Record rainfall in every state
Record rainfall in every state
There are several types of rainy days, ranging from wet afternoons to soggy days to torrential downpours. Then come the absolute rainiest days in history, where record levels of precipitation fall in 24 hours. Stacker turned to the State Climate Extremes Committee (SCEC) of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to track these days in each state except for Kansas, as it had no data available.
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 soaking wet days. 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, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (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.
“Projections of future climate over the U.S. suggest that the recent trend towards increased heavy precipitation events will continue,” reports NASA. “This trend is projected to occur even in regions where total precipitation is expected to decrease, such as the Southwest.” The year 2018 made records for rainfall across eastern and southern U.S., and during Hurricane Florence, nearly one quarter of Wilmington, N.C.'s 102.40-inch rainfall took place in just four days. 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.
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- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 5.08 inches
- Location: Deer Creek Dam
- Date: Feb.1, 1963
Unusual variations in the temperature soundings from this Feb. 1, 1964 storm merited investigation, according to the U.S. weather bureau in Salt Lake City. No thunder, but two streaks of lightning occurred as sheets of heavy rain fell in the early morning hours, according to personal accounts of the storm over Deer Creek Dam.
- 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 unlike ever before. In just three hours, 6.06 inches of rain and 2-inch hailstones fell hard over Cheyenne, killing 12 and causing $61 million in damage. “When it started raining, it just kept going," Cheyenne Police Chief Byron Rookstool said in a 2010 Star Tribune report. Safety measures taken since to prevent 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. Ironically, the 7.17 inches of rainwater that fell at Rattlesnake Creek was nowhere to be found the following year in the Great Fire of Idaho, which destroyed 3 million timber acres and killed 87 people in two days. 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. As the 8th most prominent U.S. peak engraved with hiking and ski trails, Mount Charleston is also famous for the crash of the 1955 CIA C-54 plane headed to Area 51.
#45. North Dakota
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 8.1 inches
- Location: Litchville
- Date: June 29, 1975
Litchville, N.D., 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 at 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.
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 8.5 inches
- Location: Dover
- Date: July 13, 1975
With an average of 41 inches annually, Delaware's 1975 day of 8.5 inches makes rain record history for the Diamond State. That day is among many other notable rainy days, according to Delaware Online, which reported four Delaware counties saw 60–80 inches in rain 1948; two counties saw 60–80 inches in 1996; and two counties saw 57–62 inches in 2003. By 2019, some parts of Delaware had the most rain recorded in nearly a century, according to climatologist Daniel Leathers, who said Delaware “should be in the top, maybe top three years, for precipitation across the state as a whole."
#43. 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: 9.78 inches
- Location: Bloomingdale
- Date: Aug. 31, 1914
On an August day during the first year of World War I, 9.78 inches of rain fell in Michigan's Bloomingdale, compared to the approximate 33 inches of rain the state sees annually. In August 2017, the Detroit Free Press cited the 105-year-old storm when predicting how Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Texas, might hurt Michigan.
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 9.92 inches
- Location: Mount 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 March 1, the Ohio River reached its highest peak since 1964. The damage to Louisville homes and businesses totaled $200 million, and the surrounding area also suffered an additional $200 million in destruction.
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 10.5 inches
- Location: Princeton
- Date: Aug. 6, 1905
While Indiana saw 10.5 inches of rain in 1905, it experienced its coldest day at -36 degrees Fahrenheit in 1994, its hottest day of 116 degrees Fahrenheit in 1936, and its snowiest day of 33 inches in 2004. Dangerous droughts and fatal flooding in two centuries kept the midwest state in a “love-hate relationship with Mother Nature,” according to the local news outlet, the Journal & Courier.
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 10.75 inches
- Location: Lockington Dam
- Dates: August 7–8, 1995
Ohio's humid continental climate was extra wet in the summer of 1995 when it rained 10.75 inches in 48 hours, compared to the average annual rainfall of approximately 40 inches. Almost 11 inches of rain during two days is significant, as large quantities of rain in a short amount of time run off the land into streams instead of soaking into the ground, according to the U.S. Geological Survey Water School. The rate of rainfall, land topography, soil conditions, density of vegetation, and urbanization all affect runoff conditions.
