Record rainfall in every state
Published 3:30 pm Tuesday, July 11, 2023
Record rainfall in every state
Flooding is the most common and expensive natural disaster in the United States, costing more than $850 million in damages since 2000. Much of this flooding comes from massive amounts of rainfall over short periods of time.
Stacker documented the highest 24 hours of precipitation in every state by analyzing data from the State Climate Extremes Committee of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. States are ranked from lowest amount of rainfall in a 24-hour period to highest. The list includes Puerto Rico and excludes Kansas, for which there was no data available. Data is current as of July 2023.
Along with the number of inches in 24 hours, some NOAA data detailed the devastating damage and lives lost during some of the rainiest days. While some of the specific rain days were caused by hurricanes and tropical storms, others were simply due to very heavy rains. Climate change-related rainfall has become a concern, with many experts predicting dangerous water cycles, rising sea levels, and other irregular weather patterns to come.
In describing precipitation measurement missions and climate change, NASA detailed that since 1900, the average U.S. precipitation has risen overall. At the same time, severe droughts and floods have become an increasing problem, with their incidence varying across the country.
As meteorologists continue to look to the past to determine possible future weather patterns, the following dates will remain notable until the next wettest day.
Read on to find out the biggest rain day ever recorded in every state.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 5.08 inches
– Location: Deer Creek Dam
– Date: Feb. 1, 1963
Securely landlocked states kept from ocean-influenced weather events such as hurricanes and tropical storms tend to experience drier climates. Such is the case in Utah, where the record rainfall barely exceeded 5 inches. Personal accounts of the storm over Deer Creek Dam described no thunder, but two streaks of lightning as sheets of heavy rain fell in the early morning hour.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 6.06 inches
– Location: Cheyenne
– Date: Aug. 1, 1985
Fast-rising waters and flash floods swept through Wyoming in 1985 when more than 6 inches of rain fell in just three hours along with 2-inch hailstones. The massive weather event killed 12 and caused $61 million in damage. Since then, safety measures to prevent similarly severe overflow include diverting flood channels, implementing city-regulated flood plains, and creating large retention ponds around neighborhoods.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 7.17 inches
– Location: Rattlesnake Creek
– Date: Nov. 23, 1909
The northern region of Idaho received the state’s most rain in 24 hours at the end of 1909. The highest annual precipitation in the Gem State was 81.05 inches in 1933, also in Idaho’s northern region of Roland.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 7.78 inches
– Location: Mount Charleston
– Date: Oct. 20, 2004
In October 2004, more rain fell over Mount Charleston—which is almost 12,000 feet high—than in any other area of Nevada. Located in the Spring Mountains section of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Mt. Charleston only sees an average of 8 inches annually, making the 2004 rain date of almost 8 inches unusually high. Mount Charleston is also famous for the crash of the 1955 CIA C-54 plane headed to Area 51.
#46. North Dakota
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 8.1 inches
– Location: Litchville
– Date: June 29, 1975
Litchville, North Dakota, sees anywhere from 13 to 21 inches of precipitation every 12 months, but in 1975 it rained almost 8.1 inches in 24 hours. Nearly a half-century later, June remains the wettest month with 3-4 inches of rain on average, according to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Located in the center of the U.S., North Dakota experiences a continental climate, consisting of very cold winters and extremely hot summers.
