© 2023 88.9 KETR
Public Radio for Northeast Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What A Year: Disasters Have Been Declared In All But Two States

Volunteer firefighter Jason Collard at a wildfire in Strawn, Texas, in April.
Tom Pennington
Getty Images
Volunteer firefighter Jason Collard at a wildfire in Strawn, Texas, in April.

Partisans on both sides continue to argue over whether to put more money into the coffers of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is running short of cash because there have been so many tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters this year.

The political bickering is nothing new, of course.

But this tweet today from the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) got our attention:

"In 2011, #Obama has already declared disasters in 48 states. U.S. had 10 bil-$ disasters, the most in more than 30 years #FundFEMA."

Which two states haven't been hit by hit by some sort of calamity that was so serious they needed help from the federal government?

After much cross-checking on FEMA's website, we figured out the answer:

-- Michigan

-- South Carolina.

FEMA keeps track of three types of declarations — for "major disasters" such as Hurricane Irene, for "emergencies" such as the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee, and for "fire management assistance" such as at the wildfires burning in Texas.

Michigan and South Carolina have escaped all three.

Now, we're not wishing for anything to happen in either of those states. But we did naturally wonder whether it is or isn't unusual to be so close to 50 in a calendar year.

The answer: it's rare.

Further cross-checking showed that:

-- In 2010, there were nine states that weren't home to federally declared disasters.

-- In 2009, there were 11.

-- In 2008, there were 11.

-- In 2007, there were 10.

Most years, in fact, there haven't even been 50 such declarations.

FEMA has records posted going back to 1953. The state that's had the most federal disaster declarations in the decades since: Texas, with 86. California is No. 2, with 78. Oklahoma is third, with 70.

The bottom (or lucky) three: Rhode Island, Utah and Wyoming, with nine each.

(H/T to NPR's Beth Donovan.)

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.