The hurricane season is officially underway and you’d be surprised at what cities are considered most vulnerable to hurricane damage. Many cities have not experienced significant damage in hurricanes in the past and have not made preparations to defend against hurricanes.
Here is a list of some of the most vulnerable cities in the United States. The list takes into account storm frequency, typical hurricane patterns, and the city’s population living below or at a potential storm surge elevation level.
1. Tampa – St. Petersburg, Fla.
The Tampa – St. Petersburg area on the west coast of Florida has narrowly avoided many of the strong storms in the last few years. According to Climate Central, about 125,000 people live below the flood level in the area. In St. Petersburg, nearly 45,000 homes are at least 6 feet below elevation and are vulnerable to flooding damage.
Tampa has had their fair share of hurricanes in the past. In fact, there have been nearly 70 hurricanes that have passed within 60 miles of Tampa since 1871. However, Tampa hasn’t suffered a direct hit from a hurricane since 1921.
2. Miami, Fla.
Miami residents haven’t experienced a major hurricane since Hurricane Andrew – 20 years ago. Miami has since boomed in population. According to Climate Central, about 56,000 people live below flooding elevation in Miami Beach while 23,000 people live below the line in Miami.
Historically, a hurricane passes within 50 miles of Miami every five to seven years. In fact, 71 hurricanes or tropical storms have passed within 60 miles of Miami since 1871.
The deadliest hurricane to strike Miami was in 1926 – a category 4 storm that killed 372 people and injured thousands. The storm caused $167 billion in damage in 2010 dollars. That would mean it put it ahead of Hurricane Katrina as the costliest hurricane in U.S. history.
3. New Orleans, La.
Even though New Orleans has made many upgrades since Hurricane Katrina eight years ago, there are still many vulnerable parts of the city.
About half of the city lies below sea level and 340,000 – almost 100 percent of the population – live below the flood lines.
New Orleans has even had some close calls since Hurricane Katrina with storms like Gustav and Ike. Statistically, a hurricane will pass within 50 miles of New Orleans every seven to 11 years.
4. Norfolk – Virginia Beach, Va.
Norfolk has narrowly avoided many hurricanes in the past but the region is sinking and increasing the risk of flooding. The city is home to many expensive infrastructures such as the U.S. Navy’s largest base.
Historically, there have been 57 hurricanes that have passed within 60 miles of Norfolk since 1871. The area has had some close calls with Hurricane Floyd, 1999, and Hurricane Isabel, 2003.
About 19,000 people live below the flood lines and since the flood line is rising, future hurricanes will probably have more damage than those in the past.
5. Houston – Galveston, Texas
The Houston area has a huge population of 6.1 million people with vital resources like gas and oil production. The area has been affected by hurricanes in the past – including Hurricane Ike in 2008 which caused $27.8 billion in damage and killed 20 people.
The areas of Crystal Beach, Gilchrist and High Island are highly susceptible to damage. The areas experienced catastrophic damage in 2008.
Galveston was the location of one of the U.S.’s worst ever recorded hurricanes. A hurricane struck in 1900 killing at least 8,000 people.
Currently, more than 40,000 people live below the flood lines.