#45. South Dakota
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 8.74 inches
– Location: Groton
– Date: May 6, 2007
Flooded basements and cellar wall collapse were the devastating results of South Dakota’s most drenched day in history. President George W. Bush declared Brown, Buffalo, Clark, Day, Marshall, and Spink counties disaster areas, while widespread power outages, stalled roadside vehicles, and backed-up drainage systems statewide caused a state of emergency. Hundreds of South Dakota homes and crops got condemned due to the 24-hour rain event.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 9.92 inches
– Location: Mt. Mansfield
– Date: Sept. 17, 1999
At the end of the 20th Century, Vermont’s highest summit Mount Mansfield also became the location of the state’s most rainfall in 24 hours. Aside from almost 10 inches of rain falling that afternoon 20 years ago, discussions of abortion were taking place in Missouri and musician Oscar Peterson debuted at Carnegie Hall the same Friday, NPR reported.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 10.48 inches
– Location: Louisville
– Date: March 1, 1997
Copious amounts of rain kept the middle of the Ohio River beyond the flood stage until March 16, 1997, but the first two days of the month were the rainiest. The storm killed 20 people, nine of whom attempted to cross flooded streets. After the heaviest day of rain on March 1, the Ohio River reached its highest peak since 1964. The damage to Louisville homes and businesses totaled $200 million; the surrounding suffered an additional $200 million in destruction.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 10.5 inches
– Location: Princeton
– Date: Aug. 6, 1905
Regular droughts and fatal flooding over the last two centuries have kept the midwest state in a “love-hate relationship with Mother Nature.” Among those is the 1905 record set in Princeton, Indiana, when nearly 11 inches of rain fell in one 24-hour period.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 10.75 inches
– Location: Lockington Dam (nr. Sidney, Shelby Co. OH)
– Date: Aug. 7, 1995
Ohio’s humid continental climate was extra wet in the summer of 1995 when it rained 10.75 inches in 24 hours, compared to the average annual rainfall of approximately 40 inches. During torrential downpours like this, large quantities of rain in a short amount of time run off the land into streams instead of soaking into the ground. The rate of rainfall, land topography, soil conditions, density of vegetation, and urbanization all affect runoff conditions.
#40. New Hampshire
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 11.07 inches
– Location: Mount Washington
– Date: Oct. 20, 1996
Climate website Weatherspark reported the unusual amount of rain in October 1996 as not necessarily atypical. “The chance of a wet day over the course of October is essentially constant, remaining around 29% throughout,” according to the website. Almost exactly 10 years after the rainiest day in 1996, gusts of wind up to 158 mph in 2006 were recorded at the Mount Washington Observatory.
#39. New Mexico
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 11.28 inches
– Location: Lake Maloya
– Date: May 18, 1955
Lake Maloya, on the Colorado and New Mexico border, began to see a cold front moving into southeastern Colorado in 1955. The most torrential rain, along the east slope of the mountains, fell in the late hours of May 18 and early morning of May 19, according to NOAA.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 11.4 inches
– Location: Workman Creek
– Date: Sept. 4, 1970
More than 11 inches of rain in 24 hours is all but unheard of in the dry desertscape of Arizona. The 1970 storm that brought such conditions caused the death of 23 people and reportedly changed the landscape of many rivers and creeks.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 11.5 inches
– Location: Circle (Springbrook)
– Date: June 20, 1921
The 11.5 inches of rain that fell over Springbrook nearly 100 years ago drowned two people, one an infant, while sweeping away the town’s houses, barns, bridge, and granaries. The Big Sky Country State, home to both the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, sees an average of 15.34 inches annually.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 11.72 inches
– Location: Mellen
– Date: June 24, 1946
A storm in 2018 may have broken the 1946 record of 11.72 inches, but the 2018 rainfall has yet to be confirmed. Regardless of whether the 2018 storm brought a reported 15.33 inches of rain, the volume of rain did strand 100 customers in Costco, call for the evacuation of 100 Mazomanie County residents, and cause sheriff officers to rescue people via airboat.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 11.77 inches
– Location: Nehalem 9NE
– Date: Nov. 6, 2006
A November day in Nehalem 2016 turned out to be a record-breaking afternoon. Almost 12 inches of rain fell in 24 hours compared to the annual 71 inches the state typically sees. Like its neighbors in the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S., Oregon sees more yearly precipitation than most areas.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 11.85 inches
– Location: USGS Rod & Gun (Ft. Carson)
– Date: Sept. 12, 2013
This 2013 date, when heavy rain pummeled the north side of the Fort Carson Army Post, broke Colorado’s 1965 rainiest day record of 11.08 inches in 24 hours. More than 8 the the record-setting 11.85 inches fell in just three hours, causing massive flooding.
