NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 13, 2008

Some 30 counties across the nation have been included in federal disaster declarations at least 10 times over the past decade.  Most fall in what could be called the nation's disaster belt: a stretch of land from South Florida to rural Oklahoma that faces regular bouts of everything from giant hurricanes to floods, ice storms and wildfires, according to a USA Today analysis of federal records.


  • The counties in it have endured significant destruction and the disaster declarations have opened a floodgate of federal aid.
  • Records show the government has issued more than $5 billion in grants and loans to those 30 hard-hit counties over the past decade.
  • Caddo County, southwest of Oklahoma City, has suffered floods, tornadoes and even last gasps of a tropical storm -- so many that the federal government has included it in 13 major disasters over the past decade, five of them last year.


  • The rest of the disaster-prone counties are scattered across the eastern United States, from Alabama to Upstate New York.
  • Far more of the nation -- 266 of its 3,100 counties -- faced no disasters at all in the past decade.

Nearly all the disaster prone areas listed were on a vastly smaller scale than the hurricanes that ravaged the Gulf Coast and Florida in 2004 and 2005. The government declares a disaster only after state authorities ask for help and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) determines that the area is too badly damaged to recover on its own, says David Garratt, second in command of disaster aid for the agency.

Source: Brad Heath, "Thirty 'disaster belt' counties take repeated hits," USA Today, February 12, 2008.

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