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The Worst Floods in US History
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The Worst Floods in US History

Flooding throughout recorded history starts back to the days of the Old Testament and the creation of the Ark. Fortunately, today we have radar forecasting and advanced warning systems to let people know there is danger. The people in the paths of the worst floods in US history didn’t have those advantages. They lost their businesses, their homes, and in some cases, their lives.

Galveston Hurricane and Floods

In 1900, Galveston, Texas, was the scene of the worst flooding in US history and the deadliest natural disaster. Around 8,000 people were killed in the massive storm. The category four hurricane brought high winds, 15-foot storm surge waves, and flooding. The National Weather Service predicted the storm would hit farther east and warnings coming from Cuba were largely ignored. Residents and vacationers were unprepared for the hurricane, and the booming port city never fully recovered. Investors pulled out and began favoring nearby Houston.

Johnstown Floods

On May 31, 1889, after several days of heavy rain, the dam near Johnstown, Pennsylvania, burst. The scope of the ensuing flood is hard to imagine. Over 2,200 people died, including almost 100 entire families. Once the waters receded, bodies were found as far away as Cincinnati, and the cost of all the damage was $12.6 billion. Flood lines were marked 89 feet above the river level, and the wave that hit the town was said to be 40 feet high. This was the first disaster the American Red Cross was involved in.

Ohio Statewide Flooding

In late March 1913, the worst weather event in the history of Ohio happened. The flooding damaged over 40,000 homes and claimed 467 lives. The flooding was due to excessive rains over several days. Fast-moving water 10 feet deep swept through downtown Dayton and killed 123 people. In Cincinnati, people clung to trees and climbed onto rooftops to avoid the fast-rising water. The Ohio River rose 21 feet in just 24 hours. The damage done to the entire state topped $82.4 billion dollars, and flood control reservoirs were established by the Miami Conservancy District.

Hurricane Katrina Flooding

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the southern coast of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans. The flooding took 1,833 lives and cost $103.9 billion to recover from. When French settlers arrived 300 years ago, the city was at sea level. Swamp drainage has caused the city to sink, and the Army Corps of Engineers put in a system of levees and seawalls to protect it. When the waters came, those systems failed, and New Orleans filled like a bathtub, with nowhere for the water to go. As a result, 80 percent of the city flooded.

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