New York is a city unlike anywhere else on the planet—where towering pillars battle for the skies and millions throng the busy streets.
But few people realize that the incredible city isn’t just a hub of culture, commerce, and travel—it’s also the site of numerous natural disasters.
A modern wonderland when everything goes well, but when it doesn’t, you’ll be thankful for this guide to preparation and safety when any of these natural disasters strike.
What Natural Disasters Occur in New York?
New York might not spring to mind when it comes to natural disasters, but you’d be surprised how common they are in this part of the world. The city’s coastal location and unique geography put it in the crosshairs of numerous weather events. Plus, the state is more than the city—upstate New York has its own battles.
New York has faced its fair share of natural disasters throughout the years. If you like to prepare for any eventuality, here are the most common natural disasters in New York and how to create a safety plan before and during.
Tropical Storms & Hurricanes
When a tropical depression experiences winds of 39 mph or above, it’s a tropical storm. Above 74 mph, it becomes a hurricane. With its coastal location, New York frequently gets battered by tropical storms or hurricanes, and since 1970, more than thirty have hit the area.
- Clear your yard and check on anything hanging loose from your building.
- Board up your windows and doors.
- Prepare an emergency kit with flashlights, food, medical supplies, etc.
- Fill clean containers with drinking water in case your water supply is cut off.
- Check your carbon monoxide detectors to prevent CO2 poisoning as you bunker down in an enclosed shelter.
- Check where your nearest storm shelter is and how you would get there in an emergency.
- Stay up-to-date with the news and any developing situations.
- Stay inside and keep your emergency kit close to hand.
- Keep as far away from the windows as possible.
- Do your best to remain calm (both for your own sake and for others around you).
- Be prepared to evacuate.
New York has only twice experienced an earthquake with a magnitude of over 5, once in 1737 and the other in 1884. While the West Coast sits upon the notoriously grumpy San Andreas Fault, things are much more sedate in the East. However, there are still a few key points to keep in mind.
- Identify a safe place in each room, ideally away from the windows and beneath something solid.
- Secure items in your home that could come loose.
- Create an emergency plan and an emergency kit to go with it.
- Don’t hang anything too large and heavy above sofas and beds.
- Be ready to turn off your electricity, gas, and water.
- Drop, Cover and Hold On.
- Grab onto a solid piece of furniture, and don’t seek refuge under a doorway.
- If you’re outside, move away from buildings and trees.
- Don’t tie up phone lines.
- Be prepared for aftershocks.
When we think about natural disasters, it’s easy to focus on hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes, but as our climate crisis worsens, instances of extreme heat are predicted to rise dramatically. Extreme heat is more deadly than some may realize.
- Check your air-conditioning and home insulation. If you don’t have AC, you may qualify for energy assistance.
- Prepare for a loss of power and compile an emergency kit.
- Plan out your hot days well, i.e., if you need to do something outside, schedule it for the early morning.
- Have a hat and sunscreen anytime you go outdoors.
- Communicate with relatives, friends, and neighbors about who may need assistance.
- Remain up-to-date with the developing situation.
- Stay inside if at all possible and use your air-conditioning.
- Stay hydrated (even if you don’t feel thirsty).
- Wear lightweight clothing.
- Avoid strenuous activity during the hottest hours.
One of the most visible signs of climate change has been the increased number and intensity of wildfires across the U.S. and, indeed, the world. Wildfires have been an integral part of the ecosystem, but they are growing more intense due to global warming.
- Keep track of any wildfires in your area with AirNow.
- If you live in a remote area, consider creating a 30 to 100-foot safety zone around your home that is free from debris.
- Create an emergency kit with plenty of water, food, medical supplies, etc.
- Be aware of your surroundings and what routes you can take in different directions.
- Consider purchasing respirators if you live in fire-prone locations.
- Be ready to evacuate by staying up to date with emergency broadcasts.
- Always follow evacuation orders. It saves your life and the firefighters who will have to come looking for you if you don’t.
- Shut off gas, propane, and other fuel sources in your home.
- Stay inside to minimize smoke inhalation, and wear a respirator if needed.
- If you become trapped in your house, stay inside, close all the doors and windows, and move to the center of your home.
- Should you become trapped outside, find a depression or ditch and cover yourself with a blanket or piece of clothing.
Sadly, flooding in New York is all too common because it’s a coastal city. Flooding typically occurs after a hurricane lashes the city, with Hurricane Ida in 2021 being the most recent example, in which 16 people died in the city due to the flooding.
- Be aware of your flood risk.
- Create an emergency escape plan and a safe evacuation location.
- Build an emergency kit.
- Purchase sandbags, plywood, and some plastic sheeting if you’re in an area with a high risk of flooding.
- Plan so that you can hunker down at home when the storm hits.
- Stay informed regarding the situation.
- Be prepared to evacuate when needed and turn off all utilities.
- If you can’t go outside, move to the highest point possible.
- Do not attempt to drive in flooded streets.
- Do not use anything connected to the building’s electrical system.
