Special Report

Places With Record Rainfalls in the US - From 1 Minute to 1 Year

OLENA SAKHATSKA / iStock via Getty Images

A slow-moving weather system in early July unleashed astonishing amounts of water in a short period of time across the U.S. Northeast, causing rivers to swell and flooding streets, homes, and businesses.

Several inches of rain dropped over 48 hours in parts of Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania. Vermont received the brunt of the deluge, hit with two months’ worth of rain in a matter of hours. The storm conjured bad memories of Hurricane Irene in 2011, the greatest natural disaster to hit the Granite State since 1927, according to the National Weather Service. (Here is the worst natural disaster in every state.)

Instruments measured more than 9 inches of rain over 24 hours in the town of Plymouth, Vermont, while 7 inches of rain fell over four hours further south at the West Point Military Academy in New York’s Hudson Valley. At least one person was reportedly killed in New York as she attempted to escape her flooded home.

While this weather system inundated the region, it does not come close to past U.S. records for the largest amount of rain over a period of time. For example, a storm in July 1942 dumped as much as 23 inches of rain over three hours in the town of Smethport, in north-central Pennsylvania. That storm also holds the U.S. record for the most rain in 60 minutes, six hours, and 12 hours. 

Similarly, Waipa Garden on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai holds the U.S. record for the most rain in a 24-hour period after a storm in April 2018 dumped nearly 50 inches of rain in that amount of time. That storm also holds the U.S. record for the most rain in 18 hours (42.5 inches) and 48 hours (54.4 inches).

To identify the record rainfalls in the U.S., 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the Hydrometeorological Design Studies Center USA Record Precipitation Measurements, published by the NWS. Data was last updated by the NWS on Nov. 10, 2021, and some records are estimates. Record rainfalls are ordered by their duration, from one minute to one year. Some rainstorms broke multiple records for the amount of rain dumped over a period of time.

The longest-running U.S. rainfall record dates back to July 1889, when 19 inches of rain fell in 2.17 hours in Rockport, West Virginia. Two of the 20 weather events on the list, one in the Big Bend region of west Texas in May 1935 and the other one in Holt, Missouri, in June 1947, also hold the world record for the most amount of rain over 2.75 hours and 42 minutes, respectively. Speaking of, these are the largest rain storms ever recorded on Earth.

Here are the record rainfalls in the US – from 1 minute to 1 year.

20. Unionville, MD
> Amount: 1.23 inches
> Duration: 1 minute, 7/4/1956

Fourth of July celebrations in 1956 in this town, about 50 miles north of the nation’s capital, were drenched by a heavy three-hour rainstorm over northern Virginia and north-central Maryland. The rainstorm caused extensive flooding of homes and businesses but no reported injuries. During the storm, a “rain gush,” as it is known colloquially, dumped 1.23 inches in 60 seconds on Unionville — a global record for amount of rainfall in one minute.

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19. Alamogordo Creek, NM
> Amount: 2.03 inches
> Duration: 5 minutes, 6/5/1960

Heavy spring rains over eastern New Mexico broke an all-time U.S. record for the most rainfall over five minutes as a deluge caused mudslides, road closures, and evacuations 18 miles northwest of Fort Sumner. The record is close to the world record of 2.48 inches of rain recorded over five minutes during a storm in Porto Bello, on the Caribbean coast of Panama, on Nov. 29, 1911.

18. Guinea, VA
> Amount: 9.25 inches
> Duration: 30 minutes, 8/24/1906

A severe rainstorm that caused significant flooding, property damage, and power outages in and around this community located 13 miles south of Fredericksburg. The torrent broke the all-time U.S. record for the most rain in a 30-minute period of time, less than the global record of 11 inches in the same period of time measured during a deluge in Sikeshugou, Hebei province, China, on July 3, 1974.

17. Holt, MO
> Amount: 12 inches
> Duration: 42 minutes, 6/22/1947

On June 22, 1947, northern Missouri experienced its wettest June since 1988. The storm holds the world record for the most amount of rain in a 42-minute period, at 12 inches. The same storm also holds the record U.S. record for the second-most rainfall measured in a 60-minute period, tied with Kilauea, Hawaii. The storm caused flash flooding, and damaged property.

