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Neal Templin: Where to live if you want to dodge natural disasters

By Neal Templin, on

Published in Home and Consumer News

There's enough excitement these days without having to survive a natural disaster

- fires in the West, storms in the Gulf Coast and East Coast, and flooding in the Midwest.

If you're throwing in the towel on a disaster-prone area, or looking to avoid such places in your home search, there are plenty of metro areas that remain safe and affordable. And they're not concentrated in one region. They include Providence, Rhode Island, and Hartford, Connecticut, in the East; Detroit, Milwaukee and Indianapolis in the Midwest; Las Vegas and Salt Lake City in the West; and Raleigh, North Carolina, and Nashville in the South.

Life is about more than living in a cheap place that doesn't flood or catch on fire or shake itself to pieces. So I looked at some key quality-of-life measures. How vibrant is the local economy? How many non-stop flights does each place have? Are there major universities in town? That last factor is a key livability data point: College towns tend to have good cultural scenes.

Then I looked at disaster declaration data since 1953 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to look at five key threats: earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. (The data was compiled by Redfin.) Half of the safest metro areas on this list also had housing costs below the national average. The most expensive, Salt Lake City, is still far more affordable than high-cost cities in the Northeast and West Coast.

Here are my picks:


_Providence, R.I.: This former factory town was hit hard by the pandemic shutdown this year, but housing is much cheaper than in Boston, whose airport is close by. Providence is not hurricane-free, but it's mostly missed by major storms, and dodges most other natural disasters.


Median house price: $333,000

Unemployment rate (August 2020): 12.6%


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