Thunderstorms & Lightning
Thunderstorms and lightning can be treacherous wherever you are, but in a built-up city, the potential hazards multiply. When major thunderstorms hit New York City, they sometimes bring several other hazards, such as flooding, which can worsen the situation.
- Track major storms in your area.
- Prepare an emergency kit.
- When a storm warning is issued, stay inside if at all possible.
- Shut windows and doors and secure any loose items to avoid injury from falling objects.
- Consider switching off the mains electricity and gas in extreme situations.
- Do not attempt to travel in severe thunderstorms.
- Avoid standing near objects that can attract lightning and tall, isolated objects that could fall.
- Do not use electrical appliances plugged into the mains system.
- Avoid even sinks, showers, and larger machines during electrical storms; a strike to the building could lead to a fatal shock.
- Be aware of flooding and downed objects after the storm passes. These can be just as dangerous as the storm and lightning themselves.
New York experiences far fewer deadly tornadoes than places within the ominously named ‘Tornado Alley’ in the midwest. Still, they remain one of the most terrifying natural disasters when they do strike.
- Put together an emergency supply kit with enough food and water for three days.
- Choose your storm shelter, whether in your basement or the local municipal shelter.
- Stay tuned to Notify New York for the latest news.
- Learn about the early warning signs to know when a tornado is approaching.
- Adhere to local advice and move to your shelter when told.
- If a tornado is already visible, seek immediate shelter wherever you are, stay away from the windows, and find something secure to hold.
- Never try to take anything else than your emergency kit.
- If you are outside, find a ditch or dip in the ground and lie down with your hands over your head.
- Even after the tornado has passed, be aware of other dangers, such as downed power lines, damaged roads and bridges, and structurally insecure buildings.
Landslides in New York City itself are incredibly rare, but New York State receives its fair share. In 2011, an 82-acre piece of land began slipping down the Adirondack Mountains at a rate of six inches to two feet per day. It was the largest landslide in the state’s history.
- Keep up-to-date on local landslide warnings; they increase at certain times of the year.
- Prepare an emergency kit.
- Create an evacuation plan that you can execute at a moment’s notice.
- Consult a professional about securing your home. You won’t be able to stop a landslide, but redirecting some of the worst of it might be an option with sandbags, retaining walls, or overflow channels.
- Learn about early warning signs, such as changes in stormwater drainage, land movement, and trees leaning in an unusual manner
- Pay close attention to the local emergency announcements.
- Stay awake through storms that could trigger landslides. Sleeping in bed might be comfortable, but it also makes you incredibly vulnerable.
- If you see debris coming, it’s too late to get away. Fast-flowing landslides can drag people and cars into them, so stay well clear and instead look for the highest, most secure place and grab hold.
- Don’t try to take anything from your home except your emergency kit.
- Flooding may follow a landslide, so don’t assume you’re in the clear.
Each winter, arctic weather descends on New York, and the city often comes to a virtual standstill. When large quantities of snowfall can make traveling around the city dangerous, and the damage caused by winter storms can be extensive.
- Create an emergency kit that can sustain you for a week.
- Winterize your home by making sure you have emergency heat sources, adding some extra insulation, and checking that you have enough heating fuel.
- Prepare for outages by charging everything needed beforehand and having some extra batteries to hand.
- Allow faucets to drip slowly to reduce the risk of freezing pipes.
- Prepare plenty of winter-weather clothing.
- Remain inside if at all possible
- If you experience power outages, keep warm. Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia, and call the emergency services if you experience them.
- Don’t overload electrical plugs; keep an eye on equipment plugged in for a long time.
- Keep up-to-date with emergency broadcasts.
- Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine when feeling unusually cold.
How to Prepare for Natural Disasters in New York
Make a Disaster Plan
The most critical point is to create a disaster plan. It can be the difference between life and death. It also gives you peace of mind knowing that you’ve prepared as best as you can.
Build an Emergency Supplies Kit
If a natural disaster is heading your way, create an emergency kit. Include flashlights, food, water, a first aid kit, and a battery-powered radio.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Was the Worst Natural Disaster in New York?
The most significant natural disaster to hit New York was the 10-day extreme heat wave in 1896, killing more than 1,000 people. Hurricane Sandy is probably the best-known recent natural disaster. While its death toll was 48, the economic damage was a staggering $19 billion—making it the fourth most expensive storm in U.S history.
Does New York Have a Lot of Natural Disasters?
New York has experienced plenty of extreme weather, but the region sees a relatively low number of natural disasters compared with other parts of the world. That said, New York experiences plenty of tropical storms and hurricanes because of its coastal location, while winter storms effectively bring the city to a standstill every year.
Suffering From Natural Disaster Damage in New York? ADU Can Help
New York is far from being the natural disaster capital of the world, but any major metropolis experiences plenty of problems when inclement weather does strike. If your home has suffered damage due to a natural disaster in New York, call All Dry USA. Our services cover many potential situations, including mold removal, fire and smoke, or water damage. We’ll help you pick up the pieces and restore your home and peace of mind.