One of Pennsylvania’s most severe weather occurrences happened during 1998, during May and June, and consisted of a series of tornado outbreaks. The state endured 45 tornadoes over a span of three days. The instances were dubbed the Late-May 1998 Tornado Outbreak and Derecho and the 1998 Eastern Tornado Outbreak. The former swept through four states causing about $83 million in damage while the latter hit a total of nine states and resulted in an estimated $42 million in damage.
Though the tornado outbreak was out of the ordinary, HomeownersInsurance.com set out to find which Pennsylvania cities are the safest in terms of severe weather. Researchers factored in occurrences of hail, wind, lightning, and flooding and tallied up the numbers to give each city a final score.
Following are the top 15:
Altoona snagged the top spot due to having the lowest hail score on the list as well as a lightning score of zero. The city is situated in Blair County, spans nearly 10 square miles, and is home to more than 46,000 residents.
Altoona was formed around major railroads. Within the city limits, Altoona is divided into 19 different sections full of historical venues, gorgeous architecture, and entertainment and recreational amenities. The city is home to the Altoona Curve, a Double A baseball team affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
2. St. Marys
Nestled in Elk County, St. Marys has a population of more than 13,000. St. Marys secured the second place slot due to having the lowest flood score and well as the second lowest hail score on the list.
St. Marys is one of the few locations in the eastern United States that allows the hunting of wild elk, so the city is known for its close proximity to hunting lands and other recreational activities such as fishing in trout streams. St. Marys is also the home of Straub Brewery, along with several historical landmarks including the Decker’s Chapel.
Bloomsburg is located in Columbia County and has just shy of 15,000 residents. The city ranks highly on our list due to a lightning score of zero combined with low hail, wind, and flood scores. Bloomsburg is the site of the annual Bloomsburg Fair, which is the biggest fair in Pennsylvania.
Sandy spans nearly 1.4 square miles of Clearfield County and has a population of 10,625. It was awarded the fourth place position on our list of safest cities thanks to low scores across the board. Sandy is a census-designated place located in the central region of the state.
The Schuylkill County city of Pottsville ranked fifth on our list because of low flood and hail scores and a lightning score of zero. Pottsville is home to 14,324 residents and has a square mileage of 4.2. Pottsville is home to many points of interest, including D.G. Yuengling & Son Brewery headquarters, which is the oldest operating brewing company and is one of the biggest breweries in terms of volume throughout the country.
Dingman is located in Pike County and has 11,926 residents. Low flood, wind, and lightning scores led to the inclusion of Dingman on the list of safest Pennsylvania cities. Dingman is home to several sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Gifford Pinchot House – a home built to reflect French chateaus – the Minisink Archeological Site, and the Callahan House – a home believed to be a station on the Underground Railroad.
With a population of 10,383, Coal is the smallest of our Pennsylvania safest cities. The Northumberland County city’s low hail and wind scores solidified its place on the list of safest cities from severe weather. Coal is located in close proximity to churches, architecture, and homes listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which means short road trips that will thrill any adventure-seeker.
8. State College
State College is home to more than 42,000 Centre County residents. The city’s scores throughout the lightning, wind, hail, and flood categories were consistently low, which led to the No. 8 ranking. State College also is the home of Pennsylvania State University, and the region is oftentimes referred to as ‘Happy Valley.’ Because State College is a college town, the city has a great nightlife that includes bars, restaurants, arts, sports, and a significant music scene.
Somerset’s low hail and flood scores are to thank for solidifying a spot on the list of safest cities from severe weather. The city is in Somerset County and has a population of 12,122. One of the 9/11 flights hijacked by al-Qaeda – United Airlines Flight 93 – crashed in Somerset County. It’s believed that the plane was headed for the U.S. Capitol Building when passengers intervened. None of the 44 passengers survived.
White ranks 10th on the list of safest cities due to low hail, wind, and flood scores, and a lightning score of zero. The city covers nearly 43 square miles of Indiana County and provides a home for more than 15,800 Pennsylvanians. White was named after Judge Thomas White and is located in the state’s coal region.
Chambersburg spans 6.8 square miles of Franklin County and sealed the No. 11 slot with low scores in all severe weather categories, particularly lightning, which yielded a score of zero. More than 20,200 people call the city home. Chambersburg is rich in history as a stop on the Underground Railroad and the site of multiple Civil War raids – one of which, led by Brig. Gen. John McCausland, burned down a significant portion of the town.
Johnstown – a city in Cambria County – received low wind, lightning, hail, and flood scores, which helped it land in 12th position in terms of the safest cities from severe weather in Pennsylvania. Johnstown spans more than six square miles and has a population of nearly 21,000 people. Ironically, Johnstown is historically known for three major floods occurring in 1889, 1936, and 1977. An Academy Award-winning documentary, The Johnstown Flood, tells the story of the floods.
13. New Castle
More than 23,200 residents live in New Castle, a city in Lawrence County. This safe city’s low lightning score helped it steal the No. 13 slot on our list. New Castle is big on arts and culture. The city was the location of the Cascade – the first Warner Bros. studio, which opened its doors in 1907.
Williamsport joins the ranks of Pennsylvania’s safest cities thanks to one of the lowest flood scores on the list along with a lightning score of zero. The city is located in Lycoming County and has a population of more than 29,300. Little League Baseball originated in Williamsport, and the annual Little League World Series is held just south of the city limits.
The final city in our top 15 is Pennsylvania state capital, Harrisburg. Spanning 11.4 square miles of Dauphin County, Harrisburg is home to 49,528 Pennsylvanians and claims the final slot due to low hail, wind, and flood scores combined with a lightning score of zero. Harrisburg is home to the Pennsylvania Farm Show, which is the largest annual agricultural exhibition in the country. The city is also riddled with things to do such as seeing a performance at one of the two performing arts centers – the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts and the State Capitol Complex – or attending a jazz festival downtown.
As in other locations, standard homeowners insurance in Pennsylvania doesn’t cover flood damage. It does protect you from some other types of storm damage. Following is a listing of other Pennsylvania cities and their ranking, from safest to most dangerous:
Flood, Wind, Lightning and Hail scores are out of a possible 50 points where 0 is the best and 50 is the worst score. For the flood, wind, lightning and hail scores, HomeownersInsurance.com analysts reviewed all individual storm events identified by the NOAA Storm Events Database from 1965 to October 2014 and weighted scores as follows: # of storm event occurrences (30%), # of direct storm event related deaths (30%), # of direct storm event related injuries (25%) and # of direct storm related incidents of property damage (15%).
The flood score includes incidents of floods and flash floods. The wind score includes incidents of high wind, strong wind, thunderstorm wind and tornados. For data sources only available on a county level, cites were assigned points based on the information for the county in which the city is predominantly located. Analysts considered Pennsylvania cities (including townships, boroughs and other municipality types) with populations of 10,000 or above. Tiebreakers were awarded to cities with a larger population.