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Slide Show | May 2013

Top 10 States Most at Risk Of Disaster

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Disasters can happen at any time and anywhere. But some places experience more than their fair share of floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms and severe weather -- so much so that certain locales earn frightening nicknames such as Tornado Alley. That moniker applied to Moore, Okla., long before the latest deadly twister struck May 20, killing 24 people. Four tornadoes have hit the town since 1998.

Where do these damaging events occurr most frequently and severely? Kiplinger.com worked with the Property Claim Services unit of Verisk Analytics, a leading source of insurance risk information, to identify the ten states that have suffered the biggest property losses from disasters over the past decade. (Oklahoma, by the way, isn't as high on this list as you might imagine.) If a disaster is likely to strike where you live, make sure you have enough insurance coverage to protect your finances.

Source: Property Claim Services unit of Verisk Analytics


Top 10 States Most at Risk Of Disaster

1. Louisiana

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Types of Disasters (2003-2012): 2 tropical storms, 7 hurricanes and 20 severe weather incidents

Estimated Insured Property Loss: $32.4 billion

The Pelican State has the unfortunate distinction of being the most disaster-prone state in the nation, largely because of Hurricane Katrina, which was the costliest disaster in U.S. history. Many of Katrina’s victims discovered they didn’t have enough insurance to cover the damage from the August 2005 hurricane. Make sure you have enough coverage before storm season strikes.

For more, see Prepare Your Home for Storm Season.

1. Louisiana

2. Florida

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Types of Disasters (2003-12): 3 tropical storms, 8 hurricanes and 12 severe weather incidents

Estimated Insured Property Loss: $31.6 billion

Like Louisiana, Florida gets battered by hurricanes and tropical storms in late summer and early fall. The Sunshine State suffered through four major hurricanes (a record) in both 2004 and 2005. It also has the highest number of tornadoes per square mile of any state (Texas has more tornadoes annually, but it is much larger in land area), and central Florida is known as the lightning capital of the U.S.

2. Florida

3. Texas

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Types of Disasters (2003-12): 1 wildland fire, 1 tropical storm, 4 hurricanes, 7 winter storms and 60 severe weather incidents

Estimated Insured Property Loss: $26.7 billion

Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are as common as tumbleweed in the Lone Star State. Cities close to the southern coast, such as Galveston and Houston, are often in the bulls-eye of destructive hurricanes that gain strength over the Gulf of Mexico, such as Hurricane Ike in 2008.

3. Texas

4. Mississippi

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Types of Disasters (2003-12): 1 winter storm, 2 tropical storms, 7 hurricanes and 26 severe weather incidents

Estimated Insured Property Loss: $14.9 billion

The Magnolia State took a pounding from Hurricane Katrina, with the storm surge and heavy rains causing extensive flooding. Many unfortunate homeowners discovered insurance doesn’t cover flood damage -- you have to buy a separate policy. For more, see Protect Your Home and Finances Against Floods.

4. Mississippi

5. New York

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David Shankbone via Creative Commons

Types of Disasters (2003-12): 1 utility loss, 2 tropical storms, 6 hurricanes, 17 winter storms and 29 severe weather incidents

Estimated Insured Property Loss: $13.3 billion

Damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 propelled New York into this top-ten list. The state was among the hardest hit by Sandy, which was the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history after Hurricane Katrina. New York City experienced flooding and widespread power outages as a result of the hurricane. If you're hit by a storm, you may qualify for a tax break to offset losses that aren't covered by your insurance (see Storm Damage? You Might Qualify for a Tax Break).

5. New York

6. New Jersey

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Mark C. Olsen via Creative Commons

Types of Disasters (2003-12): 1 utility loss, 1 tropical storm, 5 hurricanes, 14 winter storms and 15 severe weather incidents

Estimated Insured Property Loss: $8.9 billion

The largest storm of the 2012 hurricane season -- Hurricane Sandy -- caused widespread flooding and power outages in New Jersey. Many homes and businesses were destroyed along the Jersey Shore, and even a portion of the Atlantic City Boardwalk washed away. Shortly after Sandy hit, another storm brought wet snow that caused more power outages and damage. Because disasters can strike at any time, make sure your home and finances are protected beforehand. See 7 Steps to Prepare for Disaster to learn more.

6. New Jersey

7. Alabama

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Types of Disasters (2003-12): 2 tropical storms, 5 winter storms, 7 hurricanes and 26 severe weather incidents

Estimated Insured Property Loss: $8.1 billion

Alabama was hit hard by tornadoes in April 2011, especially in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. The Yellowhammer State also takes regular hits from Gulf Coast hurricanes. In states where storm damage is common, we recommend homeowners know all the ins and outs of the insurance claims process. For more, see How to Get Insurance Companies to Pay Your Claims.

7. Alabama

8. Tennessee

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Types of Disasters (2003-12): 1 tropical storm, 3 hurricanes, 5 winter storms and 31 severe weather incidents

Estimated Insured Property Loss: $7.7 billion

The Volunteer State was among several southern states hit by the historic tornado outbreak between April 25 and 28 known as the 2011 Super Outbreak. To protect your home and finances from spring storms, make sure you know what damages are covered by your insurance policy and find out how to fill any gaps.

8. Tennessee

9. Oklahoma

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Types of Disasters (2003-12):
7 winter storms, 41 severe weather incidents

Estimated Insured Property Loss: $7.3 billion

Two words for the Sooner State: Tornado Alley. Severe storms and twisters are so much a part of the state's weather that the National Severe Storms Laboratory and Storm Prediction Center are located here. Most Oklahomans know how to protect themselves if a cyclone has been spotted. We recommend that homeowners in tornado-prone states set aside an emergency fund and take photos of all valuables in the event of an insurance claim.

For more, see Protect Your Home and Finances Against Twisters.

9. Oklahoma

10. Missouri

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Types of Disasters (2003-12):
1 hurricane, 8 winter storms and 44 severe weather incidents

Estimated Insured Property Loss: $7.3 billion

The tornado that swept through Joplin May 22, 2011, was one of the deadliest in U.S. history (158 deaths) and generated $2.16 billion in insurance claims, according to Insurance Information Institute analysis of data from ISO’s Property Claims Service. Homeowners who live in tornado-prone areas can speed up the claims process by following these steps.

10. Missouri

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