In Depth

Weather Eye

Disaster High Impact Zones

Photo: Alexey Stiop /

Counties of Concern

Based on our analysis of three distinct federal government databases we found 10 “counties of concern” – five from the FEMA disaster declaration database, and five from the Weather Eye billion dollar disasters map.

  • Walsh, North Dakota
  • Caddo, Oklahoma
  • Magoffin, Kentucky
  • Essex, Massachusetts
  • Cumberland, Maine
  • Tarrant, Texas
  • Sedgwick, Kansas
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Berks, Pennsylvania

The counties of concern are the areas we plan to look at in depth, to understand why these areas are dealing with so many disasters, and what the local populations are doing to respond and prepare. We expect a range of findings on risk and readiness. Some counties may yield important know-how on how to build resilience to severe weather events. Others may show a need for increased resiliency, but lack the resources to go it alone. Our future profiles will explore these financial and social dimensions of weather at a local, personal level. We also plan to look at the role of the National Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, and FEMA in responding to local disasters – and in building community readiness.

Our Methodology

New America used an array of databases in creating this report, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters table of events, NOAA’s Storm Events database, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster declarations database. Using the collective picture in these maps, we created a list of the most disaster-prone counties in the United States. Then, we chose our initial “counties of concern” by comparing the different databases and considering geographic region, poverty level, urban and rural populations, and overall demographics. The next step in our research is to look in depth at these high impact zones, to explore why they are so vulnerable and their strategies for managing risk and readiness. We hope to discover both best practices and unmet needs.

Find out more about the databases used in this report:

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters (2016).

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) Storm Events Database (2016).

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Declarations Database (10/21/2016). 

Note: FEMA and the Federal Government cannot vouch for the data or analyses derived from the data after the data have been retrieved from the Agency's website(s) and/or Contact New America at if you have any questions regarding this report.

Looking to the Future: Climate Projections

The project plans to look at various projections for how weather may change in the counties of concern, and whether these locations have sufficient investment, tools, and support to be ready for possible future disasters.