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On this page you learn what types of flooding are typical in Rhode Island and how do you protect yourself, your family and your home. You will also find out more about significant Rhode Island floods. Finally, you'll find links to NWS offices that provide forecast and safety information for Rhode Island, as well as links to our partners who play a significant role in keeping you safe.

Significant Rhode Island Floods

+The Great Flood of 2010

+The Great New England Hurricane of 1938

The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 was one of the most destructive and powerful storms ever to strike southern New England. This system developed in the far eastern Atlantic, near the Cape Verde Islands on September 4. It made a 12-day journey across the Atlantic and up the Eastern Seaboard before crashing ashore on September 21 as a Category 3 Hurricane at Suffolk County Long Island, then into Milford, CT. The center made landfall at the time of astronomical high tide, moving north at 60 mph. Unlike most storms, this hurricane did not weaken on its way toward southern New England due to its rapid forward speed and its track. This kept the center of the storm over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.

Sustained hurricane force winds occurred throughout most of southern New England. Sustained winds of 91 mph, with a gust to 121 mph, were reported on Block Island. Providence recorded sustained winds of 100 mph with a gust to 125 mph. Extensive damage occurred to roofs, trees and crops. Widespread power outages occurred, which in some areas lasted several weeks. 

This hurricane was also known for the extensive flooding. While the worst of the rainfall fell west Rhode Island, the state’s felt the destructive power of storm surge flooding. Narragansett Bay took the worst hit, where a storm surge of 12 to 15 feet destroyed most coastal homes, marinas and yacht clubs. Downtown Providence, was submerged under a storm tide of nearly 20 feet. Storm surge also fed northward into the lower portions of rivers feeding into Block Island Sound and Narragansett Bay, bringing storm surge flooding inland. 

The marine community was devastated. Throughout southern New England, over 2,600 boats were destroyed, and over 3,300 damaged. Entire fleets were lost in marinas and yacht clubs along Narragansett Bay. The hurricane was responsible for 564 deaths and at least 1,700 injuries in southern New England. Damage to the fishing fleets was catastrophic. A total of 2,605 vessels were destroyed, with 3,369 damaged. A total of 8,900 homes, cottages and buildings were destroyed, and over 15,000 were damaged by the hurricane.

This information was taken from "Southern New England Tropical Storms and Hurricanes, A Ninety-eight Year Summary 1909-1997", by David R. Vallee and Michael R. Dion, National Weather Service, Taunton, MA

Bristol, RI (NOAA) Pawtuxet Harbor area destroyed by storm surge (NOAA)
Bristol, RI (NOAA) Pawtuxet Harbor area destroyed by storm surge (NOAA)
A sturdy washing machine is all that remains of a home in Island Park RI (NOAA) Shawomet Beach, RI (NOAA)
A sturdy washing machine is all that remains of a home in Island Park RI (NOAA) Shawomet Beach, RI (NOAA)
All that remains of a beachfront home on Third Beach RI (NOAA) Rainfall map across southern New England during the March 29-31 2010, rainfall event. Rhode Island rainfall totals were 6 to 10 inches.
All that remains of a beachfront home on Third Beach RI (NOAA) Rainfall map across southern New England during the March 29-31 2010, rainfall event. Rhode Island rainfall totals were 6 to 10 inches.

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+ Hurricane Carol 1954

On the morning of August 31, Hurricane Carol, the most destructive hurricane to strike southern New England since the Great New England Hurricane of 1938, came crashing ashore near Old Saybrook, CT, leaving 65 people dead in her wake. Carol had developed in the Bahamas several days earlier, making only slow progress northward. Carol began her rapid acceleration during the evening of August 30, while passing just east of Cape Hatteras, NC. Carol made landfall on eastern Long Island and southeastern Connecticut about 12 hours later, moving at over 35 mph.

