Where Natural Disasters Are Most Likely To Hit

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After two major earthquakes and hurricanes struck areas of North America and the Caribbean in Sept. 2017, a gentle October would do well to soothe the minds of those affected by the disasters and those who were lucky enough not to have been.  

A calmer month would also ease the strain on the federal budget. With three months left in the year, FEMA is already scraping what it can out of its budget to offset the cost of the effects of this year's former and potential natural disasters. The agency has already requested $22 billion beyond it's annual allowance and is likely to need to request more before the year ends, New Republic reports.

FEMA's yearly budget is allocated based on the average natural disaster costs of previous years. In the event that FEMA has to spend more than average (as it has in 2017), the agency needs to request more money from Congress.

The government's pay-as-you-go system for disaster relief has brought into light a lack of preparedness for quick response efforts and sparked debate as to whether it's time for an overhaul.

"If we built up a reserve of $100 billion, we’d actually have time to figure out the best way to rebuild," said Michael Brown, a former FEMA administrator for the George W. Bush administration.

Others believe it would be better to focus on disaster preparedness and infrastructure planning to reduce damage and overall repair cost.

"The real question is, why are we spending so much on relief to begin with?" said Jeff Schlegelmilch, deputy director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. "Why aren’t we spending on preparation and resilience?"

In lieu of new disaster funding reform, individual citizens can prepare in their own ways. All of the U.S. lies at risk for some sort of devastating natural phenomenon, but knowing where your area lies in terms of natural disaster risk can help you anticipate and create a plan for such an event.

Thus far, 2017 has been a particularly active year for hurricanes. According to meteorologist Philip Klotzbach from Colorado State University, September generated the highest amount of "Accumulated Cyclone Energy," or ACE -- a statistic used to measure the activity in a given hurricane season -- than any other month on record. On a year-wide basis, 2017 ranks third as of Sept. 28, trailing behind 2004 and 1993's hurricane seasons, Klozbach noted in a Sept. 28 tweet.

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As hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have demonstrated, the southeast coast of the U.S. and island territories in the Caribbean run the highest risk for hurricanes and associated flooding. Florida, Texas and Louisiana have had the most hurricanes out of any continental U.S. states, according to CNN.

Wildfires racked up another devastating toll this year. So far in 2017, 8 million acres have burned, which is nearly 2.5 million more than average, according to the Washington Examiner.

While 2015 was worse for fires in terms of acres burned, 2017 has been the most expensive year on record, since many of the fires burned in close vicinity to homes and neighborhoods. Funding debates are ongoing between FEMA and the U.S. Forest Service, which has spent more than 2 billion dollars extinguishing wildfires for the fiscal year, according to the USDA.

You're most likely to be affected by large fires if you live in or near western states, such as Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington, according to USDA data reported by ServiceMaster Restore.

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FEMA's Natural Disaster report confirms that those who live in central U.S. are at high risk for tornadoes. While tornadoes are likely to come with more warning than some other natural disasters, advance measures, like adequate, underground shelter, are crucial to surviving high-category storms.

Unlike tornadoes, earthquakes strike with little warning and can have aftershocks that last for days. California is well known as an earthquake hotspot, but the Midwest, southeast, Kentucky, Mississippi, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont also have some risk, according to ServiceMaster Restore.

If you're the type to play it safe, then there are some areas that are less prone to natural disasters than others. Using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USFS, and FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program, CBS News ranked certain metropolitan regions of Michigan, Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and New York to be particularly low-risk areas for natural disasters.

Sources: New Republic, FEMA, CBS NewsServiceMaster Restore, Washington Examiner, Phil Klotzbach/Twitter (2), USDACNN / Featured Image: Mark Moran/NOAA Photo Library/Flickr / Embedded Images: NWS BMX via Wikimedia CommonsJesse Allen/NASA via Wikimedia CommonsDennis W. Goff/U.S. Air Force via Wikimedia Commons

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