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Missouri’s 10 Safest Cities from Severe Weather

From threatening thunderstorms to menacing tornadoes, weather isn’t always peaceful in the state of Missouri. No MO resident can soon forget the 2011 Joplin tornado. Part of a larger tornado outbreak, the Joplin EF-5 tornado cut a swath nearly a mile wide with winds in excess of 200 mph. It killed 161 people and destroyed 4,000 homes. The damages amounted to a total of $2.8 billion, making it the costliest single tornado in U.S. history.

While Missouri doesn’t always have a great relationship with Mother Nature, some Show Me State cities see more severe weather activity than others. At we set out to rank Missouri’s safest cities from severe weather. We used the NOAA Storm Events Database to retrieve data on the cities’ tornado, lightning and hails incidents. We also used the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System to create our flood scores.

We compiled our findings to create a total score for each city. In the end, we wound up with Missouri’s top ten most fair weather cities:

1. Kirksville

Situated in Adair County, Missouri’s No. 1 severe weather safe haven is the small city of Kirksville. Dubbed as ‘Missouri’s North Star,’ Kirksville is home to more than 17,500 residents. The city topped our list for having the lowest average occurrences of tornado, lightning and hail events in the state. Thousand Hills State Park and Kirksville’s Downtown Square are the perfect places for residents to enjoy this fair weather city.

2. Cameron

Not a fan of hail or lightning? This small Missouri city doesn’t see much of either. Located in Clinton County, Cameron is home to almost 10,000 residents. The city comes in second on our list for its low average occurrences of tornado, lightning and hail events. Residents who live here enjoy its rural setting and many available recreation opportunities. Even though it’s small, Cameron is growing fast. The city added 670 new housing units in the last 10 years.

3. Boonville

With over 8,300 residents, Boonville may not be the biggest city in Missouri but it does come in as the third safest from severe weather. Boonville, originally named for Daniel Boone, has a rich history but not one filled with many tornadoes. The city also scored low in hail and lightning occurrences. What’s there to do on a nice Boonville day? Take a walking tour and learn about the city’s history or canoe down the beautiful Missouri River.

4. Chillicothe

Of all the cities in our top 10, you’re least likely to see a tornado in Chillicothe. The city had the lowest average of tornado events. Chillicothe did, however, have more hail incidents than others in the list. The word ‘Chillicothe’ is a Shawnee Indian word, meaning ‘Big Town Where We Live,’ but with just about 9,300 residents, the city isn’t so big. What it lacks in size, it makes up in innovation though. The city hails itself as the home of sliced bread!

5. Marshall

Rounding out the top five safest cities is none other than Marshall. Located in Saline County, Marshall is home to more than 13,000 residents. The city made our list for having low average occurrences of both hail and lightning events. Tornadoes are also relatively rare here but they do happen on occasion. Founded in 1839, Marshall as a long, rich history. On a beautiful day you might find residents enjoying the weather at Indian Foothills Park or antiquing in charming downtown Marshall.

6. Nevada

Located in Vernon County, Nevada is home to slightly more than 8,200 residents – the smallest city on our list. The thriving community comes in sixth due to its rare occurrences of lightning and hail. While Nevada has had a few tornadoes in its past, it’s experienced them considerably less than other MO cities. Nevada residents enjoy the rural life but can easily access metros like Kansas City and Springfield to get the best of both worlds.

7. Branson

Nestled in the lakeside beauty of the Ozark Mountains, there’s a lot to like about the city of Branson – including its low likelihood for severe weather. The city sees minimal hail and tornado activity but comes in at number seven for its higher average for lightning incidents. On a beautiful Branson day you’ll either find residents at one of Branson’s three scenic lakes, its family friendly theme park or strolling around historic downtown.

8. Clinton

Clinto, MO - no flickr PGAV Planners

Photo credit: PGAV Planners

Sliding in at number eight is the city of Clinton, located in Henry County. With a little more than 9,000 residents, Clinton is a modest size but comes with a rich history and charming downtown. The city sees minimal tornado and lightning occurrences, however, had the highest amount of hail incidents in the top ten. Clinton is also home to Truman Lake. Covering 56,000 acres, it’s the state’s second largest lake.

9. St. Joseph

new st. joe

Photo credit: PGAV Planners











With more than 77,000 residents, St. Joseph is the largest city on our list. St. Joseph scored major points for its lack of hail and lightning incidents but ultimately ended up at No. 9 for its tornado score. Still, don’t expect to see many twisters around here. St. Joseph is not only home to the Pony Express but it also boasts 48 parks, which are perfect for enjoying the city’s nice weather.

10. Moberly

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Nicknamed ‘The Magic City,’ magic might be responsible for Moberly’s low averages of tornado, hail and lightning occurrences. Located in Randolph County, Moberly is home to more than 13,700 residents. At 447 acres, Rothwell Park is the city’s largest park and offers two beautiful lakes, a two-mile walking trail and dog park. It’s the perfect place to spend a sunny day.

These are Missouri’s safest cities, but even they aren’t immune to weather disasters. Here are some steps you can take if your location is threatened by a tornado or flood.

Following are the scores for other cities in Missouri and our methodology:

MO cities chart


Tornado, Lightning, Hail, and flood scores are out of a possible 20 points where 0 is the best and 20 is the worst score.  For the tornado and lightning scores, analysts reviewed individual storm events identified by the NOAA Storm Events Database from 1965 to Oct 2014 and weighted scores as follows: # of storm event occurrences (50%), # of direct storm event related injuries (15%), # of direct storm event related deaths (35%).  For the hail score, the NOAA Storm Events Database was also used but included only 2014 data.  The flood score was assigned based on the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System (CRS), which is a rating community floodplain management activities that exceed minimum requirements.  The ratings were assigned on a linear scale with the top CRS rating in Missouri of “5” earning 0 points (the best score) and a CRS rating of “10” or “not ranked” earning 20 points (worst score).  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. Tiebreakers were decided based on city population.


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