#33. West Virginia
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 12.02 inches
– Location: Brushy Run
– Date: June 18, 1949
West Virginia is among the most flood-prone states in the country. Flash floods account for almost half of all flooding throughout the state and 65% of fatalities and property damage. The West Virginia Flood Factor Report found that a full third of all properties in the state have a more than 26% chance of being affected by major flooding over the next three decades.
#32. Rhode Island
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 12.13 inches
– Location: Westerly
– Date: Sept. 16, 1932
Long before satellites tracked weather, the American Meteorological Society gathered information using more than 200 weather stations in Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. The AMS reported other significant two-day rain events in 1927, 1886, and 1869, noting that weather maps on mornings of the 1932 storm were strikingly similar to the weather maps on the morning of the 1927 rainfall.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 12.48 inches
– Location: Harbeson
– Date: Sept. 28, 2016
Flooding in Delaware often originates in the New Castle County in the northernmost part of the state, as well all along the east coast. Harbeson, about 40 miles west of Rehobeth Beach in southernmost Sussex County, holds the state’s record for most 24-hour precipitation with nearly 12.5 inches.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 12.77 inches
– Location: Burlington
– Date: Aug. 19, 1955
The Connecticut Flood Recovery Committee branded the rain from this 1955 storm, also called Flood Friday, the worst flood in the history of the eastern United States. When locals discuss “the flood,” everyone understands that they mean that 1955 Friday. In 2017, NBC reported that “the amount of rain that fell in August 1955 is so off the charts no event has come anywhere close to it in the last 100 years.”
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 12.92 inches
– Location: 6E Fountain
– Date: July 20, 2019
Several severe storms in the early morning of July 20, 2019, brought with them 80-mph winds within microbursts that took down trees, powerlines, and power for roughly 150,000 people. The slow-moving storms continued for hours, hovering over Mason and Lake counties.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 13.15 inches
– Location: York
– Date: July 8, 1950
In 2019, the Lincoln Journal Star called the 1950 rainfall over York, Nebraska, one of the 12 deadliest disasters in the state of all time. The deluge killed 25 people and flooded large swathes of Beaver Crossing and York.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 13.18 inches
– Location: Atlantic 1NE
– Date: June 14, 1998
The worst day of rain in Iowa caused record flooding in the Nishnabotna and East Nishnabotna River basins, based on a U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Department of the Interior report. The discharge was substantial and similar to that of floods in 1947, 1972, and 1993.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 13.32 inches
– Location: Portland
– Date: Oct. 20, 1996
A hydrometeorological assessment of the 1996 storm by the Federal Emergency Management in Maine detailed the extensive damage to both private and public infrastructures that totaled almost $6.45 million. The 1996 storm caused Maine’s heaviest rain ever because of “an extratropical system that connected with tropical moisture from Hurricane Lili to produce train echoes and severe flooding.”
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 13.5 inches
– Location: York 3SSW Pump Stn
– Date: June 22, 1972
After the town siren went off at 4 a.m., York residents saw up to 10 feet of water by 6 a.m. on Water, Baltimore, Main, Manchester, and Hanover Streets, according to a 2013 York Daily Record report. The rising waters caused approximately $1 million in damage to three public buildings, 31 businesses, 50 homes, 35 cars, the post office, fire hall, and two factories.
