The Worst Places to Retire: Weather and Natural Disasters

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

September 2019, 2017 — The triple whammy from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria are causing a lot of people to reconsider where they retire. Some previous best places to retire might end up on the worst places to retire lists instead! But hurricanes are not the only natural disaster that can ruin your retirement – temperature extremes, earthquakes, tornadoes, forest fires, and flooding can be devastating too. Now, as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rise to the highest levels in the history of the planet, our ice caps melt and sea levels rise, the dangers to where you decide from natural disasters are important considerations. it might be just as critical as cost of living, taxes, culture, climate, proximity of friends and family, and recreational opportunities.

In this article we will first talk about the kinds of weather and natural issues that could be detrimental to your retirement. While phenomena like high humidity are inconvenient, others are deadly serious. Further on in the article we will give some ideas on what you can do to mitigate your risks. This is the second in a series, the first part was “Should Retiring Snowbirds Rent or Buy: Hurricane Irma Offers Lessons“.

Hurricanes. The hurricane belt runs east from Texas along the Gulf Coast, all the way around both coasts of Florida and its interior, and then goes up the Atlantic coast all the way to Maine. As we publish this article there are 2 active major hurricanes: Jose (at one point a Category 5) is dying out in the Atlantic after inflicting catastrophic damage, and Maria is striking the Caribbean with Category 5 force. Hurricane Katrina caused $133.8 in property damage and 1833 Deaths in 2005, the same year that Wilma flooded much of the Florida Keys. Here is a link to NOAA’s site on hurricanes.
In an average season we see 10 named storms of which 6 are hurricanes, and 2.5 of those are Category 3 or higher. So far in 2017 there have been 13 named storms and 7 hurricanes, with 4 of those a Category 3 or higher. But hurricanes are certainly not the only natural disaster that can wreak havoc on your retirement.

Humidity. Many people have a negative reaction to high humidity, while for others it is a non-issue. For the most part, however, it is not life-threatening. Cities along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida and up through the Carolinas are notorious for high humidity.

Temperature extremes. It’s no secret that Alaska, northern New England including New York State, and the northern mid-west can be bone chilling much of the year with their long winters and very short summers. Arizona, southern Texas, and the Gulf Coast are paralyzingly hot during their long summers. Heat is a deadly killer compared to most other disasters – an estimated 10,000 people died in a 1980 heat wave, and 502 died in a 1999 heat wave. The planet is getting warmer, so this problem will only get worse.

Tornadoes. With over 384 people killed, the 2011 Super Outbreak set a record for the worst tornado stretch in U.S. history. Tornadoes are quite common in the Midwest and Southeast U.S., but can and do occur just about anywhere, including as a component of many hurricanes. The so-called “Tornado Alley” stretches in the middle of the country from North Texas to Canada.

Earthquakes plague many parts of the U.S. and Canada. There have been 2 major earthquakes in Mexico this September. Although California and the Northwest are the most common places for earthquakes, they are not unheard of in other parts of the country including the Yellowstone area, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois, New York State, and Georgia. Earthquakes not only cause horrible properly damage but can kill as well. Southern California has a 1 on 100 chance of a very serious earthquake in any given year. Uncontrollable fires and extended power outages are an attendant risk of earthquakes.

Floods. Cities and states along the Mississippi have some of our worst flooding problems, along with those regions drained by its tributaries from Minnesota to Louisiana to Tennessee and Pennsylvania. But flash floods can occur almost anywhere, as we have seen in Vermont, Colorado, and elsewhere. As sea levels rise coastal areas in the Southeast such as Charleston and almost all of Florida are increasingly inundated by unusually high tides. Many times the water floods in from underground.


Tsunamis, volcanoes, and mudslides can hit the west coast, including Hawaii.

Wildfires can occur anywhere, but are most common in the west and south. In 2017 much of Florida and Georgia were seriously affected by wildfires propelled by drought.

Very few safe harbors
The truth is that almost every area of the country is exposed to weather problems and natural disasters – there is no truly safe place and very few ideal regions. The New York Times reported 8 Metro areas with the lowest risk in its “Where to Live to Avoid a Natural Disaster“, using data from Sperling’s Best Places. All but one (Grand Junction, Colorado) are in Oregon or Washington State. Unfortunately many of the lowest risk cities have other, less dangerous weather issues like earthquakes or forest fires. Four of the 8 safe harbors, including Seattle, Salem (OR), and Corvallis (OR) are some of the cloudiest and rainiest places in the U.S.

So what can you do
Unless you decide to retire on one of the few places in the world that are totally safe from natural disasters, you have to choose carefully among those that are less safe. Fortunately there are some practical steps you can take to minimize the dangers. We will explore some of those here, and hope that our Members will be able to suggest others.

