Big Question: Is any place in the U.S. safe from Mother Nature?

Curiosity contributor Richard Farrell surveyed the U.S. in search of safe havens from disaster.

Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the U.S. East Coast in late October 2012, was the culmination of a week's worth of anxious watching by professional and amateur meteorologists alike. It was considered a "freak" storm because of the path it took -- a sharp left turn into the East Coast, when such hurricanes on such paths at such times of year typically drift out to sea -- and the reason it took it (an ill-timed jet stream that effectively wrapped around the outer edge of the storm and pushed it into the coastline). In short, everything that could go wrong did.

Invariably, all kinds of soul searching happens after a storm like Sandy. Were we adequately warned? It would be hard to argue that we weren't: The forecasters really nailed this storm, with virtually all computer models agreeing on a path that seemed to defy years of weather history. Could we have done anything differently? Evacuations were issued and people either heeded them or didn't.

It's maddening to be so vulnerable, and we could be forgiven for wondering: Is anywhere safe from the whims of Mother Nature?

If you were to look at a map of the U.S., in search of the perfect place to hide from extreme weather and related calamities, you'd be hard pressed to find it. Let's look at some general areas of the country, using as tent poles the U.S. Census Bureau's four main U.S. regions: Northeast, South, Midwest and West.

The Northeast. This is New England and mid-Atlantic states New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. As we have just been reminded with Sandy, the East Coast is far from ideal for dodging Mother Nature. New York and New Jersey were hit especially hard by Sandy. Meanwhile, further north in New England you'll find true the old maxim that if you don't like the weather, just wait a few minutes. Snow is the major dread there -- the next blizzard a constant concern for its citizens. And snow, while pretty and white, can be just as deadly and costly as a hurricane or tornado.

The South. Down south, in census-speak, we have the "Delmarva" area (Delaware, Maryland and Virginia) as well as the District of Columbia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. Here we go again: If it's not a hurricane battering Florida, the Carolinas and places northward, it's a hurricane battering the Gulf Coast. (If you want to own beachfront property there, you'd better supersize your property insurance and learn to live with the notion that your nice home might have a short lifespan.) And if hurricanes aren't your thing, then Oklahoma will be happy to supply the tornadoes. The south isn't even immune to the oddball earthquake, as Virginia found out in the summer of 2011, when a 5.9-Richter-scale quake left Old Dominion residents shaking in their shoes.

The Midwest. Think it's any better in the heartland? There you'll find foot after foot of snow in places like Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin. Try attending a Green Bay Packers game in December and you get the idea. Meanwhile, Kansas also knows a thing or two about tornadoes (just ask Dorothy and Toto!). So the rock-ribbed Midwest doesn't seem to offer any ideal hiding places from Mother Nature either. What's a person to do? Look west?

The West. Ah, the west. The region that has it all. The answer to the question, "Could I hide from Mother Nature here?" -- is a resounding "No," and it's not even close, as this region's got earthquakes, mudslides, wildfires, and even volcano potential. And if you're thinking, "Hey, what about the Pacific Northwest -- say Seattle. What's a little rain?" Well there's more than rain to contend with; that area has the potential for earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. Oh, and if the LL Cool J lyric, "I'm going back to Cali" is rattling around your head about now, it's not immune to Mother Nature, either. California alone, nearly synonymous with "the west," occupies most of the coast and lives every day with the specter that the Big One, a massive earthquake, could hit.

So does the U.S. offer any safe havens from Mother Nature? Regionally speaking, not really, though you can certainly find plenty of nice days almost anywhere, and isolated pockets of greater resistance to Earth's bad moods. Forbes in 2005 tallied the safest and least safe places in the country and found Honolulu, of all places, to be the safest [source: Forbes]. Perhaps, then, if you're looking to escape Mother Nature's wrath, the thing to do is say, "Aloha" to your home state and head as far west as America allows.

In the end, of course, we all know it doesn't really matter. Something eventually finds us. Like the house in Vegas, Mother Nature always wins. It's like the old mobster saying: "You can run, but you can't hide."

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