These Natural Disasters Can Occur in Connecticut! Are You Prepared?

Natural disasters that can happen in Connecticut

Connecticut, primarily known as the “Constitution State,” is oftentimes also referred to as the Land of Steady Habits, the Nutmeg State, the Provisions State, and the Hamburger State.

Even though it’s the third smallest state in the US, Connecticut has a rich history and culture that make the locals proud to be from there.

Connecticut is known for its role in the development of the US Constitution, having adopted the Fundamental Orders in 1639, which were claimed to be the first written constitution for the United States. Nearly 150 years later, on January 9, 1788, Connecticut became the 5th state to officially sign the Constitution.

Some of the state’s notable recognitions include its rich maritime history, its deer flooded streets, being the home of one of the best wooden roller coasters in the world, and being the place where the first hamburger was sold in the United States.

One of the highlights of Connecticut is that you can build great relationships with your neighbors and community, particularly in the small towns. Although it’s an expensive state to live in, the quality of life there makes it worth it.

Just like any other place in the world, you can expect several natural disasters to occur in the Constitution State, so it’s good to know what your risks in order to be prepared.

What natural disasters does Connecticut have?

Connecticut’s most common natural disasters include:

  • hurricanes
  • severe storms
  • winter storms
  • floods
  • wildfires
  • severe heat
  • tornadoes
  • earthquakes
  • landslides
  • power outages

Between 1953 and 2019, Connecticut declared 33 major disasters of which hurricanes and severe storms happened the most according to FEMA.

1. Hurricanes and Coastal Storms

Being that Connecticut lies on the East coast, it makes it an area prone to tropical storms and hurricanes. Over the course of time, the Constitution State has experienced some of the worst beatings including the 1938 New England Hurricane, which made landfall as a Category 5 storm bringing in wind speeds as high as 162 mph, resulting in nearly 800 direct deaths, and causing $306 million dollars worth of damage (1938 USD). 

Nor’Easters are also known to occur in Connecticut. Nor’easters are coastal storms that form over the Atlantic Ocean. They're much like tropical storms and hurricanes in terms of precipitation and high wind speeds, except they form over cold air instead of warm air. One of the worst Nor’Easters to affect Connecticut began on April 14, 2007, and lasted for four days. The aftermath included widespread flooding, wind-damaged property, downed power lines, and heavy snowfall that blocked roads, froze water pipes, and interrupted commuter travel. 

Even though we cannot prevent hurricanes, we can do our part to become prepared. There are several ways to retrofit your home to reduce your risk of external damage. A couple of ideas would be to install window shutters to protect your windows from breaking and roof straps to hold your roof in place in the event of forceful winds. You and your family’s safety is of course much more important, which is why having an emergency plan is vital. Your emergency plan should include a family communication plan, an evacuation strategy, your important documents folder, and a kit with all your necessary supplies.

Be sure to check out our hurricane preparedness guide to learn which items we recommend you store, as well as how to stay safe before, during, and after a hurricane.

2. Severe Storms

Severe thunderstorms with lightning, intense rain, strong gusts of wind, and hail are all to be expected throughout Connecticut. One of the storms that stands out the most in the state’s history occurred in June 1995. It produced hailstones the size of baseballs in several cities! It destroyed the siding of homes, windows, cars— you name it.      

Severe weather can occur any time of year, but storms like these tend to happen the most between May and September with the peak months being June and July. Connecticut ranks 43rd among the 50 states when it comes to lightning fatalities and injuries. While there were only two recorded deaths between 1990 and 2003, it’s still important to take these natural disasters seriously. 

In order to stay safe during severe storms, you should take refuge in a sturdy shelter (such as a home or enclosed building) until the storm passes. Stay tuned to the local weather channel for updates and take proper precautions when the weather looks threatening, especially if you’re outdoors. For more tips on storm safety, check out our guide here.

3. Winter Storms

Winter begins to make its appearance in Connecticut in December and lasts through the middle of March. While the coastal region tends to receive rain during this season, the inland region gets hit with snow and blizzards. The northern part of the state receives twice as much snow, on average, when compared to the southern part. 

