Friday, August 26, 2011

Northeast a Safe Area?

I’ve always felt that the northeastern part of the United States (New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) is one of the safest places to live from a natural disaster point of view. Then a few days ago we felt a tremor from an earthquake in Virginia, and now we have a hurricane bearing down on us (Irene). Maybe I need to rethink my opinion.

I still believe the Northeast is safer than many other parts of the country, although obviously no place on earth is completely safe. If you’re looking for a place to live, maybe the Northeast isn’t too bad (despite high cost of living and high taxes in many of the states in that region).

Earthquakes: we get minor ones because we do have some earthquake faults, but nothing like the San Andreas or the New Madrid faults. We rarely feel tremors like we did the other day, although when the Big One hits in the Midwest thanks to the New Madrid fault, we’ll definitely feel it. When I felt the tremor, I thought it might be the New Madrid fault because it is due.

Hurricanes: by the time hurricanes reach the Northeast, they are generally weaker (downgraded to a tropical storm) and we get mostly rain. However, on occasion the Northeast will feel the power of a category 1 or 2 (rarely a 3) hurricane and will suffer damage and disruption.

Tornadoes: they are rare in the Northeast (but do happen), and they are usually small and don’t last long, unlike the ones that devastate the Midwest and South.

Snow: the Northeast can get significant snowfall, but rarely with high winds and white-out conditions. Snow storms dumping 12-24 inches happen (particularly in the snowbelt of upstate NY) but these don’t happen as frequently as in the Midwest.

Floods: some neighborhoods, especially in New Jersey, have been built in low-lying areas and flood with some regularity. Otherwise, you rarely see the kind of major flooding you get in other parts of the U.S.

Fires: although drought conditions can make forests and fields dry and occasionally there is a forest fire, they are not that common in the Northeast.

Mudslides: we don’t see these in the Northeast, only occasional rock slides onto certain roads.

Temperature Extremes: the Northeast doesn’t suffer from the extremes that you can see elsewhere, but we can get several days (and even a week or two) of sustained 90-100 degree Fahrenheit weather, often with high humidity. While winter temperatures can go below zero degrees Fahrenheit, it isn’t that common and only lasts for a day or two.

So, New Yorker or New Englander, you may want to rethink that move to another part of the country. Do you really want to retire to Florida (hurricanes, water shortages, very hot summers)? So the cost of living may be cheaper, but have you considered that higher risk of natural disasters?

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