Sustained winds of 80 to 100 mph roared through all of Rhode Island. Scores of trees and miles of power lines were blown down. Several homes along the Rhode Island shore had roofs blown completely off due to winds which gusted to over 125 mph. The strongest wind ever recorded on Block Island, Rhode Island occurred during Carol when winds gusted to 135 mph. The National Weather Service in Warwick, Rhode Island recorded sustained winds of 90 mph, with a peak gust of 105 mph.

Hurricane Carol arrived shortly after high tide, causing widespread coastal flooding. Storm surge levels ranged from 10 to 15 feet across Rhode Island. Narragansett Bay received the largest surge values of over 14 feet in the upper reaches of the water way. On Narragansett Bay, just north of the South Street Station site, the surge was recorded at 14.4 feet, surpassing that of the 1938 hurricane. However, since Hurricane Carol arrived after high tide, the resulting storm tide was lower.

Coastal communities were devastated. Entire coastal communities were nearly wiped out from Westerly to Narragansett, Rhode Island. Once again, as in the 1938 hurricane, downtown Providence, Rhode Island was flooded under 12 feet of water.

Rainfall amounts ranged from 2 to 5 inches across most of the area. However, coastal flooding was by far and large the most significant type of flooding issue from this Hurricane in Rhode Island.

Across the Northeast as a whole, Hurricane Carol destroyed nearly 4,000 homes, along with 3,500 automobiles and over 3,000 boats. All of Rhode Island lost electrical power. In addition, as much as ninety-five percent of all phone power was interrupted in these locations.

This information is from "Southern New England Tropical Storms and Hurricanes, A Ninety-eight Year Summary 1909-1997", by David R. Vallee and Michael R. Dion, National Weather Service, Taunton, MA.

 

+Connie and Diane 1955

In little over a week, two named tropical systems (Connie and Diane) passed by southern New England in August 1955. Connie produced 3 to 5 inches of rain across Rhode Island. Just one week later Diane brought 3 to 6 inches of rain to central and southern Rhode Island, and 7 to 10-plus inches of rain to the northern portion of the state. 

While this rain alone was sufficient to bring substantial freshwater flooding across the Ocean State, even more rains fell just to the north in Massachusetts, within the headwaters of the Blackstone River. Diane brought over a foot of rain to the upper Blackstone River, causing record flooding on the Blackstone River at upstream Northbridge Massachusetts. The record floodwaters in the headwaters of the Blackstone River combined with torrential rains across northern Rhode Island, pushed devastating record floodwaters through the Blackstone River Valley into the city of Woonsocket. In Woonsocket the Blackstone River crested 12.8 feet above flood stage, which continues to be the worst flood on record for that area. Multiple dam failures added to the catastrophe, and these floodwaters traveled downriver into and through the communities of Cumberland, Central Falls and Pawtucket before ultimately emptying into Narragansett Bay. 

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Flood Hasards Information

+Flash Flooding

Flash flooding is a rapid and extreme flow of high water into a normally dry area, or a rapid water level rise in a stream or creek above a predetermined flood level, beginning within six hours of the causative event (i.e., intense rainfall, dam failure, ice jam). More information...

+River Flooding

River flooding occurs when river levels rise and overflow their banks or the edges of their main channel and inundate areas that are normally dry. More information...

+Tropical Systems

At any time of year, a storm from over the ocean can bring heavy precipitation to the U.S. coasts. Whether such a storm is tropical or not, prolonged periods of heavy precipitation can cause flooding in coastal areas, as well as further inland as the storm moves on shore. More information...

+Ice/Debris Jams

A back-up of water into surrounding areas can occur when a river or stream is blocked by a build-up of ice or other debris. Debris Jam: A back-up of water into surrounding areas can occur when a river or stream is blocked by a build-up of debris. More information...

+Snowmelt

Flooding due to snowmelt most often occurs in the spring when rapidly warming temperatures quickly melt the snow. The water runs off the already saturated ground into nearby streams and rivers, causing them to rapidly rise and, in some cases, overflow their banks.More information...

+Dam Breaks/Levee Failure

A break or failure can occur with little to no warning. Most often they are caused by water overtopping the structure, excessive seepage through the surrounding ground, or a structural failure. More information...
 
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