One of the worst winter storms in Connecticut’s recent history was the North American Blizzard of February 2013. This storm dumped 40 inches of snow in the city of Hamden, and hurricane-force gusts of winds of over 80 mph were recorded. This storm affected the United States, Canada, Iceland, and the British Isles! Eighteen casualties were attributed to this event. 

It’s imperative that you become prepared for the winter if you live in Connecticut. During the winter months, you should always carry an emergency kit in your vehicle, and have your home readily stocked with supplies in case you need to shelter in place for a week or more.

When heavy snow is forecasted, postpone any unnecessary travel. Also, expect power outages and the impacts that it can have on your life, even if only temporary. Learn the best practices for becoming prepared for winter weather here.

4. Floods

Connecticut boasts 3,000 lakes, ponds, reservoirs, and 5,828 miles of rivers. Without question, this makes the state exceptionally beautiful. Sadly, this beauty comes at a price as each of these water systems is prone to saturation and overflow after periods of heavy precipitation. The state gets precipitation on 130 days in an average year which measures nearly 46 inches of water. This makes the risk of flooding very high. 

The Constitution State has had numerous notable floods, including the March 1936 Flood and the 1955 Connecticut Flood. 

The March 1936 flood occurred over a period of 13 days of continuous rain and snowmelt. Roads, bridges, and infrastructure were swept away. Several people drowned and the Connecticut river reached a record height of 37.56 feet. 

The 1955 flood was one of the worst Connecticut has ever experienced. It all began on August 12 and 13 when Hurricane Connie brought in 3 to 8 inches of rain. Less than a week later, Hurricane Diane arrived, depositing 12 inches or more of water throughout the state. The ground and waterways were already saturated from Hurricane Connie, so you can imagine what the scene looked like after Hurricane Diane passed through. The state reported an estimated nearly $400 million (1955 dollars) in damages, including the destruction of 507 industrial facilities, 1,436 commercial establishments, 922 farms, and thousands of homes. The death toll reached 87. The residual damages included contaminated water, loss of power, lack of food, and mass unemployment. 

Floods can devastate homes, infrastructure, and cities. Since the world’s topography is constantly changing, a location with a low flood risk today may experience a higher risk in the years to come. It’s important to stay up to date with the flood hazard maps of your region and prepare accordingly. In this guide, you can find many resources, including how to mitigate floods, how to stay safe, and which supplies you should keep in your evacuation kits.

5. Wildfires

According to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), Connecticut has a higher risk of forest fires beginning mid-March up until May. Out of the 1.9 million acres of forested land, about 500 acres are burned each year. The causes of wildfires are primarily linked to human activity and arson, but other times are caused by lightning too. In any case, the risk of wildfires in the Constitution State is increasing because a large number of homes are built in densely forested areas. It would be wise to stay in tune with the daily forest fire danger report, especially during the Spring months.

Wildfires are painfully destructive and if you live in a region with a risk of wildfire, there’s no choice but to become prepared for one. It’s highly recommended that you take the necessary steps to protect your home, for example by cleaning the landscape of your property to create defensible space around your home. Also, have your emergency kit supplies ready in case of a future immediate evacuation. Learn about wildfire preparedness, including mitigation and safety tips, here.

6. Severe Heat

Summer months in Connecticut average 70° F making it the 31st warmest state in the nation. On rare occasions, however, the state experiences a brief period of temperature highs reaching approximately 100° F. The highest temperature ever recorded in the Constitution State was 106° F in Danbury on July 15, 1995. 

During high heat and humidity, the state may issue heatwave warnings. Be sure to drink plenty of water, know the symptoms of heat illness, and perhaps plan a day-trip to a local mall, movie theater, or cooling center that has air conditioning. Learn how to stay safe and prepare for extreme heat here.

7. Tornadoes

Tornadoes are not common in Connecticut, and when they do occur, they’re typically weak. On average, 1.3 tornadoes occur per year, bringing the state’s ranking to 43rd place nationwide. 