Move to one of the States with the history of the fewest natural disasters. Those include much of Washington, Oregon, and upstate New York and Michigan, among others.

Check out building codes and how your home was built. Building codes vary by state and city. Typically the newer your home the more advanced techniques it has incorporated in it – like roofs that are tied down, extra bracing in the framing, attachment to the foundation, etc. When your home was built is significant, as is the reputation of the builder (as it very hard for a lay person to assess how it was actually constructed).

Use safer building materials and techniques. There are a number of things you can do to make your home stronger and more resistant to danger. If you live in an area with wildfires, choose concrete roofing tiles and siding. Get hurricane resistant windows or storm shutters – if a window is blown out by debris or wind your house can literally blow up in a hurricane. When buying a new home it is a lot easier to specify these things before it is finished, but retrofitting is always possible too.

Move to an area with strict development rules. The State of Florida is among many jurisdictions that have eased restrictions on developers in recent years, e.g.; allowing them to build in more dangerous areas, fill in wetlands, and cover natural surfaces with impervious materials. The unexpectedly high flooding in Houston from Hurricane Harvey is a good example of what happens when authorities allow unchecked development. When considering an area to move to, explore how weak development controls, which can lead to flooding and other problems, might lead to problems there.

Stay away from coastal and other areas prone to flooding. FEMA has maps that rate the flooding risk just about everywhere in the country. Stay away from problem areas – even if it hasn’t flooded there yet!

Get high! High above the ground, that is. Even if the building code specifies a certain height for new construction, we are now seeing 100 year storms and even 500 year storms. The standard used to be 12′ above sea level, now it is higher. Go high if building a home from scratch. When buying an existing home, its height above potential flood levels is one of the most important things of all to consider.

Check out the area’s history of natural disasters. Fault lines, flooding, forest fires – these are all big problems. It is like marrying a partner with a history – be careful, some things can’t be changed!

What is your evacuation plan? Florida and The Florida Keys are a good example of places with that carry evacuation risks. The State has had mandatory evacuations, and when they happen, limited roads mean monumental traffic jams, fuel shortages, and the inability to get back home to work on damage. The pace of recovery is slow because it is so hard to bring in relief. If the area is hard to evacuate from, think twice about moving there.

The Bottom Line
It is easy to fall in love a place and decide to retire there. But before you make that choice, consider what natural disaster risks it might harbor. If there are risks, is there anything you can do to mitigate them.

For further reference:
What Hurricane Irma Can Teach Us About the Renting vs. Buying Question in Retirement
Farmer’s Almanac Worst Weather Cities

What do you think? Use the Comments section below to tell us about your weather and natural disaster concerns. Do you have a plan for how you can mitigate the risk of a natural disaster where you decide to retire.



Posted by Admin on September 19th, 2017

Does the Equifax Data Breach Affect You – Probably!

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

September 19, 2017 — Last week we found out that one of the nation’s largest credit monitoring services, Equifax, had been hacked. The credit records of 143 million Americans were compromised, including in most cases their social security numbers, addresses, birth dates, credit ratings and sometimes a lot more – basically the keys to the scamming kingdom. Since then the company is being investigated because there was an earlier hack not disclosed, and corporate insiders might have traded ahead of the public release of information.

If you have been wondering if you were one of those whose credit info is now available to the highest underworld bidder – yes you probably were. After all the U.S. population is 323 million, so statistically you have just under a 1 in 2 chance of being affected. This (more…)

Posted by Admin on September 18th, 2017

Should Retiring Snowbirds Rent or Buy: Irma Provides Ample Lessons

Category: Retirement Real Estate

Note: This is Part 1 of a 2 Part series. Part 2 is “The Worst Places to Retire: Weather and Natural Disasters“.

September 14, 2017 — The devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida will provide many painful lessons for snowbirds and Sunbelt retirees. Those experiences impact where to live, what type of housing to choose, and whether to rent or buy. This article will explore those factors. We are grateful to Alan E for suggesting this topic. See bottom for more related articles on renting vs. buying and natural disasters.

Where to live
Almost every area of the country has its own set of natural disasters to worry about; it is hard to find a place that is immune to at least one of these: earthquake, hurricane, tsunami, blizzards, floods, sinkholes, tornadoes, droughts, wildfires, etc. When it comes to choosing a place to retire, it really boils down to picking your poison.

Over the long term Florida and Texas have had more devastating hurricanes than anywhere else, although in recent years New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut had more. Because Florida is a peninsula with coasts on three sides, the (more…)

Posted by Admin on September 13th, 2017

The Galapagos Islands- a Fabulous Bucket List Trip

Category: Adventurous retirement

September 13, 2017– The Galápagos Islands are at the top of many people’s bucket list destinations. This article will give you a taste of what that experience is like, based on your Editor’s recent trip, plus some tips and advice if you decide to go.

