One month ago my house was partially destroyed by a wind storm. Or perhaps it was a tornado. I've been displaced and living with my brother since. I've not been able to see my girlfriend due to the COVID-19 epidemic. It sure feels like the end of the world. So I decided to test my suspicions that disasters seem to be happening more frequently of late.
Using Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) data regarding Disaster Declarations for States and Counties I started looking at the Upper Cumberland Region as a way to focus my analysis. The Upper Cumberland's worst years previously for disasters were 2003 and 2005 where there were a total of 17 declared disasters in the region. At the time I calculated it, we were exactly 114 days into 2020 and we had already declared 32 disasters. In less than a third of the time, we had declared nearly double the disasters. So I calculated the frequency to determine that we were in fact experiencing disasters at a rate 5.6 times our worst year ever.
The Upper Cumberland is comprised of 14 counties. We're a subsection of Tennessee, primarily located in the middle region with one county in the east. Is what's happening here happening elsewhere in the United States?
I decided to look into disasters in a more broad way and created the above map which represents modal disasters. That is to say, what disaster occurs in that county the most. Despite what legions of people on Reddit told me they felt it should look like, the data actually bears this out. Those are the modal disasters of the contiguous United States. You don't have to like it, but you do have to accept it.
The good news is that you're not insane, this year is truly terrible since so far we've accumulated exactly 7395 disaster declarations (really two [1, 2] nationwide declarations regarding COVID-19) in 114 days. Compare that to the previous year where the entire of 2005 the USA had 4636 declared disasters (mostly hurricanes). If you're interested in the frequency, that works out to around 5.1 times the frequency of disaster declarations of the worst year on record since we've been keeping track in 1959.
Is this really fair given that we are living through an unprecedented event for the modern era? No not really. But numbers are numbers and I've been bored. so without further adeau I present the full series of the United States of Disasters.