Most of us look forward to spring after a long, cold winter. Unfortunately, spring flooding is on the rise for many areas across the country. The biggest issue for many cities is urbanization, resulting in not enough green space for rain to naturally drain. Other common issues are rising sea levels, geography, and changing weather patterns. We look at the rainiest cities with a spring flooding risk as well as what to do if you have flooding.
20 Major Cities With the Greatest Spring Flooding Risk
These 20 major cities are most likely to see a significant spring flooding risk. We based our list on rainfall statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Cities are prioritized by the number of people at risk for spring floods.
Baltimore has a long history will flooding, especially in the historic areas of Ellicott City and Fell’s Point. The city has faced the remnants of several hurricanes or very slow-moving thunderstorms over the last 20 years. Some of the most severe urban floodings occurred in 2005, 2011, 2016, and 2018. Additionally, the geography of the area adds to the flooding problem. The number of hills and valleys create natural flood zones, allowing even a moderate amount of rainfall to cause floods.
Averaging more than 46 inches of rain a year, Tampa is surprisingly high on the list of rainiest cities. Although there are frequent showers, much of the average rainfall occurs during tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes. Rain does play a role in flooding in Tampa, but most floods are related to tide surge during storms. A large portion of the Tampa area is designated a flood zone and flood insurance is required in some areas.
Built on the banks of the Mississippi River, much of the St. Louis area is in a flood plain. With an average of 41 inches of rain and 113 days of rainfall each year, this makes for a dangerous situation. In fact, the grounds around the St. Louis arch flooded in June of 2019. Caused by heavy rainfall throughout the area, it was some of the worst floodings in St Louis in more than 20 years. As sea levels continue to rise, the risk of flooding in St. Louis is expected to increase significantly by 2050.
Much of San Diego and Southern California have faced drought conditions throughout the last decade. During even just a moderate rain shower, the dry, compact soil is unable to absorb the water. Additionally, much of the city is built on the foothills of or downstream from the Laguna Mountains. There are a large number of hills and valleys, and a small amount of rain can quickly lead to flash floods and mudslides. In addition to these natural issues, the rapid urbanization of much of the area has significantly reduced natural drainage. This only adds to an already volatile situation, increasing the flood risks through San Diego.
As the largest city in a state with the nickname “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, it should come as little surprise that Minneapolis has a moderate risk for spring flooding. The Mississippi River runs right through the city and several areas of Minneapolis are included in FEMA’s 100-year flood plain. All though not required, the city government recommends adding flood insurance if you live in these areas or have had flooding in the past. In addition to an average rainfall of more than 30 inches, that area also gets a moderate amount of snowfall. Spring showers mixed with snowmelt increase the risks of flooding across the area.
Often called the rainiest city in the country, Seattle averages about 149 days of rain every year. However, geography is as much a factor in Seattle’s flood risk as the amount of rainfall. Between Elliott Bay, Lake Washington, and plenty of other lakes, rivers, and waterways, even a small amount of water can cause flooding. Snowmelt is another factor that can lead to spring flooding in Seattle. Almost surrounded by mountains, there is a potential for a large amount of water to pass through the city.
While Phoenix isn’t necessarily known for its rainfall amounts, there is still a moderate to severe risk of flooding. The soil throughout much of Arizona is dry and compact, so it does not absorb water quickly. As a result, the Phoenix area is prone to flash floods after even just a moderate amount of rainfall. Additionally, the monsoon season starts in late spring and runs through fall. Monsoons often bring several inches of rain in a very short period of time. Combined with the dry soil, this makes the risk of floods even worse.
Like San Diego and other California cities that made this list, Riverside may seem like an unlikely area for flooding. However, there are several factors that contribute to the risk of spring flooding in Riverside. With the Santa Ana River just to the north, Riverside is located in the valley between the San Gabriel, Santa Ana, and San Bernadino Mountains. The urbanization of the area has decreased natural drainage areas. The drainage areas left are often too dry to absorb rain quickly due to persistent drought conditions throughout much of the last decade.
Averaging 135 days of rain a year, floods in Detroit have increased over the last several years. Although most of these floods are related to extreme rainfall conditions, they are also indicators that municipal storm sewers cannot keep up. Some of the worst floodings in Detroit occurred on August 11, 2014, when nearly 5 inches fell in a few hours. That storm closed portions of Interstate 75 and flooded homes across the area. The city faced more flooding in 2019 as well.
The hilly landscape is one of the largest reasons for a spring flooding risk in San Francisco. Much of the city is paved, with little green space left. Additionally, many rivers were long since diverted or built over. While the actual riverbeds don’t exist any longer, the lay of the land hasn’t changed that much. Even a small amount of rain can cause flooding along these natural routes. Additionally, urbanization has created many new channels for floods. The City of San Francisco even maintains a 100-year flood map and recommends that residents get FEMA flood insurance if you live in those areas.
Averaging 126 days of rain a year, and more if you account for snowfall, Boston’s is increasing at risk for spring flooding. In addition to Boston Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean, there are a number of rivers, lakes, and bays in the area including the Mystic River and the Charles River. Rising sea levels are another contributing factor to urban flooding, with most predictions calling for a 3-foot increase within the next century. While the city is taking action, floods are already more common throughout the Boston area.
