Top Flooding Cities in the U.S. December 29, 2016 – Posted in: Blog – Tags: Flooding Facts
The incidents of nuisance flooding in some U.S. cities is up significantly in the last several decades. Floods that cause property damage and inconvenience but not serious injury or loss of life are classified as nuisances. The term makes them sound insignificant, but if your property was damaged by a nuisance flood, you would not consider the incident insignificant.
Unlike catastrophic floods that occur as a result of big storms and are televised on the nightly news, nuisance floods can be kicked off by somewhat normal weather conditions, a heavy spring rain or even high tide. Nuisance floods happen more often than you might think, and they tend to be concentrated in certain areas.
Several U.S. cities have seen a tremendous increase in flooding in the last 50 years. The rate of flooding in these cities, concentrated mostly on the East Coast, increased between 325 and 925 percent. The top 10 cities with the most flooding in the U.S., in order from least severe to most severe flood rate increase, are:
The floods most common in these cities damage property and cost money for building and infrastructure restoration.
Norfolk is a major shipping port that accommodates millions of tons of cargo each year. The city is also home to a thriving ship building industry and the largest naval base in the world.
One of the oldest cities in the U.S., Norfolk was established in 1682. One third of the population of Norfolk died from the yellow fever outbreak in 1855. Union forces occupied Norfolk from 1862 to the end of the Civil War. The modern naval station was established in Norfolk in 1917 on the ground of the 1907 Jamestown Exhibition. In many ways, Norfolk has been a navy town ever since.
Historic waterfront structures in Norfolk are threatened by flooding. The continuing rise in sea level that makes flooding more likely also affects navigation around this shipping port and to and from the naval base.
Norfolk has a recorded history of hurricanes dating back to 1635. A devastating storm in 1667 blew down 10,000 houses and took out the foundation of Fort George. Flooding was reported in farmland miles away from the waterfront. One of the most recent storms, Hurricane Sandy, flooded the interstate and the tunnel into the city in addition to 100 smaller roads. In total, damage from this one storm in the U.S. was estimated at $50 billion.
San Francisco, California
Trade and shipping have always been a main part of the economy in San Francisco, partly due to its natural, landlocked harbor. There are also a number of financial institutions headquartered in San Francisco, as well as technology, biotechnology, fashion, manufacturing and aerospace companies. Tourism in San Francisco generates approximately $6.73 billion each year.
The gold rush of the 1800s put San Francisco on the map and made it a U.S. territory. Originally a Spanish mission, San Francisco was taken over by American gold prospectors. The city was hit by a major earthquake in 1906, setting off fires that burned the city down. It was again the victim of a large earthquake in 1989. San Francisco’s infrastructure includes two iconic bridges, the Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay Bridges.
Due to the flooding in 1862, the state capital of California was temporarily moved to San Francisco for five months. Some of the construction items for the new capital building were actually made in San Francisco instead of being imported from the East.
San Francisco has a history of floods, but the worst recorded was in 1862. The flood covered several states and lasted for days. Approximately one quarter of the useable real estate in the state of California was destroyed. Estimated property damage was around $10 million, and the loss in property tax revenue forced the state into bankruptcy
Four of the fastest-growing industries in Washington, D.C. are construction, hospitality, business services and education. A majority of the people in Washington work for the federal government.
Washington has been the seat of the federal government for decades. The city was founded in 1790 at the location George Washington chose, and it was designed by Pierre Charles L’Enfant, who created the grid system with the Capitol building at the center. Today, the city holds the largest concentration of American political history in the country and is a popular tourist destination.
Flooding in Washington, D.C. not only has consequences for the structures in the city, many of which have historic significance, but it also affects the people. As a major tourist destination on the shores of the Potomac river, Washington, D.C. would take some time to evacuate in the event of an impending storm. The population of the city swells when Congress is in session and tourism is at its height.
Washington, D.C. has flooded a number of times. The major documented floods include 1771, 1889, 1924, 1936, 1942, 1969, 1972, 1985, 1996 and 2001.
