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Slide Show | June 2014

Top 10 States Most at Risk Of Disaster

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Disasters can happen anywhere and at any time. 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. No matter where you live, make sure you have the right kinds and necessary amounts of insurance coverage to protect your finances.

So where do these damaging events occur most frequently and severely? Kiplinger.com worked with the National Weather Service to identify the ten states that have suffered the biggest estimated property losses from disasters over the past eight years. Take a look.


Top 10 States Most at Risk Of Disaster

1. New Jersey

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Mark C. Olsen via Creative Commons

Estimated Property Damage (2006-2013): $26.4 billion

Most Frequent Disasters: damaging wind, winter storms, floods and flash floods

Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2013): 87

New Jersey earns the top spot on this list, in large part due to damage wrought by Sandy -- which had weakened from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone by the time it the Jersey Shore -- in October 2012. The state was among the hardest hit by Sandy, which was the second-costliest storm in U.S. history, after Hurricane Katrina. Many homes and businesses were destroyed along the Jersey Shore, and 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.

Homeowners who live along the coast or in areas where there are frequent storms should take steps before hurricane season begins to protect their homes and finances from damage. Here are 12 ways to prepare.

1. New Jersey

2. Texas

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Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

Estimated Property Damage (2006-2013): $23.7 billion

Most Frequent Disasters: hail, thunderstorms, drought, tornadoes and flash floods

Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2013): 313

Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are nearly as common as tumbleweed in the Lone Star State. Also, cities close to the southern coast, such as Galveston and Houston, are often in the bulls-eye of destructive hurricanes, such as Hurricane Ike in 2008, that gain strength over the Gulf of Mexico. And wildfires -- such as the 2011 Bastrop fire that destroyed more than 1,500 homes -- are common due to extreme heat and drought conditions in the state.

2. Texas

3. Tennessee

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Keith Gallagher via Creative Commons

Estimated Property Damage (2006-2013): $5.1 billion

Most Frequent Disasters: thunderstorms, hail, winter storms, tornadoes

Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2013): 224

Severe storms and tornadoes are common in Tennessee, which was among several southern states hit by the historic “super outbreak” of tornadoes in April 2011. The state’s capital, Nashville, suffered an estimated $2 billion in damage due to flooding in May 2010, and Memphis had millions of dollars’ worth of damage when the Mississippi River flooded in the spring of 2011.

3. Tennessee

4. Missouri

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National Weather Service

Estimated Property Damage (2006-2013): $5.0 billion

Most Frequent Disasters: hail, thunderstorms, winter storms, floods, tornadoes

Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2013): 346

Missouri has suffered the most weather-related deaths in the last eight years. The tornado that swept through Joplin on May 22, 2011, was one of the deadliest in U.S. history (158 deaths) and generated $2.2 billion in insurance claims, according to an Insurance Information Institute analysis of data from ISO’s Property Claims Service.

If a tornado strikes where your live, follow these seven steps to speed up the insurance claims process.

4. Missouri

5. Alabama

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Thilo Parg via Creative Commons

Estimated Property Damage (2006-2013): $4.9 billion

Most Frequent Disasters: thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes

Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2013): 333

Alabama was hit hard by tornadoes in April 2011, especially in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, where more than 120 people were killed. In fact, the Yellowhammer State is second only to Oklahoma for the number of EF5 tornadoes (the largest in intensity and area) that have struck there.

5. Alabama

6. Oklahoma

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Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

Estimated Property Damage (2006-2013): $4.5 billion

Most Frequent Disasters: hail, thunderstorms, tornadoes, drought

Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2013): 162

The Sooner State has another moniker: Tornado Alley. A massive EF5 tornado devastated Moore, Okla. (pictured left), on May 20, 2013, and the widest tornado on record hit El Reno, Okla., just 11 days later. Severe storms and twisters are so much a part of the state's weather that the National Severe Storms Laboratory and the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center are located here.

Homeowners in tornado-prone states should set aside an emergency fund and take photos of all valuables in preparation for an insurance claim.

6. Oklahoma

7. Mississippi

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Estimated Property Damage (2006-2013): $4.3 billion

Most Frequent Disasters: thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes, floods and flash floods

Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2013): 88

Mississippi frequently is hit by tornadoes and severe storms. It also has been in the path of several hurricanes -- most recently Hurricane Isaac in 2012 -- that have caused extensive flooding. Although homeowners insurance covers damage due to wind, it doesn’t cover flood damage. You have to purchase a policy through the National Flood Insurance Program. For more information, see Protect Your Home With Flood Insurance.

7. Mississippi

8. Louisiana

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Estimated Property Damage (2006-2013): $3.9 billion

Most Frequent Disasters: thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes, tropical storms, floods and flash floods

Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2013): 66

Last year, the Pelican State was at the top of our list, largely because of Hurricane Katrina, which was the costliest disaster in U.S. history. But it drops in the rankings because the 2005 hurricane was not part of our data set this year, which includes events from 2006 to early 2014. However, Louisiana suffered from flooding when Hurricane Isaac hit in 2012. If you live in a flood-prone area, don’t wait until storm clouds gather to buy a flood policy; typically, there’s a 30-day waiting period before premiums take effect.

8. Louisiana

9. Colorado

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Michael Rieger/FEMA

Estimated Property Damage (2006-2013): $3.7 billion

Most Frequent Disasters: winter storms, hail, drought, floods and flash floods

Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2013): 70

Record rainfall during September 2013 led to floods that killed nine people and caused widespread destruction in several Colorado cities, according to the National Climatic Data Center. The Centennial State also suffered the most damages among western states where wildfires broke out in the summer of 2012. If you live in a state where wildfires are common, it’s important to know what your homeowners policy covers and the difference between assessed value and actual replacement value. Too many people learn only after a fire that they were underinsured.

9. Colorado

10. Arizona

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U.S. Department of Agriculture

Estimated Property Damage (2006-2013): $3.5 billion

Most Frequent Disasters: thunderstorms, flash floods, drought, dust storms

Weather-Related Fatalities (2006-2013): 93

Drought conditions have plagued Arizona for the past several years. As a result, the state has seen outbreaks of wildfires, including its largest on record in 2011. The Wallow Fire burned more than 500,000 acres in eastern Arizona. And in 2010 a series of severe thunderstorms produced numerous tornadoes and hail around Phoenix, causing an estimated $2 billion in damage.

Keep in mind that if your home is damaged, you should file a claim only if it’s several hundred dollars more than your insurance deductible. Frequent small claims can lead to a rate hike.

10. Arizona

2013: States Most at Risk of Disaster

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1. Louisiana
2. Florida
3. Texas
4. Mississippi
5. New York
6. New Jersey
7. Alabama
8. Tennessee
9. Oklahoma
10. Missouri

Above is last year's list of states most at risk of disaster. Keep in mind that ranking methodologies can change from year to year based on what data was available at the time of publishing, changes to how the data was gathered, switches to new data providers and tweaks to the formulas used to narrow the pool of candidates.

2013: States Most at Risk of Disaster

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