East Coast people sometimes like to say that with our earthquakes, wildfires and occasional uprisings, who would want to live in Southern California?

With a disastrous hurricane Sandy looming near Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York City, we took a look at the claim, putting the East Coast storm head-to-head with some of our worst disasters.

The result? They're right:

New York Sandy.; Credit: @JulieRocha_

New York Sandy.; Credit: @JulieRocha_

Estimates of Sandy's damage range as high as $20 billion, including insured losses and flooding.

The hurricane-cum-Frankenstorm has already shut down the New York Stock Exchange floor for two days, destroyed the Atlantic City Boardwalk, and prompted widespread evacuations along the Eastern seaboard. So it will probably rank as one of the East Coast's worst natural disasters in modern times.

By comparison, the Northridge Earthquake of 1994, which was a relatively mild 6.7, led to as many as 50 deaths, caused as much as $25 billion in damage and shut down entire freeways for days.

Credit: Eric Gelinas

Credit: Eric Gelinas

It ranks on some lists as one of the top-five natural disasters in modern history.

And, by most seismologists' estimates, it wasn't even “the Big One” that is yet to come.

The October, 2007 California wildfires got a lot of press and were typical of the kind of natural and man-made disaster that some East Coasters say they would rather avoid.

October, 2007 wildfires.

October, 2007 wildfires.

While the fires made it appear as if half the state was ablaze, in many cases damage was estimated in only the millions. The Santiago Fire in Orange County was worth $10 million. San Diego's farther-reaching blazes only did an estimated $1 billion in damage.

During the 1992 Los Angeles riots, 53 people died and as much as $1 billion in damage was reported.

Interestingly, if earthquakes are the biggest fear of out-of-towners, they don't always kill many and cost as much.

The 2010 Baja earthquake measured 7.2, larger than the Haiti disaster of that year, but it only killed 2 people and caused less than $1 billion in damage.

This despite the fact that it could have been felt by 20 million people. Why? The area near its epicenter in the northern Baja desert (and Southern California desert) is sparsely populated.

So sometimes Southern California's seemingly numerous natural disasters are exaggerated.

The world's biggest disaster in modern times is Japan's 9.0 earthquake last year, which killed more than 18,000 people and cost more than $300 billion.

So where are the worst natural disasters, on the East Coast or West Coast? Depends on where you are at the time.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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