Getting nearly 50 inches of rain a year on average, Atlanta’s flood problem is largely manmade. Rapid urbanization has drastically reduced the amount of green space in the area. As a result, there just isn’t enough soil to absorb heavy rains associated with major storm systems. Urban sprawl was partly to blame for the catastrophic floods that occurred on September 22, 2009, with more than 10 inches of rain falling in just a few hours. Most recently, Atlanta flooded again in 2018 and 2019.
While rain does play a role, the majority of Miami’s spring flooding risks are due to rising sea levels. The City of Miami is working to address the issue, but their model predicts the Atlantic Ocean to rise 6 to 12 feet by 2030. Considering that much of the city is along the coast at an elevation of only 6 feet, these predictions could be catastrophic. The biggest risk of floods over the next several years is increased tidal flooding, as swells during high tides continue to surpass previous high water lines. Under these conditions, even a moderate rain shower can result in significant flooding.
Much of Washington, D.C.’s spring flood risks are due to its geography. Located between the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, several areas of the city are susceptible to flooding from snowmelt and moderate rainfall. Additionally, most of the surrounding land slopes in towards the city. Although there is some natural drainage in the area, the urbanization of the city increased the chances of flooding in low-lying areas. Most of Washington, D.C.’s flooding is the result of regular rainfall, but hurricanes and tropical storms are also common. The last major hurricane to impact the city was Isabel in 2003, but many other storms have brought heavy rains and flooding over the last 20 years.
Houston is one of the most flooded cities in the county, having faced widespread flooding in 4 of the last 5 years. Unfortunately, there are several reasons why Houston floods so easily. Most of the city flat and only barely above sea level, which makes it conducive to flooding. The city has also grown by more than a million people in the last 25 years, but the city infrastructure hasn’t kept up at the same pace. This means less soil to absorb rainwater and a storm sewer system that just can’t fill the gap.
Philadelphia averages 118 days of rainfall each year, often with totals of more than 40 inches of rain. However, there have been a number of severe storms over the last few years that have contributed to extensive flooding. Even worse, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting that floods in Philadelphia will increase drastically in the next 30 years. The biggest issue is that most of the city sits only 39 feet above sea level. While much of the recent Philadelphia flooding is the result of heavy rainfalls, high-tides will begin more flooding in the future as the oceans continue to rise.
Urban sprawl is the biggest contributor to flooding in Dallas. The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex as gotten so large that there just isn’t enough land for natural drainage. This puts a heavy burden on municipal sewer systems which were not designed to hand that volume of rainwater. The result is an increase in both flash floods and street flooding in Dallas and the surrounding area. While local governments are working to address the issue, it will take time before they can make the necessary improvements to the city infrastructure.
As with many of these cities, Chicago faces an increased risk of flooding due to its urbanization. While flooding is on the increase within the city limits, the risk is rising in the growing suburban ring around the city. More and more green space is being turned into house developments, retail space, parking lots, and roads. As natural drainage areas are removed, municipal sewer systems are not adequate to handle even moderate rainfalls.
Dating back to the 1940s, Los Angeles has long been known for its urban sprawl. However, the biggest contributor to flood risks in Los Angeles is the ongoing drought. Much of California has faced moderate to severe drought conditions for much of the last decade. This has left what little soil is left extremely dry. Although rainfall is usually low in Los Angeles, a single rainstorm can cause flooding across much of Southern California. Areas near the Los Angeles River are the great risk for floods and several municipalities are working with FEMA to qualify for flood insurance.
New York tops our spring flooding risk list with nearly 50 inches of rainfall every year. The biggest factors are the urbanization of much of the city, the elevation, and the proximity to water. Most of New York is paved, with only a small amount of green space to provide natural drainage for rain and snowmelt. The city is also only 33 feet above sea level, putting coast areas at risk for both tidal and storm flooding. Mostly surrounded by water, most areas are less than 5 miles from the coast with most of Manhattan just a mile or less.
Who to Call About Flood Damage
If you have damage from flooding, you will need to remove the water yourself or call a water damage restoration company to assist. If you plan to do your own flood cleanup, consider renting a submersible pump to remove the water, then air movers and dehumidifiers to dry out the area.
A water damage restoration company has both the experience and equipment to quickly remove floodwaters and dry our your home or business. They will also disinfect the area to ensure mold and odors don’t develop over time. When necessary, they can remove damaged materials and return the area to its original condition.
The Flood Cleanup Process
Regardless of whether you do your own flood cleanup or hire a restoration contractor, the process is the same.
- Extract Standing Water – Use a pump to remove the floodwater. Alternatively, use a wet-dry shop-style vacuum or a bucket to remove water.
- Remove Damaged Materials – When necessary, remove and dispose of damaged drywall, carpeting, and other materials that cannot be salvaged.
- Dry the Structure – Use air movers and dehumidifiers to dry the structure of your property including drywall, carpeting, cabinets, and wall studs.
- Disinfect and Deodorize – Apply chemical sanitizers and deodorizers to event mold and odors from developing.
- Rebuild the Area – If necessary, rebuild the flooded area. Typically this involved replacing carpeting, hanging new drywall, and installing new cabinets.
If you need flood cleanup, we’re the largest network of restoration contractors. Choose a water damage restoration company near you now. Our listings include both independent companies as well as major brands like AdvantaClean and Stanley Steemer. For immediate service, call 1-888-443-3110 for a free estimate and emergency water extraction from our on-call contractor nearest you.