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16. Holt, MO
> Amount: 12 inches
> Duration: 60 minutes, 6/22/1947

The 1947 rainstorm that drenched northern Missouri in its wettest June in nearly six decades shares with Kilauea, Hawaii, the U.S. record for the second-most rainfall measured in a 60-minute period. Twelve inches of rain fell in 60 minutes on June 22. This is also the world’s third-highest amount of precipitation recorded in that period of time.

15. Kilauea Plantation, Kauai, HI
> Amount: 12 inches
> Duration: 60 minutes, 1/24/1956

A record amount of rain fell on the community of Kilauea on the north shore of Kauai island in 1956. Dropping 12 inches of rain over a one-hour period at the town’s historic former sugarcane plantation, the rainstorm caused damage to property. The storm broke state records for the most rain in 30 minutes, one hour, and 24 hours, totaling 38 inches over a single day, according to the NWS. The storm also holds the third-place world record for the most rain in 60 minutes, after Shangdi, Inner Mongolia, China, which received 15.8 inches over a one-hour period on July 3, 1975; and the 15 inches of rain in 60 minutes recorded near Smethport, Pennsylvania, on July 18, 1942.

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14. Smethport (near), PA
> Amount: 15 inches
> Duration: 60 minutes, 7/18/1942

A rainstorm in July 1942 led to four rainfall records near this north-central Pennsylvania town. Heavy precipitation flooded roads, knocked down power lines, and damaged homes, businesses, and crops. This storm holds the U.S. record for the most rain measured over 60 minutes, which is also the global second place record after Shangdi, Inner Mongolia, China, which received 15.8 inches in a one-hour period on July 3, 1975.

13. Mountain Home, TX
> Amount: 16 inches
> Duration: 2 hours, 7/2/1932

A powerful thunderstorm that struck this community about 83 miles northwest of San Antonio on July 2, 1932, flooded and temporarily shut down a state fish hatchery and inflicted significant damage to local infrastructure. A two-hour period during the storm also stands as a U.S. rainfall record. Those 16 inches of rain in that period of time were less than the world record of 19.3 inches recorded in the hamlet of Yujiawanzi, Inner Mongolia, China, on July 19, 1975.

12. Rockport, WV
> Amount: 19 inches
> Duration: 2.17 hours, 7/18/1899

The oldest standing U.S. rainfall record is held by a severe rainstorm that struck Rockport, West Virginia, about 150 miles southeast of Columbus, Ohio, in the summer of 1889. That amount is close to the world record of 19.3 inches over two hours recorded in the hamlet of Yujiawanzi, Inner Mongolia, China, on July 19, 1975.

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11. Woodward Ranch, TX
> Amount: 22 inches
> Duration: 2.75 hours, 5/31/1935

A fierce rainstorm in the Big Bend region of west Texas holds a U.S. and world record for the most rain over 2.75 hours, measured at this former ranch about 40 miles east of Marfa, Texas. The storm flooded the area, damaging crops and buildings. By comparison, the world record for the most rain over 2.5 hours was 21.7 inches, recorded in the Chinese town of Bainaobao on July 25, 1972, and the world record for the most precipitation over three hours was 23.6 inches in Duanjiazhuang, China, on June 28, 1973.

10. Smethport (near), PA
> Amount: 23 inches
> Duration: 3 hours, 7/18/1942

A severe thunderstorm on July 18, 1942, produced four records for the most amount of rain over a period of time near Smethport, a town located in the north-central Pennsylvania Wilds. The storm dumped the world’s second-most amount of rain over 60 minutes on record. It also holds the U.S. rainfall records for one hour and three hours. The storm produced severe winds, hail, and torrential rains that caused flooding in the area.

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9. Smethport (near), PA
> Amount: 30.7 inches
> Duration: 6 hours, 7/18/1942

A severe storm on July 17-18, 1942 produced four U.S. rainfall records near this town located in the heavily forested and rural part of northern Pennsylvania. The bulk of the storm took place on July 18 from morning to mid-afternoon. At one point, nearly 31 inches of rain fell over six hours, an all-time U.S. record but less than the world record of 32.7 inches recorded over that period of time in Linzhuang, China, on Aug. 7, 1975.

