HomeOutdoorsWeatherAmericans Fleeing Hurricanes Are Moving Into Wildfire Territory, Study Finds

Americans Fleeing Hurricanes Are Moving Into Wildfire Territory, Study Finds

by Emily Morgan
Photo by: David McNew / Stringer

A study finds that more Americans are moving away from areas of the country most affected by hurricanes and heatwaves. However, according to reports, people are trading one weather phenomenon for another as they flee to areas ripe for wildfires and hotter temperatures.

A 10-year national study published by Frontiers in Human Dynamics shows how natural disasters, climate change, and other weather phenomena drive humans to migrate to other parts of the country. For example, as the report describes, people who flee from hurricane areas move in droves to areas prone to wildfires and intense heat.

“These findings are concerning because people are moving into harm’s way — into regions with wildfires and rising temperatures, which are expected to become more extreme due to climate change,” author Mahalia Clark said.

Researchers were first interested in the study because of the ongoing weather phenomenon. According to Clark, their primary goal was to examine how weather changes in migration patterns. Their research identified the top cities people are fleeing to by studying census data from 2010 to 2020.

New study reveals which cities people are moving to to escape hurricanes

According to the researchers, the most popular areas were cities and towns in the Pacific Northwest and parts of the Southwest including Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah.

Although people are hopeful to get away from looming hurricane threats, they’re moving to places favorable for wildfire conditions, the study revealed.

“These findings suggest that, for many Americans, the risks and dangers of living in hurricane zones may be starting to outweigh the benefits of life in those areas,” co-author Gillian Galford said in a statement.

She added: “That same type of tipping point has yet to happen for wildfires and rising summer heat.” According to Galford, this disparity could be due to the fact that wildfires and temperature increases have only become national issues in recent years.

The study also features maps that showcase the intensity of weather crises all over the country. However, researchers want readers to “do their research” before they pack up and move. As they point out, most real estate websites aren’t forthcoming about the fact that you could be moving to a fire-prone area.

In addition, Clark points out that while many people still consider the American west a designated place for wildfires, additional regions such as the Midwest and the Southeast are seeing more wildfires yearly.

Their research also revealed a set of traits shared with top migration places: mild winters, closeness to a body of water, adequate tree cover, moderate population density, and increased human development index scores — in addition to wildfire risks.

However, Florida seemed to stump researchers, as many people, especially retirees, are still moving to the area despite the hurricanes. “The decision to move is a complicated and personal decision that involves weighing dozens of factors,” Clark said.