Home buying tips on flood zones, fault lines, and other concerns

Advice and tips for homebuyers: consider fault lines, natural hazards and disasters before buying a home.

When looking at buying a home, whether locally or in a new area, it is important to remember to look at two things: the types of natural disasters in the area and the frequency of which they happen. Natural hazards include flood zones or basins and fault lines. Disasters include wild fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, avalanches and earthquakes. A little bit of homework before you buy your new home can save some serious headache, trouble and money later.

Flood zones and basins

Flood zones are areas that are prone to flooding. These areas, though not always located near a river or lake, have a high frequency rate of flooding. Flood basins are generally areas constructed near rivers or water sources to help contain any floodwaters that may overflow the lake or riverbanks. Known flood zones include: the Ohio River Valley running through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia and Kentucky; Susquehanna River basin in South Central Pennsylvania; areas along the Mississippi River and its basin; Eastern and Western Coastlines and other inland areas. Nearly every one of the 50 states has flood-prone areas due to natural water sources or large amounts of precipitation.

Hurricanes and Wind Storms

Although hurricanes are most known for their high wind speeds and heavy rainfalls they are not the only harbinger of high winds. Actual hurricanes generally affect the eastern coast from Florida north up through the eastern edge of Virginia and west through the eastern coast of Texas. Unfortunately the effects of a hurricane can easily travel considerably far inland. The inland effects of a hurricane include rain (sometimes excessive rainfall) and high winds. Other storms can bring windstorms that can cause severe property damage; these storms can strike virtually anywhere in the country.

Fault Lines and Earthquakes

Faults and fault lines are, for the most part, the most earthquake-prone areas. Fault lines are where two sections of tectonic plates under the Earth's crust are pressing against each other. Faults are where the rock below the Earth's surface has broken. The breaking, or slipping, of these are what cause the earthquakes. Any states that lie along the West Coast eastward to just East of the Rocky Mountain range are all in an earthquake-prone area. Other areas that are prone to earthquakes are along the New Madrid Fault Line that runs through Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee, in Alaska, the New England states as well as areas where volcanoes or volcanic eruptions happen.


Tornadoes, one of Mother Nature's most feared, and revered, phenomena is one of the most awesome displays of Nature next to a nighttime electrical storm. Tornadoes are rotating columns of air, ranging in width from a few yards to more than a mile, whirling at destructively high speeds. The fact that tornadoes are extremely unpredictable and strike quickly with little forewarning gives them such a sadistic and vicious reputation. Tornadoes are extremely common in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama. "Tornado Alley" is a section across the central United States that is known for its numerous tornadoes every year. It runs north from Texas to eastern Nebraska and northeast to Indiana. Other states known for tornadic activity are: Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Mississippi, North and South Carolina and Louisiana.


By definition a wildfire is a raging, destructive fire that is difficult to distinguish. Wildfires can spread quickly, consuming everything in its path. Wildfires can be ignited by either Mother Nature or Man making it the only hazard that is not always a natural hazard. They are common in any area of the country where there is forest, woodlands or open space.

Though flooding, hurricanes, windstorms, earthquakes, tornadoes and wildfires are not the only hazards that exist they are the most common. Looking carefully at the climate, geography and history of any real estate will ensure that any natural hazards or disasters will not be completely unexpected.

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