Water-Supply Paper 2502
Summary of Significant Floods in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the
Virgin Islands, 1970 Through 1989
Summary of Significant Floods, 1970 Through 1989, by Year
This section includes brief descriptions of selected signficant interstate and intra-state
floods in yearly accounts. Floods described in this section were those with excessive loss of
life, excessive damage, extreme discharge or gage height, or those regional in extent.
References are provided for these as well as other selected significant floods that occurred
during the year. Figures 3-22 in this section
depict widespread regional flooding by giving the percentage of streamflow-gaging stations in
each State or territory recording greater than the approximate 20-year recurrence-interval
flooding during the calendar year.
The first significant flood of 1971 occurred in February across Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and
Wisconsin (fig. 4). Significant
flooding occurred on streams in eastern Nebraska, and some discharges were considered
maximum-of-record floods. Ice jams caused flooding on the Rock River in northwestern Illinois
on February 24.
Spring rains caused extended flooding in the Southeastern States during March. Record floods
occurred in Georgia on the Ocmulgee River. Many streams were above flood stage throughout
Snowmelt caused flooding in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming during May and June. Significant
flooding occurred in the Green River Basin in Wyoming. The discharge on the Bear River near
Smithfield, Utah (station 10102250, table 46), was considered a 75-year recurrence-interval flood.
Discharges having recurrence intervals of 25 to 100 years were recorded on the North Platte
River in Nebraska. The floods occurred in early June as a result of mountain snowmelt
upstream in Wyoming. Excessive rainfall in the basin added to the intensity of the floods.
Significant flooding occurred in southern Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, and northern West
Virginia during June and July. One of the most damaging thunderstorms in the last 50 years
struck the Baltimore, Maryland, area on August 1. Streamflow-gaging stations in the area
recorded discharges with recurrence intervals of 100 years. Fourteen deaths and $6.5 million
in damages resulted from the floods (Paulson and others, 1991).
Tropical Storm Doria moved along the eastern seaboard from North Carolina to Maine late in
August. The resultant storm system caused rain over North Carolina for the next 2 weeks. The
rains eventually spread over the entire East Coast reaching into Maine. Record floods
occurred on several small streams in New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania.
Extended flooding occurred from September until October in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.
Several storms caused flooding in Oklahoma in early September. Hurricanes Edith and Fern
caused floods in Louisiana in September and October. Rivers stayed above flood stage into
Significant flooding occurred in western Arkansas and extreme southeastern Oklahoma on
December 9-10. Damages totalled as much as $16 million (Paulson and others, 1991). The
discharge on the Trinity River near Crandall, Texas, was the second highest since 1949.
- Aldridge, B.N., 1972, Investigation of floods from small drainage basins in
Arizona, in Proceedings of the 21st annual conference on roads and streets:
Tucson University of Arizona, Arizona Transportation and Traffic Institute, p.
- ____1978, Unusual hydraulic phenomena of flash floods in Arizona: American
Meteorological Society, Hydrometeorological Aspects, p. 117-120.
- Carmody, Thomas, 1980, A critical examination of the largest floods in Arizona-a
study to advance the methodology of assessing the vulnerability of bridges to floods for
the Arizona Department of Transportation: The Engineering Experiment Station, College
of Engineering, 52 p.
- Carpenter, D.H., 1974, Floods of August and September 1971 in Maryland and
Delaware: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 74-1015, 35 p.
- Eychaner, J.H., 1984, Estimation of magnitude and frequency of floods in Pima
County, Arizona, with comparisons of alternative methods: U.S. Geological Survey
Water-Resources Investigations Report 84-4142, 69 p.
- Gilstrap, R.C., 1973, Floods of December 1971 in western Arkansas: Arkansas
Geological Commission Report Number 8, 26 p.
- Hershfield, D.M., 1961, Rainfall frequency atlas of the United States: U.S.
Department of Commerce, Weather Bureau Technical Paper 40, 115 p.
- House, P.K., and Pearthree, P.R., 1994, A geomorphic and hydraulic evaluation of
an extraordinary flood discharge estimate-Bronco Creek, Arizona: Arizona Geological
Survey Open-File Report 94-19, 21 p.
- Kuehnest, E.L., Baker, D.G., and Zandlo, J.A., 1988, Sixteen-year study of
Minnesota flash floods: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Waters,
State Climatology Office and University of Minnesota Soil Science Department, 72 p.
- Lamke, R.D., 1972, Floods of the summer of 1971 in south-central Alaska: U.S.
Geological Survey Open-File Report 72-215, 88 p.
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 1971, Climatological data
(by State); Ashville, N.C., National Climatic Data Center, (various months).
- ---1972, North Atlantic tropical cyclones: National Weather Service,
Climatological Data, p. 746-748.
- Page, L.V., and Shaw, L.C., 1973, Flood of September 1971 in southeastern
Pennsylvania: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 73-217, 33 p.
- Paulson, R.W., Chase, E.B., Roberts, R.S., and Moody, D.W., compilers, 1991,
National water summary, 1988-89-Hydrologic events and floods and droughts: U.S.
Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 2375, 591 p.
- Stankowski, S.J., 1972, Floods of August and September 1971 in New Jersey: New
Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Water Resources Special
Report 37, 350 p.
- Tate, C.H., 1973, Floods of the 1970 and 1971 water years in Mississippi:
Mississippi State Board of Water Commissioners Bulletin 73-2, 20 p.
- Thomas, W.D., Jr., and Corley, R.K., 1973, Floods of 1971 and 1972 in Glover
Creek and Little River in southeastern Oklahoma: U.S. Geological Survey
Water-Resources Investigations 5-73, 2 sheets.
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1971a, Post flood report, floods of January 27-28,
1971, Islands of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii: Pacific Ocean Division, State of Hawaii,
Department of Land and Natural Resources C31, 28 p.
- ____1971b, Report of the flood of March 1971, Lumber River, North Carolina:
Charleston District, South Carolina, 9 p.
- ____1971c, After action report, spring floods, upper Mississippi River: Rock
Island District, Illinois, 29 p.
- ____1971d, Hurricane Fern, September 13, 1971, post flood report: Galveston
District, Texas, 21 p.
- ____1972a, After action report, operation foresight, 1971 spring floods: St. Paul
District, Minnesota, 26 p.
- ____1972b, Office report, May-June 1971 snowmelt floods, Bear River Basin, Idaho,
Utah, Wyoming, and Green River Basin, Wyoming: Sacramento District, California, 23 p.
- ____1975, The flood of August and September 1971 (Hurricane Doria): New York
District, 225 p.
- ____1977, Flood plain information study for Rock River, Illinois: Rock Island
District, Illinois, 52 p.
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