#37. New Hampshire
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 11.07 inches
- Location: Mount Washington
- Dates: Oct. 20–21, 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.
#36. New Mexico
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 11.28 inches
- Location: Lake Maloya
- Dates: May 18–19, 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, reporting “the largest rainfall total, 13.5 inches, was centered at Lake Maloya, New Mexico.”
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 11.4 inches
- Location: Workman Creek
- Dates: Sept. 4–5, 1970
"In our dry desert landscape, 11 inches in 24 hours falls into the extreme weather category,” CBS reported in 2017 of the 1970 storm. The National Weather Service reported that 23 people died from the rain event, which reportedly changed the landscape of many rivers and creeks.
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 11.5 inches
- Location: Springbrook
- Date: June 20, 1921
The 11.5 inches of rain that fell over Springbrook nearly 100 years ago drowned both a baby and man while sweeping away the town's houses, barns, bridge, and granaries, according to the Billings Gazette. “The 11.5 inches of rain that fell in 24 hours at Springbrook, near Circle, established a state record that remains intact today,” the newspaper reported in 2014. 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
- 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. Demographic and geographic data website Sperling's BestPlaces comfort index, based on the total number of days annually within the comfort range of 70–80 degrees, rates Nehalem at 78% compared to the U.S. average of 54%.
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 11.85 inches
- Location: Fort Carson
- Date: Sept. 12, 2013
This 2013 date broke Colorado's 1965 rainiest day record of 11.08 inches in 24 hours, according to NOAA, which described the afternoon as a “historic” day of heavy rain pummeling the north side of the Fort Carson Army Post. “In a three-hour period, more than 8 inches of rain fell, causing some serious flooding in the area,” according to the report.
#30. West Virginia
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 12.02 inches
- Location: Brushy Run
- Date: June 18, 1949
Since the rainiest day in state history in 1949, meteorologist Andy Chilian claimed 2018 as the record year for rainfall, breaking the 2003 record of 61 inches. “And the records go back in the late 1890s,” he added. Two years earlier in 2016, one of the deadliest floods in West Virginia was caused by 8–10 inches of rain falling in 12 hours. The flood, which caused 23 deaths, resulted in President Barack Obama declaring West Virginia a disaster area.
#29. Rhode Island
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 12.13 inches
- Location: Westerly
- Dates: Sept. 16–17, 1932
Long before satellites tracked weather, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) 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: 12.77 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, according to the Burlington library website. 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: 13.15 inches
- Location: York
- Dates: July 8–9, 1950
By midnight July 8, 1950, York had already seen 11.59 inches of rain, and by 6 a.m. on July 9, the heavy rain ceased, according to a Department of the Interior report. Large swathes of Beaver Crossing and York flooded. Nearly 70 years later in 2019, the Lincoln Journal Star would call the 1950 rainfall, which killed 25 people, one of the 12 deadliest disasters in the state.
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 13.18 inches
- Location: Atlantic
- 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. This time, however, the “surprising quickness and severity of the flooding received national attention,” according to the same report.
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 13.32 inches
- Location: Portland
- Dates: Oct. 20–21, 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
- 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.
#23. New York
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 13.57 inches
- Location: Islip
- Dates: Aug. 12–13, 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. Before 2011, an unofficial sighting of more than 14.1 inches was reported at Wellsville July 17–18 in 1942. The observation was not considered official, as the measurement was taken with a bucket and then converted to inches.
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 13.6 inches
- Location: Milan
- Date: Sept. 13, 1982
Tropical Storm Chris, which started Sept. 9 in the northern Gulf of Mexico, wreaked havoc in Milan, Tenn., in 1982 as it made its way through the state, killing an elderly couple and a teenager. “Betty Cortez, the couple's daughter-in-law, said she still can hear the woman screaming and see her father-in-law's head bobbing away in the floodwaters triggered by the death throes of tropical storm Chris,” UPI reported.