Where and what
The Galápagos are a volcanic archipelago of small islands in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles west of Ecuador, which is near the top of south South America. They are most famous because of the role they played in Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution explained in his groundbreaking “Origin of the Species“. He visited the Islands in the early 1800’s, at a time when its only (more…)

Posted by Admin on September 12th, 2017

Confidence in Comfortable Retirement Dips Among Pre-Retirees

Category: Retirement Planning

September 2, 2017 — Results from the Employee Benefits Research Institute’s Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS) paint a disturbing picture for many American workers. The percentage of pre-retirees who are very confident in their ability to afford a comfortable retirement continues to be low. On the other hand, people who are already retired report a much higher level of confidence that their finances will provide a comfortable retirement.

It is hard to say why the two groups – pre-retirees and the retired – report different levels of confidence. It could be that folks who are already retired know their situation and do not have the anxiety about the future that (more…)

Posted by Admin on September 1st, 2017

Gary and Pat: These Former Educators Give a Master’s Class on Retirement Planning

Category: Retirement Planning

Editor’s note. This is another in our continuing series of articles exploring actual people’s retirement stories. Thanks so much to Gary and Pat for sharing theirs. See bottom of article for more baby boomer retirement articles.

September 1, 2017 — When it comes to planning out a retirement and then living it to the fullest, this pair of former educators in the Michigan school system could teach the course. Gary grew up on a farm on Lake Michigan, and Pat grew up nearby. Both learned the value of hard work, and both loved living near the lake and exploring it winter and summer in their childhood and working days.

The pair have always been enthusiastic runners, bikers, and tennis players. They met as competitive cross country ski racers, crisscrossing (more…)

Posted by Admin on August 31st, 2017

Don’t Get Hurt by the Latest Scam – Phony Federal Reserve Accounts

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

August 28, 2017 — From June to mid-August 15, nearly 107,000 payments for more than $100 million were attempted by people trying to use the latest financial scam. Unfortunately for those who tried, all of the payments were nullified. In this “too good to be true” flim flam people are being told there are secret accounts at the Federal Reserve that ordinary people can tap into to pay bills, if they learn how. All you need to do is add your Social Security number to (more…)

Posted by Admin on August 28th, 2017

Retired Men’s Greatest Health Risk? We Bet You Can’t Guess It

Category: Health Issues

August 26, 2017 — As men hit middle age and then go into retirement there is one persistent health risk that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Isolation, new studies show, can cause all kinds of serious health and psychological problems. The harm caused by isolation is happening to men in ever greater numbers, and usually gets worse after they retire. Women suffer from isolation too, but not in nearly with the same frequency, and then usually just in the later stages of life. A story at the Boston Globe (see link at bottom) sparked this article and a whole lot of comments. We are happy to see that ur version on the topic is getting a lot useful discussion too.

An exercise
If you are a man reading this article, here’s an exercise that might be painful as well as instructive. Write down the names of how many close friends you have. Once you’ve done that, write down how many times you have had a close interaction with any (more…)

Posted by Admin on August 26th, 2017

Retirement Planning: Our Members Are on the Move!

Category: Retirement Planning

August 23, 2017 — There is one very clear conclusion from our latest Member survey, “Selling Your Home and Retirement Planning” – our Members overwhelmingly plan on moving to a different home when they retire. And, they plan on moving on in much greater numbers than does the general population. Some 90% of our recent survey takers said they definitely will sell their home, are thinking about it, or have already sold. That contrasts with just 6% that say they will definitely or probably stay in their current home.

Topretirements’ Members itch to move is starkly different from a recent AARP survey, where 90% of people over 65 said they want to remain in their own homes and community as long as possible. For comparison, a Del Webb survey some years back found that about one third of baby boomers plan on moving in retirement.

The Topretirements.com survey from last week asked 10 questions about moving, downsizing, and what kind of home you intend to buy for (more…)

Posted by Admin on August 23rd, 2017

The Mysteries of Decluttering from Lucy Burdette

Category: Home and Garden

The Mystery of Decluttering…Recipes @LucyBurdette
August 16, 2017
By LUCY BURDETTE… Over the past 4 to 6 weeks, I’ve been involved in what one might call “productive procrastination.” This means using the inspiration about cleaning stuff out of my house that I found here to actually clean stuff out of my house. This most often happens when I am stalled on my writing. (Why is it that cleaning is so appealing when a person is hammering out a first draft of her new novel?)

We’ve made multiple trips to the clothing donation box, more trips to (more…)

Posted by Admin on August 16th, 2017