Monday, December 11, 2006

Danger Is My Middle Name

Americans are flocking to places that offer big-city opportunities and amenities, with a lot more green space and lot less stress. So says Money Magazine in its annual report on the best places to live in the United States.

For this year's list, the magazine editors looked for “small livable cities that had the best possible blend of good jobs, low crime, quality schools, plenty of open space, rational home prices and lots to do”.

The winner? Ft. Collins, Colorado, a community with “great schools, low crime, good jobs in a high tech community and a fantastic outdoor life.”

It is always a coup for a community to make Money magazine’s list of the Best Place to Live but there is a new list where no one wants to be number one. is a Web site that says it is dedicated to “healthy and sustainable living,” recently ranked the top 50 cities on their risk of a natural disaster. The editors looked at all sorts of wild weather from hurricanes and flooding to tornado outbreaks and earthquakes, and how each of these natural disasters affects different regions of the country.

The winner? Miami, Florida, due to its high susceptibility to hurricanes, ranked first in the Web site’s list. “Sandwiched between two intensely active hurricane regions, Miami is more vulnerable to natural disaster than any other city in our study,” according to the site’s editors.

Of course, this will hardly come as a surprise to anyone who has lived in South Florida over the past two years and experienced hurricanes Frances, Jeanne and Wilma. In 2004 alone, Florida was struck by four hurricanes and, since 1870; the southeastern coast of the state (from Palm Beach County to the Keys) has been hit by more tropical storms and hurricanes than any other location in country.

And, this “high susceptibility to hurricanes” is not going to go away. Scientists tell us that we are currently in a period of increased hurricane activity, meaning (this year not withstanding) that busy hurricanes seasons will be the norm, not the exception.

Following Miami, the next four highest at-risk cities are New Orleans with an obvious vulnerability to hurricanes, Oakland and San Francisco, California because of earthquakes, and Honolulu due to the threat of tsunamis.

Want to get away from wild weather threats? Well, head to Mesa, Arizona. According to the editors of, Mesa is free from any worries of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and tsunamis and is tied with Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the position of the city at lowest risk.

Of course, it does get a little warm in Mesa during the summertime and frightfully cold in Milwaukee during the wintertime. In addition, as you read this, folks in Milwaukee are still digging out from last week’s big snowstorm and even a few drops of rain in Mesa can create all sorts of problems with flooding.

Bottom line: no place is perfectly safe from Mother Nature. And, while our vulnerability to hurricanes is indeed high here in South Florida, it is still a great place to call home.

Posted at 7:47 AM