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5 Most Memorable Floods In The Last Century

Choosing which floods are the “most memorable” in the last 100 years in the US is tricky. If you lived through a flood, that’s going to be what you remember. Every state has experienced significant flooding in the last century. So which do you choose?The following five floods have things that are unique in size, deadliness, or circumstances, and so they make my list of most memorable floods in the past century. Here they are in chronological order.

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1. Mississippi Flood of 1927

Despite all of your memories of the floods later in this list, this was the most destructive flood in US history to date. The summer and fall of 1926 filled the Mississippi basin with water to record levels. This was a time before the federal system of levees and dams was in place along the river. The results speak for themselves. 14% of Arkansas was underwater and 600,000 people were displaced all along the river. By 1927 at the peak, the width of the river was 60 miles from Memphis to the sea.

The amount of flood damage that needed repair at the time was $1 billion, or a third of the federal budget. The flood waters didn’t recede until August of 1927. The scale of the damage caused a mass migration northward that didn’t recede until 1970.

2. Rapid City Flood of 1972

The former flood is an example of a regional flood. A large amount of rain falls on a big area and overwhelms the rivers. But a flash flood, like in this case, is different. A huge and fast storm can overwhelm the earth and cause flooding in places you wouldn’t expect like South Dakota.

In this flood, 15 inches of rain fell on Rapid City in five hours. The water rushed through the town of Rapid City. Residents had little warning of the flood. 237 people died in the rush of water and $160 million in property was destroyed.

3. Great Flood of 1993

Most readers of this article will remember this flood. The Great Flood of 1993 involved both the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers from April to October of 1993. Only the Mississippi Flood of 1927 surpassed it in scale and damage, though this flood was of a larger extent. Levee and floodwall improvements and better warning systems made this a less-damaging flood, but it still left quite a mess. Only 32 people died in the flooding, but there was $15-$20 billion in damage left over and a massive amount of sediment dumped onto farm fields. It also received round-the-clock media coverage at the time, since it was one of the first major disasters after the start of the 24-hour news cycle.

4. Hurricane Katrina

What can be said about this 2005 hurricane, the third deadliest hurricane ever and the most expensive natural disaster period in the United States, that most of us don’t know? 80% of New Orleans was flooded due to storm surge breaching the barriers, but there are a lot of other areas that received tremendous damage and little news coverage. Many coastal cities in Mississippi were wiped clean off the map in the devastation. If you think the images of flooded buses in New Orleans was bad, do a little research on what happened outside that area.

5. Louisiana Floods of 2016

Finally, there is the big flood story of this year, also in Southern Louisiana. A storm system parked itself over the state and dumped three times as much water on the state as Hurricane Katrina did. It was a 1,000-year event. Up to two feet of rain fell in some places, and all of it quite quickly.

The aftermath of this tragedy is still unfolded, but one major concern is that many of the homes did not have flood insurance. The areas affected by the storm were unaffected by Katrina and were outside of major flood plains. It just goes to show that a flood can happen just about anywhere if the conditions are right. Be prepared!

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