#24. New York
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 13.57 inches
– Location: Long Island MacArthur Airport
– Date: Aug. 12, 2014
NOAA reported how the 13.57 inches of rainfall, brought in by the storm’s motion colliding with a warm front over Islip, broke the previous New York state record of 11.6 inches at Tannersville caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011. Long Island is particularly prone to flooding because of its low elevation and proximity to ocean-related storms.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 14.06 inches
– Location: Big Fork
– Date: Dec. 3, 1982
During the 1982 storm, at least nine tornadoes went through central Arkansas in 48 hours while torrential rains swamped northwestern Arkansas. Big Fork is all about breaking rainy records: 34 years later, the town broke an annual record of rain with 100 inches.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 14.26 inches
– Location: Mt. Mitchell #2
– Date: Nov. 23, 1986
While 1986 broke the record for a 24-hour period of precipitation, the wettest year on record was in 1931 when Washington saw 185 inches of rain. The most rain days in a row—58 days—occurred Jan. 29–March 27, 1961. Washington sees on average 38 inches of rain annually.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 14.28 inches
– Location: Williamsburg 2N
– Date: Sept. 16, 1999
Williamsburg had its wettest day in 1999 when 14.28 inches of rain fell in 24 hours, compared to an annual average of approximately 43 inches. At the same time in New York City, an emergency plan was being prepared to open shelters and close subway stations due to Hurricane Floyd passing through the Big Apple.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 14.75 inches
– Location: Jewell (nr. Friendship)
– Date: July 26, 1897
It just wouldn’t stop raining for two days in Jewell, Md., in 1897, which is the oldest-kept official record of rainy days. The state faces flood risk from multiple sources: heavy rainfall, rivers, streams, and a coastal zone that is home to more than 70% of the state’s residents.
#19. South Carolina
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 14.8 inches
– Location: Myrtle Beach
– Date: Sept. 16, 1999
Like Virginia, South Carolina claims Sept. 16, 1999, as the wettest day yet due to Hurricane Floyd hitting the East Coast. With slightly more rain than its northern neighbor, Virginia’s famous resort town Myrtle Beach made history for the most rainfall in 24 hours at 14.8 inches. The hurricane killed 56 people across the country and caused as much as $6 billion in damages.
#18. New Jersey
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 14.81 inches
– Location: Tuckerton
– Date: Aug. 19, 1939
Tuckerton Seaport got rocked in 1939 when the famous southern Jersey Shore town saw the most rain in one day. The two-day storm was the aftermath of an earlier Gulf Coast hurricane, which hovered over Alabama before hitting New Jersey.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 15.05 inches
– Location: Seward
– Date: Oct. 10, 1986
A U.S. Geological Survey report noted that the 1986 storm in Seward was the type of event to only occur once every 100 years. Though Seward saw the most rain in one day, Little Port Walter is the wettest spot in the state. The region sees an average of 237 inches of rain a year during an average of 233 days annually.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 15.1 inches
– Location: Hokah 1S
– Date: Aug. 19, 2007
A little more than 15.1 inches of rain fell 1 mile south of Hokah in southeastern Minnesota on Aug. 19, 2007, making it the rainiest day in the state’s history. While Hokah saw the most rain, 28 counties throughout Minnesota received at least 4 inches. The exact amount of water was recorded with an 8-inch diameter stainless steel rain gauge, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
#15. Oklahoma (tie)
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 15.68 inches
– Location: Enid
– Date: Oct. 11, 1973
The Oklahoman reported “relentless rains turned to horror,” when residents of Enid cut holes in their attics to escape their homes in 1973. Rev. Kenneth Wade opened up his home to 44 people and his garage to 23 dogs. “You could hear singing from some of the people sitting on roofs, and you could hear crying from people in trees,” he said of that October afternoon.
