These Major American Cities Are Sitting Ducks for Giant Earthquakes

Mexico City earthquake rescuers

Mexico City’s recent earthquake caused massive damage. | Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

Natural disasters seem to be increasingly common these days. Whether it’s the rapid, machine gun-like frequency with which hurricanes hit our coast or the earthquakes and tsunamis killing hundreds of thousands, it can feel like Mother Earth has a vendetta against humanity. Even if you live in an area you thought was relatively safe from natural disasters, you might be surprised at how much risk there actually is. And for millions of Americans, the biggest threat isn’t from hurricanes or floods — it’s from earthquakes.

Using data from the United States Geological Survey, we’ve compiled a list of 15 American cities that are in real danger of experiencing a devastating earthquake. Although some of these cities might not be much of a surprise, there are plenty that are — and might have you checking your homeowners insurance policy to make sure you’re in the clear. The USGS data say earthquake risk in these areas is both natural and man-made (as a result of hydraulic fracturing, among other things), meaning parts of the country that were once relatively risk-free now have increased odds of a serious seismic event.

We don’t mean to shake you up, but here are the 15 cities that could see potentially devastating earthquakes in the very near future.

1. Memphis, Tennessee

  • The city isn’t in what you’d consider a classic earthquake zone. But the USGS says otherwise.

While we typically associate large, destructive earthquakes with parts of California or in areas near volcanoes, the threat is very real even in middle America. Take Memphis for example. Most people would be surprised to learn that Memphis is actually at considerable risk when it comes to earthquakes, but a quick look at the USGS’ map reveals that the city is actually in a seismic hot spot. In fact, the USGS says there’s “a 25-40% probability of a magnitude 6.0 or greater in the next 50 years.”

Memphis was unexpected. Our next city? Much less so.