Update Sept 19, 2017 – We updated this article. Here is a link to the new one.
May 3, 2011 — When it comes to selecting your best place to retire the weather, climate, and exposure to natural disasters can have a major impact on your retirement enjoyment. We think these are important factors to consider, along with cost of living, taxes, culture, proximity of friends and family, and recreational opportunities.
Before we discuss some regions and cities that rank poorly for weather, let’s talk about the kinds of weather and natural issues that could be detrimental to your retirement. Some of these phenomena are inconvenient, while others are deadly serious:
– Sunshine. It’s true, people are generally happier when the sun shines. Rainy day after rainy day does not… do much for the spirits. People who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder can be prone to moodiness and loss of energy in dark winter months.
– 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 – 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 springs, summers, and falls. Arizona, southern Texas, and the Gulf Coast are paralyzingly hot during their long summers. Surprisingly, 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.
– Tornadoes. This April’s horrendous tornadoes highlight the real danger that this type of natural disaster brings. With over 300 people killed and 1,000 tornado reports, April, 2011 will most likely set a record for the worst tornado month in U.S. history. Tornadoes are quite common in the Midwest and southeastern U.S. and Midwest, but can and do occur just about anywhere.
Earthquakes, Floods, Hurricanes, and Other Disasters. Earthquakes plague many parts of American and Canada. Although California and the Northwest are most common sites for earthquakes, they are not unheard of in other parts of the country such as the Yellowstone area, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois, New York State, and Georgia. Earthquakes not only cause horrible properly damage but can kill as well.
Anyone who watched the news this week knows that the cities and states along the Mississippi have the 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 in low lying areas.
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. Hurricane Katrina caused $133.8 in property damage and 1833 Deaths. Here is a link to NOAA’s site on hurricanes.
Tsunamis, volcanoes, and mudslides can hit the west coast. Most of the western and southern U.S. is exposed to wildfires. Drought can and does occur anywhere. Allergies are another important issue for many people, often triggered by factors like pollen, dust, or mold.
Safe Harbors have other problems
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 in its “Where to Live to Avoid a Natural Disaster” 8 Metro areas with the lowest risk, 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. 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. (See reader comment below questioning Seattle’s inclusion on this list).
Worst Regions and cities for natural disasters:
What city has been hit by the most tornadoes? Oklahoma City. The National Weather Service reports that Oklahoma City has had the most reported tornadoes – over 100. ). Tornado Alley as identified by NOAA starts in the top half of Texas and runs due north through all but the most eastern portions of that state and Oklahoma, most of Kansas, and the eastern parts of Nebraska and South Dakota. But tornadoes can and do happen about anywhere, particularly to the east of the Alley in states like Missouri, Kansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Illlinois, Ohio, and the Carolinas.
Most vulnerable and overdue cities
Weather.com has published an interesting list of the most vulnerable and overdue cities for a weather related disaster. Somehow these cities, all of which lie in hurricane lanes, have managed to escape serious storms that struck their close neighbors. The list: Atlantic City, NJ; Savannah, GA; Tampa Bay, FL; New York, NY; and Miami, FL.
10 Worst Places for Rain and Clouds
The Farmers Almanac published a list in 2006 of the 10 worst cities for weather. Most of them are downwind of the ocean or a large lake. They sound dismal!
– Quillayute, Washington—The number one worst weather location. It is tied with Astoria, Oregon as the cloudiest U.S city (240 days). It is also the most humid (83%), second for rain (104.5 inches) and rainy days (210)
– Astoria, Oregon—Ties Quillayute for cloudiest in the nation (240 days), and plenty rainy too
– Marquette and Saulte St. Marie, Michigan—These cities tied because they ranked so high for cold, snow, and rain
– Syracuse and Binghamton, New York— Another close tie based on precip and clouds. We should add that winters are very long here
– Elkins, West Virginia— A very rainy city, as is nearby Pittsburgh PA
– New Orleans, Louisiana – Humid with a chance of hurricanes and flood
– Eugene, Oregon – Cloudy and humid
– Hilo, Hawaii – Gets the distinction of being the wettest city in the U.S. – a 75% chance on any day. Not to mention tsunami threats, and nearby volcanoes. Note: We still love this city, when it’s not rainy it’s very nice.
Honorable Mentions for Poor Weather
Junea, Nom, and Anchorage in Alaska
Many cities in Michigan east of the lake (Alpena and Grand Rapids)
The Bottom Line
As always, keep in mind your retirement priorities when factoring in the weather. Burlington, VT, while cold and snowy, can be a Mecca for folks who like to ski, boat, or enjoy the ambiance of a college town. New Orleans, of course, is ground zero for great food and music, despite its humidity and vulnerability to natural disasters. And Hilo, Hawaii, is stunning despite being the wettest place in the U.S.
For further reference:
For further reference:
What Hurricane Irma Can Teach Us About the Renting vs. Buying Question in Retirement
Farmer’s Almanac Worst Weather Cities
My Search for the (Almost) Perfect Retirement Climate
Worst States for Retirement
What do you think? Use the Comments section below to tell us about your weather and natural disaster concerns. Is your dream retirement town better than the bad press it might get?