Charleston, South Carolina
According to a recent report, the top five industries in Charleston include aerospace, biotechnology, auto manufacturing, recycling and transportation.
Charleston is an old city full of culture and history. At the center of the historic district is the old slave trade market, which is now used as a flea market. Many of the houses in Charleston date back to the 1800s and represent of antebellum southern architecture. The author of “Gone with the Wind,” Margaret Mitchell, visited Charleston and based some of her characters on a prominent family whose home is preserved as a museum.
Flooding in Charleston is devastating to the historic architecture there. Some of the charm and history of this southern seaport city erodes every time the waters rise. Charleston was flooded most recently in October 2015 by a hurricane that stalled offshore and brought drenching rains. Earlier flooding events took place in 1990, 1945, 1940, 1908 and 1903.
Port Isabel, Texas
Leading industries in Port Isabel include hospitality, retail, public works, education and agriculture. It is also the home of a deep-water port that focuses on the oil and gas industry. Commercial fishing and tourism are two important parts of life in Port Isabel that are both dependent on the weather and its coastal location.
Major floods in Port Isabel are difficult on the local tourism and fishing economy. In 1933, Port Isabel was flooded by a major hurricane. It also experienced some flooding as a result of lesser storms in 1885 and 1895.
Sandy Hook, New Jersey
The major industry in Sandy Hook is tourism. It is a small, beachfront resort community. Sandy Hook is a historic resort town within easy commute and view of New York City.
Flooding in Sandy Hook has the potential to wipe out most of the city. The beaches and other outdoor activities are extremely vulnerable to flooding since the city is so close to the shore. Sandy Hook reaches major flood stage when the water rises above 8.7 feet. It experienced flooding at or above this level in 1968, 1966, 2010, 1950, 1962, 1944, 1953, 2011, 1960, 1992 and 2012.
Primary industries in Philadelphia include biomedical, pharmaceutical, finance, telecommunications and printing.
Historically, Philadelphia was a manufacturing city with a large immigrant population from all over the world. Philadelphia was founded on the idea of freedom from religious persecution. It is one of the oldest cities in the country, dating back to 1682, and it contains important national treasures like the Liberty Bell.
Flooding in Philadelphia threatens historic architecture and artifacts, in addition to some very lucrative businesses that rely on computer-based technology. Philadelphia has an old drainage system that makes it prone to flooding from heavy rain storms. In 1955, Philadelphia experienced major flooding as two separate hurricanes, Connie and Diana, passed through the area in the same week. Philadelphia also flooded in 2001, 2004, 2005 and 2006.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Atlantic City is a tourist destination that entertains 33 million visitors each year, primarily with casinos and beaches. Gambling was legalized in Atlantic City in the 1970s and brings in about $3 billion a year. As a tourism destination, Atlantic City hosts about 26 million visitors annually.
When the boardwalk at Atlantic City is flooded, a large portion of the tourist attractions are affected. Like other waterfront locations, Atlantic City has been flooded several times over the years. The most recent floods were in 2016, 2011 and 2010.
According to a 2015 report, the top five industries in Baltimore are manufacturing, cyber security, life sciences, fishing and aerospace defense. Historic and cultural attractions in Baltimore include the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, Edgar Allan Poe House, Federal Hill and the Fort McHenry National Monument.
Major flooding in Baltimore threatens important parts of American history and heritage. Baltimore was flooded by three major storms in the 1950s: Hurricanes Able, Hazel and Connie. Each resulted in millions of dollars in damage to property in the city. Other flooding events occurred in 1972, 1979, 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2011.
Government is one of the largest industries in Annapolis given its proximity to Washington, D.C. Recent development of high-tech companies includes a concentration in fiber optics, internet-based services, environmental concerns and medical equipment and supplies distribution.
Annapolis is a historic city that once served as the capital of the colonies. It contains more original 18th century buildings than any other city in America. The current atmosphere combines seaside attractions with Southern hospitality.
Flooding in Annapolis would jeopardize lucrative technology industries plus historic architecture. Annapolis experiences flooding with every major storm that hits the Chesapeake Bay area. The city historically sees flood conditions at least three days out of every year. Currently, that flood rate is up to 33 days each year.
