Special Report

The All Time Record Rainfall in Every State

Extreme summer rainfall dumped more than 8 inches of rain in parts of five states in the last week of July, causing disastrous floods and landslides. Thousands of residents were displaced, and at least 37 locals were killed in eastern Kentucky as flood water topped homes in the narrow valleys of the Appalachian Mountains. In one particularly tragic instance, rushing debris-laden floodwaters snatched four children between the ages of two and eight from the roof of a mobile home where a family sought refuge.

As global warming continues, the scientific consensus is that storms like these are expected to increase in force and frequency. State rainfall data shows that more state records have been established in recent decades. (For now, global warming shows no signs of slowing. Earth’s CO2 level rose every year since climate change became a national issue.)

To identify the record rainfall in every state, 247 Wall St. reviewed the maximum rainfall recorded within a 24-hour period in every state compiled by the State Climate Extremes Committee, a panel responsible for monitoring observations that may exceed all-time records for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

Hawaii currently holds the U.S. 24-hour precipitation record after the island of Kauai received nearly 50 inches of rain on April 14-15, 2018, inundating homes in the area. (Also see, the hottest day on record in every state.)

In second place is Texas, where Tropical Storm Claudette dropped 42 inches of rain in and around the Houston suburb of Alvin in the summer of 1979. Luckily, no deaths were reported, and about 3,000 people had to be rescued by emergency crews, according to the Houston Chronicle. 

The earliest standing 24-hour rainfall record belongs to Maryland. In the summer of 1897, a storm dropped almost 15 inches of rain near the town of Friendship, about 29 miles east of Washington D.C. In all, 10 states still hold rainfall records from earlier than 1954. 

In the 1960s, four states broke their previous 24-hour rainfall records. Six records, including ones for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Island, were broken in both the 1970s and 1980s. Eleven records were broken in the 1990s, including three in 1996.

Six state 24-hour precipitation records have been broken since 2013, the most recent on Aug. 20-21, 2021, when nearly 21 inches of rain fell in and near McEwen, Tennessee, 55 miles west of Nashville.

Here are the record rainfalls in every U.S. state.

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