Are you ready for your region's worst weather?

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | August 31, 2015

Natural disasters are not to be trifled with. They can become much more extreme than you think, and that escalation can happen in a shockingly short period of time. For instance, wildfires can leap through forests and rush through firebreaks in moments. Hurricanes can gather strength right before landfall. Tornadoes can grow massive and turn in unexpected directions. When Mother Nature is in control, there are no rules. So how do you protect yourself? It depends on where you live.

Though you should have a plan in place for any disaster that may strike, understanding the vulnerabilities of your particular region can help you ramp up the preparation for certain disasters that are more common in your area.

New England or the Mid-Atlantic

Those who live in these states should be prepared for winter storms that pack a serious wallop, spring floods when the snows melt, wildfires during the dry summer months, and the occasional hurricane that meanders up the coast. Some of these disasters mean you stay in and ride it out (such as the winter storms), while others mean you pack up and move out (like that raging wildfire).

Prepare for emergencies with an emergency kit, as well as a "bug out" bag for the vehicle. Since winter storms are quite common here, it's good to always have an alternative form of heat handy. Fortunately, most natural disasters in this area offer plenty of warning, so check in with the weather forecast on a regular basis.


The Midwest might be protected from hurricanes and tsunamis, but it is right in the bulls-eye of tornadoes, floods, extreme heat, record winter cold, and massive storms. Good rainfall means wildfires are less common here, and earthquakes are rare.

Most who live in the Midwest need to be ready to shelter in place when natural disasters strike. In addition to preparing the typical emergency kit, it pays to have a basement or other strong shelter in which to retreat when the winds begin to blow.


Severe weather in the southern states is quite common - just look to the massive tornado outbreaks that ravage Alabama, Mississippi, and neighboring states on a regular basis. Hurricanes are to be expected. Flooding from the mighty Mississippi is a call to get out, fast.

In addition to preparing for evacuation ahead of hurricanes and shelter-in-place plans for tornadoes, those in the South should be ready to keep their cool - literally. Fight against extreme heat with air conditioning and fans, and know the location of your nearest shelter in case the power goes out.


Seemingly impossible heat can be found here, and that also means drought conditions. When lightning strikes find their mark in a dry forest, the result is often a raging wildfire. Those in the Southwest might also experience the occasional flood - an ironic twist in an area that has so much desert.

Be prepared to fight against the extreme heat, just as your neighbors in the South do. Pay careful attention to water consumption during drought years, and have an evacuation plan in place in the event of wildfire or flood. A good bug-out bag is your best friend.


Live here long enough, and you are almost guaranteed to feel an earthquake. Drought conditions are becoming common, which means a higher wildfire risk. Extreme heat is a given in most years, also fueling fire conditions. Residents out west should keep an eye out for the occasional floods, subsequent landslides, and tsunamis. And don't forget Mt. St. Helens taught us that even volcanoes can assault the area.

Those who live in the West must be prepared for anything at all. Look to the other regions for tips on how to handle both sheltering in place and getting out of town.

The basic emergency kit

No matter where you live, an emergency kit is an absolute must. This kit should include provisions for every member of your household for at least a few days. The most common things to include in an emergency kit include:

  • one gallon of water per person per day,
  • minimum three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • manual can opener
  • battery-powered radio
  • flashlights
  • dust masks and other protective gear
  • garbage bags and other clean-up supplies
  • a way to signal for help
  • basic set of tools (wrenches, screwdrivers, and the like)
  • an evacuation plan and local maps
  • ways to communicate (cell phones, prepaid calling cards, etc.)
  • first aid kit
  • a good amount of cash (remember that ATMs and other means of withdrawing money might be unavailable)

Keep the emergency kit in a safe place in your home where you can grab it at a moment's notice. A second kit in your vehicle is perfect for emergencies that requires you to leave home fast.

The evacuation plan

When you are advised to evacuate, don't wait - just get out! Your "bug out bag" can include all the things you would expect of a typical emergency kit. Think ahead to ensure you cover every possible scenario, including who will pick the kids up from school, where to meet if family members get separated, what alternate routes you will take if the usual roads are closed, where you will go to find shelter and help, how you will protect your pets, and more. Write up the plan to make it clear, then practice it to make sure you really can get out in a short period of time.

Do it right now

The time to prepare for natural disasters is right now. Mother Nature's chaos can strike at any time, even during the most idyllic and innocent day. By preparing now, you will be ready to face down whatever comes your way. To get more great information on how to prepare for natural disasters, turn to Ready.gov.

About the Author

Shannon Lee is a freelance writer and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.