Nuisance flooding is caused by a combination of factors including higher ocean water levels and certain atmospheric conditions. In many of these areas on the East Coast, flooding can be experienced at high tide, a regular occurrence.
Higher water levels in the ocean affect inland bodies of water as well. When the tide comes in and the weather is rainy, the additional water may have no where to go. If storm drains are overwhelmed by high water levels or a surge of water in a short period of time, they may not work to direct the extra water safely back out into the ocean. Instead, water will begin to flow past the beach, over the dunes, out of the tributary river banks and into the streets.
Water seeks the path of least resistance without regard to urban infrastructure. If there is a low spot along the edge of a creek, for instance, that is where the water will flow out and into the surrounding area. When water meets an obstacle like the block wall of your foundation, it will eventually find the loosest joint and push its way through.
Physical science also tells us that water runs to the lowest point and seeks level. If it floods a road with a big pothole in the middle of it, for instance, the water will be the same depth on either side of the road even though it is much deeper over the pothole. The most flooded cities in the U.S., however, do not represent the lowest-lying land regions.
Flooding is a particular danger in urban areas, even when they are not near or below sea level. Urban infrastructure disrupts normal run-off patterns, increasing the chances of flooding. One of the reasons an area does not flood every time it rains is because the ground absorbs some of the water. In a city covered with hard surface roads and walkways, water tends to sit on the surface rather than get absorbed into the earth.
Buildings provide an additional flood hazard by blocking run-off from its natural routes. Water sitting on the hard surfaces of the city wants to move to the lowest point. It cannot move through the buildings, however, so they serve to funnel it around and in between the structures. Moving water is concentrated and strengthened in the pathways between buildings.
Most urban infrastructure is designed with storm drains to take any excess water off the streets and direct it to nearby bodies of water through underground pipes. If the water accumulates too fast, like in a severe downpour, these storm drains can be overwhelmed. The excess water backs up into the streets and has no where to go, causing flooding.
With all that excess water rushing around the streets between the buildings, erosion is accelerated. Water can be a very powerful force. When it is moving quickly and coming in contact with surfaces that were not designed to withstand the pressure, damage can occur. Most urban buildings are designed to resist water from a rainstorm. They are not built to be submerged in water, however, and will not stand up to this sort of erosion for very long.
Floods in America
Most people realize areas near rivers and streams are subject to flooding. The surprise is how quickly an ordinary rainstorm can cause these bodies of water to become very dangerous. When rivers and streams are combined with steep terrain, the danger can come very quickly.
America is full of beautiful scenery. Water running down a mountainside into a creek can be a breathtaking view. Watching the cool crisp water in that creek gurgle along toward the river can connect you with the peaceful tranquility of nature. The gravity that creates this beautiful scene, however, can turn it into a nightmare pretty quickly.
We all know water runs downhill, but when the volume of water is increased, it runs even faster. In the event of a heavy rainstorm, a six-inch deep mountain creek can turn into a 10-foot deep raging river in minutes. All it takes is a sudden increase in the amount of water that creek is carrying and the force of gravity pulling it down the mountain.
Not only could a heavy rainfall destroy the tranquility of a mountain creek, but it also threatens the safety of the town at the base of the mountain built along the river fed by that creek. Flooding in rural areas may not be accelerated by hard surfaces like sidewalks and roads, but there are still flooding hazards.
In rural areas, heavy rains have easier access to soft ground that could absorb the water. The problem in some rural areas, though, is that the ground is too dry. When the water is moving too fast, it cannot be absorbed by dry soil. Instead, the water runs over the soil the same way it runs over pavement.
In drier regions, towns tend to be established close to rivers as water sources. Some towns are even nestled between two forks in the river or two other bodies of water. During normal weather cycles, these towns may remain safe, but a sudden increase in wet weather puts them at risk.
Just like in the city, water will run across dry soil and threaten structures in the town. A grouping of houses and commercial buildings between two bodies of water with only dry soil around them does not offer anywhere for excess water to drain. Buildings will end up submerged in water during a heavy rain.