- 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, based on a report by Mike Thompson and Ken Ziegenbein, weather forecasters out of Little Rock. Big Fork is all about breaking rainy records, and some 34 years later, Big Fork broke an annual record of rain at 100 inches.
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 14.26 inches
- Location: Mount Mitchell
- Dates: Nov. 23–24, 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 currently has approximately 38 inches of rain annually.
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 14.28 inches
- Location: Williamsburg
- Date: Sept. 16, 1999
Williamsburg had its wettest day in 1999. The 14.28 inches of rain Sept. 16—compared to the annual average of approximately 43 inches—soaked Williamsburg. 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. “While Floyd is not expected to be a hurricane when it gets here, city officials are taking no chances,” reported the New York Post.
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 14.75 inches
- Location: Jewell
- Dates: July 26–27, 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. More than a century later, the Free State sees an annual average of 44.64 inches of rain, making it the 18th wettest state in the U.S., according to Coolweather.net. Additionally, Baltimore sees an average of 113 days of precipitation and 27 days of thunderstorms.
#17. 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.
#16. New Jersey
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 14.81 inches
- Location: Tuckerton
- Dates: Aug. 19–20, 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
- Date: Aug. 19, 2007
A little more than 15.1 inches of rain fell one 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 four 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.
#12. Mississippi (tie)
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 15.68 inches
- Location: Columbus
- Date: July 9, 1968
Mississippi, like Oklahoma, saw 15.68 inches of rain in 24 hours. Compared to the average annual rainfall of approximately 54 inches, the 15.68 inches July 9 in Columbus made history in the 28.85-square-mile town. Columbus, also the county seat in Lowndes, was a hospital town during the U.S. Civil War.
#12. 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.
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 16.91 inches
- Location: Aurora
- Date: July 18, 1996
The Chicago Tribune called the 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
- Dates: Aug. 18–19, 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: 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
- Dates: Aug. 28–29, 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.
#6. North Carolina
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 22.22 inches
- Location: Altapass
- Dates: July 15–16, 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
- Dates: Nov. 11–12, 1980
Home to author Ernest Hemingway, Key West was also the site of Florida's rainiest day in 1980. Hurricane Jeanne both started and finished in the Gulf of Mexico, moving westward into the Sunshine State. Though no deaths were caused by the tropical storm, which brought 23.28 inches of rain in 24 hours, flights at Key West International Airport were grounded, and schools and businesses shut down.
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 25.83 inches
- Location: Sierra Madre
- Dates: Jan. 22–23, 1943
The 25.83 inches of rain in 24 hours in the Sierra Madre, located at the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley, is also the fourth highest rainfall amount in one day for the entire United States, according to the Los Angeles Almanac. One report read: “26 inches was 96% of the mean annual rainfall for Hoegees, which normally gets 18% of its annual rainfall in the wettest day of the year.”
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 32.52 inches
- Location: Dauphin Island
- Dates: July 19–20, 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: 38 inches
- Location: Kilauea
- Dates: Jan. 24–25, 1956
Like in Texas, Hawaii's heaviest rain date is being challenged, with some suggesting that the 49.69 inches that occurred in April 2018 in Kauai make it the location of the most rain Hawaii has seen in a 24-hour period. If the more recent event can be certified, it would mean a single rainfall of nearly 50 inches.
- All-time highest 24-hour precipitation: 42 inches
- Location: Alvin
- Dates: July 25–26, 1979
The storm in Alvin may score the title of the rainiest day now, but the small Hawaiian town of Hanalei is challenging the 42-inch rain event in Texas. Hanalei, which received more than four feet of rain in 24 hours in 2018, may be the rainiest location of all. Even then, Hawaii would still not solely reign as the king of rain since the world record of 71.8 inches happened at Foc-Foc, Réunion Island in the South Indian Ocean in 1966.