A weak tornado does not mean that they’re not destructive. The worst tornado in Connecticut’s history was the Wallingford tornado that occurred on August 9, 1878. This F4 tornado injured at least 70 people and killed 34.

Becoming prepared for a tornado is crucial, especially considering how little amount of time they provide to warn people that they need to take shelter. Designate places that would serve as temporary safety shelters, such as a basement or an interior bedroom with no exterior windows. Learn the weather patterns that tend to precede tornadoes and be on alert when your region experiences that type of weather. For a complete list of mitigation and safety tips, visit our tornado guide here.

8. Earthquakes

Southern Connecticut lies on a fault system that runs from the Lower Connecticut River Valley northeast into Massachusetts. While earthquakes have been felt across the state, the most seismic activity happens near the town of Moodus. The strongest earthquake recorded in Connecticut was estimated to be between 4.5 and 5.0. It occurred at Moodus in 1791.  

Earthquakes happen without warning, so having a plan of action is wise. You should memorize safe places where you can take cover until the earthquake and aftershocks pass. Then, you should learn which steps to take to ensure that you’re safe from danger. In this guide, we’ve provided a checklist of what to do before, during, and after an earthquake. Print the list and keep it with your emergency supplies for future reference.

9. Landslides

Landslides are possible all across the United States, especially in mountainous regions. Connecticut’s highest elevation is 2,379 feet: Mount Frissell. Although the state doesn’t have a history of major landslides, the risk is present during episodes of heavy precipitation where the ground is saturated. Landslides can also be caused by the removal of dirt, rocks, and trees during the construction of roads and bridges. 

Much like flood risk hazards change based on topographical changes, so does the likelihood of landslides. Every few years, you should review the landslide risk level in your community and property. If your risk at home is high, there are mitigation steps you can take to strengthen your property. If there’s a risk of landslides rockslides near you, or on the roads leading in and out of your city, you should determine alternate routes that will get you home or to work if one of the roads is blocked by debris. Learn more here.

10. Power Outages

Connecticut has had several major power outages, including the Northeast Blackout of 1965 which was caused by human error and lasted up to 13 hours in select areas. Another significant outage occurred in 2003 and it was caused by a software bug.

Natural disasters and human errors are the main culprits of failures in our electrical system. Being prepared to survive a long term outage is crucial for anyone, no matter where you live. Disasters make our lives much more difficult as is, but imagine having no power in the midst of them. An outage during a winter storm could be dangerous if you don’t have the appropriate supplies to stay warm and cook your food.

Also consider that the lack of electricity for a family member who is medically dependent on an electrical device can be extremely challenging for them, if not life-devastating. It’s important to prepare for the likelihood of these scenarios in advance. Learn how to stay safe during a power outage here.

Natural disaster resources for Connecticut

Whether you’re preparing for a disaster or recovering from one, there are many resources available in Connecticut to take advantage of.

  • Stay in the know of any weather alerts and warnings in your area by downloading the NOAA Weather App. This app will send you updates in real-time.  

  • Learning how to mitigate and stay safe during disasters can become stressful, which is why we have made it easy for you in each of our disaster guides. Learn what you need to know and download the preparedness checklists at the end of each guide to keep for future reference. 

  • If you’re interested in joining a group of like-minded people, you’ll want to look into CERT. The Community Emergency Response Team is a government organization that provides free emergency preparedness training, courses, and simulations to the public. You can find your local CERT here!

  • Being able to provide resources and supplies after a disaster situation is crucial. If you have things to donate during times of critical need, be sure to connect with the Connecticut VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters). This volunteer-run organization determines what is needed during the immediate recovery phase, and will reach out to those who may have those supplies.

  • For more information on state-specific resources regarding the preparedness and recovery phases of disasters, please visit the Connecticut State Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security website

I hope you enjoyed learning about Connecticut’s most common disasters.

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Want to look up another state? Find out which disasters are likely to happen in other parts of the US here!