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Area ranks near middle of 50 biggest cities risking disaster

Two months and two tropical storms into the 2006 hurricane season, the Metroplex is a fairly safe place, natural-risk assessors say.

A survey of America's 50 largest cities puts Fort Worth, Arlington and Dallas in a tie for 22nd on the list for low risk of natural disaster.

"People should feel safe unless there is a hurricane headed toward the Texas Gulf Coast or a severe storm out of the Panhandle region," said Warren Karlenzig, chief strategy officer for, a San Francisco-based online research site. "They should take heart that forecasting hurricane paths and severe storm likelihood is becoming much more of an exact science with anywhere from 12 to 48 hours of warning time for potential dangerous conditions."

Historically, the Texas coast has been hardest hit by hurricanes in August and September.

Local threats are mainly super-tornadoes that occur during outbreaks of several tornadoes and that could cause damage as severe as an F4 or F5 storm.

Storms that intense, which researchers predict will someday come to the Metroplex, could be deadly, bringing winds up to 260 mph for an F4 and up to 318 mph for an F5.

The tornadoes that ripped through the Metroplex in 2000 -- killing several people, leveling homes and offices and causing millions of dollars in damage -- were rated by some as low-end F2.

Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief said leaders have taken steps to make the community safer, including installation of new outside emergency warning sirens and development of a program to improve the city's decaying storm-water drainage system.

"A natural disaster can take place anytime, any place," he said. "We've certainly had experience with the tornado in 2000, which I don't think any of us who live in Fort Worth will ever forget. But take a look at us now. We've rebounded, rebuilt, reinforced, and we came back stronger."

Since the 2000 tornadoes, Arlington has also installed a state-of-the-art warning system.

Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck said he believes that the local ranking is probably accurate, with tornadoes and flooding being the biggest natural-disaster threats.

"We have to find a solution to those problems," he said. "But it's a very safe area here." reviewed the chances of natural disasters -- hurricanes, major flooding, catastrophic hail, tornado super-outbreaks and earthquakes -- hitting the 50 largest U.S. cities. It also evaluated the extent of damage those disasters could cause.

Cities most vulnerable to natural disasters are Miami, at risk of hurricanes; New Orleans, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina; Oakland, Calif., at risk of earthquakes; San Francisco, which is on the San Andreas Fault and is at risk of earthquakes and tsunamis; and Honolulu, at risk of hurricanes, storm surges and tsunamis, according to

The safest cities are Mesa, Ariz.; Milwaukee; Cleveland; El Paso; and Phoenix, it says.

"The purpose [of the list] is to get people and cities prepared for the worst nature has to offer and to consider more sustainable alternatives," Karlenzig said.

"We've certainly had experience with the tornado in 2000 .... But take a look at us now. We've rebounded, rebuilt, reinforced, and we came back stronger."


The rankings

Rankings for the 50 largest U.S. cities in order of risk of natural disaster, lowest to highest.

1. (tie) Mesa, Ariz.; Milwaukee

3. (tie) Cleveland; El Paso; Phoenix; Tucson, Ariz.

7. Colorado Springs, Colo.

8. (tie) Detroit; Fresno, Calif.; Minneapolis; Philadelphia

12. Chicago

13. Denver

14. Albuquerque

15. Las Vegas

16. San Antonio

17. Nashville

18. Atlanta

19. Omaha, Neb.

20. Austin

21. Kansas City, Mo.

22. (tie) Fort Worth, Arlington, Dallas

25. Indianapolis

26. Louisville, Ky.

27. Washington

28. Baltimore

29. Charlotte, N.C.

30. Portland, Ore.

31. San Diego

32. (tie) Boston; Jacksonville, Fla.; New York

35. (tie) Memphis; Seattle; Virginia Beach, Va.

38. Sacramento, Calif.

39. (tie) Columbus, Ohio; Oklahoma City; Tulsa, Okla.

42. Long Beach, Calif.

43. (tie) Houston; Los Angeles; San Jose, Calif.

46. Honolulu

47. San Francisco

48. Oakland, Calif.

49. New Orleans

50. Miami


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