#14. Mississippi (tie)
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 15.68 inches
– Location: Columbus
– Date: July 9, 1968
Mississippi matched Oklahoma for the same amount of record-setting rainfall, albeit in different years. History was made here in the 28.85-square-mile town of Columbus, which served as a major hospital center during the U.S. Civil War.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 16.91 inches
– Location: Aurora
– Date: July 18, 1996
The Chicago Tribune called the city’s 1996 rainstorm the second greatest Illinois natural disaster while noting “the deluge in Aurora was considered a 1-in-1,000-year event.” Eight residents died during the torrential rains, and almost half of the homes in Aurora flooded. The one-day storm caused an estimated $600–$700 million in damage.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 18.15 inches
– Location: Westfield
– Date: Aug. 18, 1955
A summer day in 1955 drenched Westfield with 18.15 inches of rain, according to a 2015 Reminder news archive. Resident Dr. Bob Brown said the Great Flood of 1955 was not just one outpouring but two big and two small ones. “In 1955, Westfield got 78 inches of rain, and 40 of that came in these two days in August and October. It was a crazy situation,” Brown said.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 18.18 inches
– Location: Edgerton
– Date: July 20, 1965
A 104-page water resources report written for future hydrologic planning in 1967, details that Edgerton’s rainfall record was 2.5 times the 100-year point rainfall for northwestern Missouri. The storm killed four residents while destroying 729 homes and 433,700 acres of crops.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 20.73 inches
– Location: McEwen
– Date: Aug. 21, 2021
Flash flooding that caused 20 deaths throughout Humphreys County, Tennessee, was the result of record-setting rainfall in late August 2021. That year’s record usurped the previous record of 13.6 inches in Milan on Sept. 13, 1982.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 21.1 inches
– Location: Americus
– Date: July 6, 1994
Out of the total 31 people killed from flooding caused by Tropical Storm Alberto, seven people died on July 6, the worst day of the rain. The wife of one deceased man held onto a tree for nine hours waiting for rescue, the Albany Herald reported. Alberto, which also hit Florida and Alabama, caused more than $1 billion in damage.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 22 inches
– Location: Hackberry
– Date: Aug. 28, 1962
The 1962 Atlantic hurricane season began later than usual. Often starting in June, that year torrential rains waited until late August to arrive in Hackberry, which is just more than 35 square miles. The 22 inches of rain caused severe damage in the summer of 1962—the likes of which would not be seen again until 2008, when Hurricane Ike devastated Hackberry again.
#7. North Carolina
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 22.22 inches
– Location: Altapass
– Date: July 15, 1916
Over a century ago, Altapass surpassed all rain days in North Carolina with 22.22 inches, killing at least a dozen residents. “We cannot stop extreme weather events, but we can make our communities more resilient to them,” wrote NOAA in a report on the 1916 flood.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 23.28 inches
– Location: Key West
– Date: Nov. 11, 1980
Hurricane Jeanne started and finished in the Gulf of Mexico, moving westward into the Sunshine State. Though no deaths were caused by the tropical storm, flights at Key West International Airport were grounded and schools and businesses shut down.
#5. Puerto Rico
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 23.75 inches
– Location: Toro Negro Forest
– Date: Oct. 7, 1985
A tropical wave set off record-setting rain in 1985 in what would become Tropical Storm Isabel. The total economic loss from Isabel is estimated to be $5 billion.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 25.83 inches
– Location: Hoegees Camp
– Date: Jan. 22, 1943
California’s record-setting rainfal dropped more than 25 inches of rain in 24 hours in the Sierra Madre, located at the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley. At the time, that amount represented nearly 96% of the mean annual rainfall for Hoegees.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 32.52 inches
– Location: Dauphin Island Sea Lab
– Date: July 19, 1997
The historic rainfall on the Northern Gulf Coast caused by Hurricane Danny in 1997 broke records. Danny, which became a Category 1 on July 18, hit land before moving back over the Gulf Coast. A “wall of wind shear” weakened the cyclone, according to Weather.com. One resident died in the storm.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 42 inches
– Location: Alvin
– Date: July 25, 1979
Alvin’s record-setting, 24-hour rainfall was also the highest of the nation until a 2018 storm in Hawaii. The source of all that Texas rain was Tropical Storm Claudette, a cyclone that stands as the third-wettest tropical cyclone in the contiguous U.S.
– All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 49.69 inches
– Location: Waipā Garden (Kauai)
– Date: April 14, 2018
The sheer volume of rain in Hawaii on April 14, 2018, was catastrophic as 2-4 inches of rain fell every hour along the northern shore of the island of Kauai. The heavy rains affected all the islands for days; by April 19, the entire state of Hawaii was under a Flash Flood Watch.