Popular Science

Where in the United States is nature most likely to kill you?

Short answer: it’s complicated.

Flooding near Houston, Texas, in April 2016.

The United States is an enormous country, spanning mountains, deserts, forests, prairie, tundra, and more. This varied terrain is also home to many natural hazards spawned by air, water, fire, and forces beneath the Earth’s surface.

Some of these threats are dramatic; the United States and its territories have the greatest number of active volcanoes of any country except Indonesia, as well as the most tornadoes. Other hazards, like heat waves, are less flashy but can still kill you.

Different regions of the country face very different hazards. But which part of the United States is the most dangerous? It turns out there’s no simple answer, although the south does have a particularly generous share of hazards. Here’s how the country’s natural menaces differ by geography.

What kind of dangers are we talking about?

The weather and geology of the United States allow for many natural perils and disasters. Earthquakes, volcanoes, blizzards, tornados, intense storms, wildfires, landslides, avalanches, sinkholes, flooding, droughts, heat waves, and more are all on the table.

“The U.S. is blessed with a wide range of natural hazard events,” says David Applegate, acting deputy director of the United States Geological Survey. And most of these hazards have hotspots around the country.

Volcanic eruptions are more common in the western states. Most are located in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii. Earthquakes are likewise common on the west coast, but also happen in portions of the central and eastern United States. In fact, a series of

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