the first few months of the year. Last year the state saw temperatures range from 13℉ to 106℉. And although the heat dome baking much of the South hasn't broken any records in Georgia so far, officials and media in the state have been reminding Georgians how to survive in the heat.

  • Percent worried about natural disasters: 40.57%
  • Number under evacuation orders in 2022: 9%
  • Weather people worry about most: Strong/high winds (58%)
  • Percent who prepare for natural disasters: 66%
  • Preparation method used most often: Family emergency planning

5. Texas

Solar panels covered in snow during winter storm in Austin, TX 2022

Image credit: RoschetzkyIstockPhoto

The Lone Star State has seen its share of severe weather—from deadly ice storms to tornado outbreaks and extreme temps. We all remember the billion-dollar ice storm that took down the state's power grid in 2021, which is why it's surprising that Texas didn't show up on CNBC's list of states least prepared for natural disasters. It seems Texans have learned their lesson, though, with just over seven in 10 telling us they prepare for extreme weather on their own. But at least 15% said they've considered leaving the state for less eventful climes.

  • Percent worried about natural disasters: 41.00%
  • Number under evacuation orders in 2022: 4%
  • Weather people worry about most: Extreme heat/cold (66%)
  • Percent who prepare for natural disasters: 71%
  • Preparation method used most often: Emergency kits

4. Nevada

Image credit: ImagineGolf

Nevada residents may be gambling when it comes to extreme weather preparation. Despite being the fourth most-concerned state in regard to natural disasters, just over four in 10 Nevadans told us they don't do anything to prepare for extreme weather. For a state reckoning with drought, astronomical heat, flooding, and rockslides, the reluctance to act is surprising. They may not be as into family emergency planning as some other states, but Nevada residents are considering relocating more than others—15% told us they've considered leaving in search of fewer natural disasters. Just 8% of Americans overall have though about moving due to weather.

  • Percent worried about natural disasters: 41.14%
  • Number under evacuation orders in 2022: 5%
  • Weather people worry about most: Drought (61%)
  • Percent who prepare for natural disasters: 59%
  • Preparation method used most often: Emergency kits

3. California

Bomb cyclone causes severe storm with severe flood damage in Capitola; storm kills 2 in coastal Santa Cruz County, CA, part of Capitola Wharf and Sea Cliff Pier 2023

Image credit: Rosangela Lima

California is home to a lot of glitzy awards shows but these are two "accolades" I'm sure The Golden State never wanted: California is the seventh least-prepared state and the third most-concerned state when it comes to natural disasters. California sees a vast array of severe weather—everything from deadly bomb cyclones to wildfires, drought, and earthquakes. 2023 kicked off with an emergency declaration from FEMA for severe winter storms, flooding, and mudslides. The summer heat wave has seen Death Valley break records as the hottest spot on the whole planet. It's no surprise that more than 7 in 10 Californians make emergency prep a priority.

  • Percent worried about natural disasters: 42.29%
  • Number under evacuation orders in 2022: 16%
  • Weather people worry about most: Drought (56%)
  • Percent who prepare for natural disasters: 73%
  • Preparation method used most often: Emergency kits

2. Florida

residential high rise apartment buildings with dark tropical storm clouds in Aventura, Florida at the beginning of hurricane season 2020

Image credit: Boogich

The Sunshine State may have too much of a good thing—heat records set in 2022 have already been shattered by the relentless heat wave of 2023. And, ahead of hurricane season hitting its stride, rains have been drenching the west coast of Florida, while the eastern side of the state saw one of the driest Julys on record. Fortunately, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a near-normal hurricane season. No matter what, though, residents may be more prepared than the state itself. Florida is the second least-prepared state on CNBC's list, but more than 8 in 10 Floridians told us they're prepared for what nature has to dish up.

  • Percent worried about natural disasters: 43.86%
  • Number under evacuation orders in 2022: 33%
  • Weather people worry about most: Hurricanes (82%)
  • Percent who prepare for natural disasters: 81%
  • Preparation method used most often: Emergency kits

1. Louisiana

Tornado Over Lake Pontchartrain Louisiana 2018

Image credit: Art Wager

Louisiana has the unfortunate distinction of topping CNBC's list of the states that are least prepared for extreme weather. The Pelican State is also the one most worried about natural disasters—and 15% of survey respondents said frequent weather events has made them think twice about staying in the state. The state has been battered with some of the biggest storms to ever make landfall in the U.S. Thankfully, the state got a reprieve in 2022 (no hurricanes), but residents had to contend with drought and tornadoes. Forecasts from NOAA predict an average hurricane season in 2023, which would be a welcome break after the searing summer heat wave. 

  • Percent worried about natural disasters: 47.71%
  • Number under evacuation orders in 2022: 21%
  • Weather people worry about most: Hurricanes (85%)
  • Percent who prepare for natural disasters: 81%
  • Preparation method used most often: Family emergency planning

Methodology

To find the states that worry the most about natural disasters, we expanded the scope of our annual State of Safety survey. Since 2018, we've partnered with with Lux Insights to conduct an annual “state of the nation” study to gain a deeper understanding of key safety and security concerns across the U.S. The most recent survey, which provided the data for this report, was fielded January 9–14, 2023.

At least 100 respondents were surveyed in each state and quotas were set to monitor completes against U.S. Census data. Based on the number of completions, the margin of error (MOE) is ±1.4% and each state has an MOE ±9.8%. To qualify for the survey, respondents had to be at least 18 years of age, a resident of the U.S. (excluding the District of Columbia), and could not work for an advertising agency, market research firm, marketing firm/department, public relations agency, or news/media company.

Because the survey was fielded in early 2023, we asked respondents to reflect on their perceptions of the past year (2022). That said, perceptions may not be entirely accurate of how respondents felt in 2022, as top-of-mind topics and current situations/events may influence perceptions.

Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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