8. Smethport, PA
> Amount: 34.3 inches
> Duration: 12 hours, 7/17/1942

A severe storm over north-central Pennsylvania in mid-July 1942 holds multiple U.S. rainfall records. Most of the rain fell from the morning to late-afternoon of July 18. When including rainfall measurements from when the storm began the previous day, the torrent produced the most rain over a 12-hour period.

7. Waipā Garden, Kauai, HI
> Amount: 42.5 inches
> Duration: 18 hours, 4/14/2018

A historic deluge that struck the Hawaii island of Kauai, one of the rainiest places on earth, causing flash floods and mudslides that cut off several rural communities. The storm shattered three all-time U.S. rain records on April 14, 2018 – the most recent storm on this list of U.S. rain records dating back to 1889.

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6. Waipā Garden, Kauai, HI
> Amount: 49.7 inches
> Duration: 24 hours, 4/14/2018

The Waipa Foundation, a non-profit indigenous development organization, measured record rainfall on April 14, 2018, from its precipitation gauge at Waipa Garden, west of the town of Hanalei. The storm inflicted significant damage to local rural communities. The event holds the U.S. record for the most precipitation over a 24-hour period, one of the three separate U.S. rainfall records the town holds.

The measurement falls well short of the global record of 71.9 inches that fell on the southern Foc-Foc area of Réunion island, a French territory located west of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.

5. Waipā Garden, Kauai, HI
> Amount: 54.4 inches
> Duration: 48 hours, 4/14/2018

The powerful storm that struck Hawaii on April 14, 2018, generated three all-time U.S. rainfall records, including the most rain over 18 hours and 24 hours. The 48-hour record falls well below the global record of 98.1 inches of rain measured in the eastern Indian town of Cherrapunji, located in Meghalaya state, one of the wettest places on earth. Cherrapunji holds three major worldwide rainfall records.

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4. Kukaiau, Hāmākua, HI
> Amount: 62 inches
> Duration: 4 days, 2/27/1902

Being a tropical island located in a precipitation-prone region of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii holds eight of the 20 U.S. records for the most rain over a period of time and it holds a third-place world record for the most rain in 60 minutes. A storm about four years after the U.S. annexed Hawaii from its indigenous monarchy generated two all-time U.S. records, including more than five feet of precipitation over four days on the northeast coast of Hawaii island.

3. Kukaiau, Hāmākua, HI
> Amount: 82 inches
> Duration: 8 days, 2/28/1902

A heavy storm in February 1902, generated all-time U.S. records for rainfall over fours days and eight days. But the 82 inches (6.8 feet) that fell over eight days doesn’t come close to the all-time world record of an eye-popping 217 inches (18 feet) of rainfall that Cyclone Gamede dumped on Commerson Crater, Réunion, the French-administered island west of Madagascar, on June 15, 1995.

2. Mount Waialeale, Kauai, HI
> Amount: 149 inches
> Duration: 1 month, 3/1/1982

“Waialeale” means “rippling water” in the native Hawaiian language, which gives you an idea of how wet this region in the center of Kauai island can be – one of the wettest on the planet without about 450 inches of rain annually. It holds the U.S. record for the most rain over a one-month period, though it falls well short of the one-month world record of 366 inches of rain (30.5 feet) recorded in the eastern Indian town of Cherrapunji, Meghalaya state in 1861. The storm caused one the worst natural disasters ever to hit Hawaii.

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1. Pu’u Kukui, Maui, HI
> Amount: 739 inches
> Duration: 12 months, 12/1/1981

Maui’s typically rain-soaked Pu’u Kukui was struck with an unusually high amount of precipitation in 1981. The weather event holds the U.S. record for the most precipitation over a 12-month period. It falls well short of the world record for the most rain over 12 months: 1,042 inches (86.8 feet) in the eastern Indian town of Cherrapunji, Meghalaya, in 1860.

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