Despite how easy it is to end up in a flash flood and how common low-grade flooding is, many people are not aware of the tremendous risk to life and property a flood represents. Here are some facts that may surprise you:
- Less than a foot of water in a flood situation can cause damage costing tens of thousands of dollars to repair
- Every state in the country experienced at least one flood or flash flood in the last five years
- Adding buildings to open land can cause increased flood risks
- In some areas of the country, your house is more likely to be damaged by flooding than fire
- Two feet of rushing water is enough to carry away a car
- A flash flood can include a 10- to 15-foot wall of water
- Causes of floods can include snowmelt and winter storms
- About one-third of the Federal funds for flood relief go to people living outside of the high-risk flood zones
- The number-one cause of weather-related deaths in America is flash flooding
Floods do not just happen on waterfront property, and they are not restricted to certain areas of the country. Despite relatively accurate storm forecasting, some floods come without warning. Even a small flood can require a lot of clean-up work and cost thousands in repairs and restoration.
Flood Safety Tips
Even if your house or business has never been flooded before, it is a good idea to make a flood safety plan. Your plan should include what to do to keep your property safe in case of a flood and an exit strategy in case you need to evacuate.
As part of your flood safety plan, locate a same place to meet up incase you have to evacuate. Collect all the contact information you may need in case of emergency. During a storm or other flood conditions, you may not be able to rely on cell phones or computers for this information.
Your flood safety plan should include a protocol for getting everyone out of your house or office safely and accounting for everyone in case they were not on the premises when you needed to evacuate. You should also assign someone the task of contacting the proper authorities and your insurance company once you are out of harm’s way.
Other flood safety tips include:
- Do not walk or drive through water. You have no idea how deep it is, what obstacles may be hidden underneath the surface or how strong the movement of the water may be.
- Move to higher ground if flash flooding is predicted. Flash flooding is the most dangerous type of flooding that often comes with very little warning. You should leave the area if you have a chance to do so.
- Do not enter moving water. Instead remain with a large fixed object, like your car.
- If you are surrounded by still water, move to higher ground quickly, before the water level rises.
- During a heavy rainstorm, do not park or camp near a river, stream or creek. Flooding could come with no warning. It is safer to move away from the water or find higher ground.
- Do not enter a room where the flood water is above the electrical outlets. Also, stay clear of any areas where electrical cords are submerged. If you hear a crackling or snapping sound or see sparks, there could be an electrical current running through the water.
- Always obey orders to evacuate. Property can be repaired or replaced, but you may be risking your life if you stay in through a flood. You would also be risking the lives of emergency personnel who might have to rescue you from high flood waters.
- Contact your utility company — do not assume they know about the flooding at your property. Have all utilities turned off until the damage can be assessed by a professional. You may not be able to see damage to underground pipes or the wiring in your walls. The damage could present additional hazards after the water recedes.
- Hire a professional restoration company to repair the damage. Water damage restoration is a more complex process than you might think. Many of the dangers are unseen, like air quality and mold inside structures. An experienced professional will know how to keep you safe and restore your property to a healthy condition.
Flooding, whether it is the result of a storm surge or a broken water pipe, can be a dangerous situation. Know how to remain safe while the condition is being corrected.
Why Choose Aer Industries for Equipment Needs
The right equipment when you need it is what gets the job done. Cleaning up from a flood can be a time-consuming job, and you want it done right. At Aer Industries, we have the air movers, commercial dehumidifiers and scrubbers you need to ensure a top-quality job every time. Our commercial air movers have the capacity you need to tackle the big jobs.
If your job is property restoration, Aer Industries understands your industry and can supply the commercial restoration equipment you need to tackle the remnants of urban flooding. From LGR dehumidifiers to commercial air movers, Aer Industries will help you remove the water and any airborne contaminants or odors, and get your customer’s property up and running again as quickly as possible.
Have you experienced a flood recently? Check out our guide to water damage restoration to help you understand what to expect from the restoration process.