Heavy Rainfall Causes Historic Flooding in Central New York

Photo by Julie Brustad-Hatch, Oneida, NY

Photo by Julie Brustad-Hatch, Oneida, NY

During the month of June, the Empire State went from one wet month straight into another. With a total of 7.60 inches of precipitation, 186 percent of normal, it was the 2nd wettest June since 1895 (only behind 1972 with 8.51 inches). All ten climate divisions of the state received above normal precipitation, with nine of them ranking this June among their top 8 wettest. In fact, four divisions experienced their wettest June on record: the Champlain Valley (284% of normal); the Hudson Valley, 212% of normal); Northern Plateau (201% of normal); and Great Lakes (190% of normal). Located in the Champlain Valley, Dannemora reported the greatly monthly precipitation, at 12.50 inches. As for greatest daily precipitation, Baiting Hollow reported 4.94 inches of rain in a single day, on June 8th.

At the end of the month, a wet, unsettled weather pattern over the Northeast caused daily downpours. From July 27-28, over 6” of rain fell in Chenango County, over 5” fell in Herkimer County, and over 3” fell in Madison and Oneida Counties. Most of the rain fell in a short period of time, such as in Broome County when 1.45” fell in just 25 minutes! Major flash flooding was reported in several parts of the state with central and eastern New York hit particularly hard. In Clinton, up to four feet of water covered roadways, and in Fort Plain, 50-100 people were trapped in their homes as the town was inundated with water.

Record flooding occurred on the Oneida Creek in Oneida and Madison Counties. The highest (preliminary) observed value was 17.23 feet on June 28th. The previous record was 15.55 feet. Sections of the Thruway were surrounded by water with the right eastbound lane closed for a time in Herkimer County as water rose near the highway. Across the region, floodwaters washed out roads and damaged homes and buildings. Numerous water rescues were performed as people became stuck in rising waters. From July 28-29, parts of Niagara County saw over 4” of rain. In Lockport, flash flooding swamped about 200 homes with over 6 feet of water and left a 7-foot sinkhole in a street, according to The Buffalo News. The wet conditions throughout the month challenged farmers as many fields had standing water and planting was slowed or halted.

So what is going on? It’s like the old saying, “When it rains, it pours!” While scientists cannot determine if climate change caused one specific event, or even a specific seasonal change, they are able to track observed changes in the climate that we are already experiencing, and project how the climate will continue to change in the future. Total precipitation amounts have increased slightly in the Northeast, by approximately 3.3 inches over the last 100 years. However, we have seen a 67% increase in the number of 2-inch rainfall events occurring over a 48-hour period since the 1950s. In the future, New Yorkers can expect greater increases in average annual precipitation of up to 5% by 2020; 10% by the 2050s; and 15% by the 2080s. As central New Yorkers experienced in June 2013, our precipitation patterns will continue to change, with an increase in the number and intensity of extreme precipitation events. More rain will fall in sustained heavy downpours, and will heighten the danger of localized flash flooding, streambank erosion, and storm damage.

For more information on weather and climate change trends in the Northeastern United States, see the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University.





Category: What's With the Weather

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