How Prepared Are Americans For Severe Weather Events?

Tanya Gorelova Pexels

According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, in 2024 to date, tornadoes have impacted 63 counties, with severe thunderstorms impacting 169 counties. Blizzards and flooding impacted residents of 169 and 175 counties, respectively. Severe winter storms were reported in 346 counties nationwide. With these events and others, are citizens concerned about preparedness?

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Americans’ preparedness for severe weather events reveals a mixed picture, with significant variations based on the type of disaster, income, education, and where someone lives. A recent survey from CivicScience of over 10,000 respondents sheds light on these differences, highlighting both preparedness and gaps in readiness.

Who’s been affected by severe weather events?
Severe thunderstorms are the most commonly experienced weather events, with nearly 60% of respondents reporting they have been affected. In contrast, severe wind or dust storms and blizzards or severe winter storms have impacted fewer people, with approximately one-third and nearly half of respondents, respectively, having experienced these events. While you may not expect that income levels correlate to natural disaster experiences, for severe
wind or dust storms, respondents with higher incomes (over $150,000) are more likely to have experienced these events compared to those with lower incomes (under $25,000). This trend is consistent across severe thunderstorms and blizzards, suggesting that wealthier individuals may live in areas more prone to these disasters or perhaps have better reporting mechanisms.

Education and residential location patterns
Education levels show a similar pattern. Those with higher education, such as a bachelor’s or graduate degree, are more likely to have experienced severe weather events. For instance, 28% of respondents with a bachelor’s degree have faced severe wind or dust storms, compared to just 2% of those with less than a high school education. This disparity may reflect differences in geographic location or awareness levels. Residential location further influences the likelihood of experiencing severe weather. Suburban residents report the highest incidence of severe wind or dust storms and severe thunderstorms, with 42% and 46%, respectively. Rural areas follow, while city dwellers report the lowest incidence. This pattern is consistent for blizzards, with suburban residents again leading in reported experiences.

Who’s prepared?
When it comes to emergency preparedness, the data shows a concerning trend.
— Among those who have experienced severe wind or dust storms, only 48% have a pre-
prepared emergency kit.

— This figure drops to 36% for those who have faced severe thunderstorms and 30% for
those affected by blizzards or severe winter storms.
— Those who have not experienced these disasters are even less likely to have an
emergency kit, with percentages ranging from 21% to 30%.
— Only 17% of respondents overall have a generator available in the event of a natural
disaster or weather event.

In conclusion, while many Americans have experienced severe weather events, a significant
portion remains unprepared. The data highlights the need for increased awareness and
preparedness initiatives, particularly among those who have not yet faced such disasters.
Addressing these gaps is crucial for enhancing resilience and ensuring safety in the face of
increasingly frequent and severe weather events.

Climate Crisis 24/7 used generative AI technology to help produce this article, which a human editor at Climate Crisis 24/7 edited. Climate Crisis 24/7 is dedicated to accuracy and transparency; any article that uses AI will be noted.

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