Floods are the No. 1 natural disaster in the United States in terms of lives lost and property damage, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. As mentioned in our “Raging Waters” feature, a flood can be caused by any number of things, from a hurricane and heavy rainfall to snowmelt and a dam failure. As recently as 2014, the National Flood Insurance Program paid more than $345 million in flood insurance claims to its policyholders in that year alone.In other words, just because you live in a traditionally dry state, don’t think it can’t happen to you. As weather patterns become increasingly unpredictable and travel obligations often take us out of our element, you never know when you might find out the hard way why Johnny Cash wrote the song “Five Feet High and Rising.” It’s difficult to categorize floods in terms of size since there are so many variables: fatalities, financial damage, and affected areas, but we’ve compiled some historic floods where the proverbial water line was high in terms of all these factors.

map-of-united-states

  • 1972
  • Rapid City, SD
  • Flash flood due to excessive rainfall
  • COST: $160 MIL
  • DEATHS: 237
  • 1861-1862
  • Central Valley, CA
  • Regional flooding due to excessive rainfall
  • COST: $10+ MIL
  • DEATHS: 1,000+
  • 1976
  • Big Thompson Canyon, CO
  • Flash flood due to excessive rainfall
  • COST: $39 MIL
  • DEATHS: 144
  • 1993
  • Mississippi River
  • Regional flooding due to excessive rainfall
  • COST: $20 BIL
  • DEATHS: 48
  • 1937
  • Ohio River
  • Regional flooding due to excessive rainfall
  • COST: $250 MIL
  • DEATHS: 385
  • 1889
  • Johnstown, PA
  • Regional flooding due to dam failure
  • COST: $17 MIL
  • DEATHS: 2,209
  • 1900
  • Galveston, TX
  • Storm surge due to hurricane
  • COST: UNKNOWN
  • DEATHS: 6,000
  • 1969
  • Hurricane Camille
  • Storm surge due to Hurricane Camille
  • COST: $1.4 BIL
  • DEATHS: 259
  • 2005
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • Storm surge due to Hurricane Katrina
  • COST: $125 BIL
  • DEATHS: 1,800

SOURCES

FloodSmart.gov > www.floodsmart.gov

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration > www.weather.gov

U.S. Geological Survey > www.usgs.gov

Note: Amounts are approximations. Costs are not adjusted for inflation.

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