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Flooding in Connecticut

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

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Significant Connecticut Floods
  • 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. Extensive damage occurred to roofs, trees and crops. Widespread power outages occurred, which in some areas lasted several weeks. In Connecticut, downed power lines resulted in catastrophic fires to sections of New London and Mystic. The lowest pressure at the time of landfall occurred on the south side of Long Island, NY, at Bellport, where a reading of 27.94 inches was recorded. Other low pressures included 28.00 inches in Middletown and 28.04 inches in Hartford.

    The hurricane produced storm tides of 14 to 18 feet across most of the Connecticut coast, with 18 to 25 foot tides around New London east past the Rhode Island state line. The destructive power of the storm surge was felt throughout the coastal community.

    Rainfall from this hurricane resulted in severe river flooding across sections of Connecticut. All but the extreme eastern part of the state measured 3 to 6 inches of rain. The rainfall from the hurricane added to the amounts that had occurred with a frontal system several days before the hurricane struck. The combined effects from the frontal system and the hurricane produced rainfall of 10 to 17 inches across most of the Connecticut River Valley. This rain resulted in some of the worst flooding ever recorded in this area. Roadways were washed away along with sections of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad lines. The Connecticut River, in Hartford reached a level of 35.4 feet, which was 19.4 feet above flood stage.

    Across southern New England, a total of 8,900 homes, cottages and buildings were destroyed, and over 15,000 were damaged by the hurricane. The marine community was devastated. Over 2,600 boats were destroyed, and over 3,300 damaged. The hurricane was responsible for 564 deaths and at least 1,700 injuries in southern New England. Damage to the fishing fleets was catastrophic: 2,605 vessels were destroyed, with 3,369 damaged.
    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.

    Image of the destruction along the Connecticut coastline: source, NOAA
    Image of the destruction along the Connecticut coastline. The remains of houses with one lone house at far right: source, NOAA

    Response of the Connecticut River at Hartford, CT, to rains before and during the passage of the 1938 Hurricane
    Response of the Connecticut River at Hartford, CT, to rains before and during the passage of the 1938 Hurricane


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  • June 1982 Floods in Connecticut

    Torrential rains affected Connecticut from June 4 to 7, 1982. A large low pressure system moved up from the Gulf Coast and moved slowly up to the northeast United States, producing an exceptional amount of rainfall in the state. Up to 16 inches of rain fell in the region over 4 days, with the heaviest amounts occurring in south central Connecticut. Rainfall on Saturday, June 5, accounted for over half of that total when up to 10 inches fell.

    Preceding conditions of soil moisture and river levels were hampered by a storm the previous week, which had left up to 4 inches of rain in many of the same areas.

    The rainfall resulted in numerous floods and flash floods on smaller streams though the central part of the state. The larger rivers in Connecticut, the Housatonic and Connecticut, were not as greatly impacted because their headwaters in the more northern parts of New England were not impacted by heavy rain with this event. The smaller rivers, such as the Yantic, Farmington, and Shetucket, all received significant flooding as well as many smaller streams.

    The floods caused the loss of at least 11 lives. Specific reports regarding some of the deaths from this event follow. According to the June 1982 NOAA National Climatic Center Storm Report, a woman drowned as a truck was swept into Roaring Brook in East Haddam. In Putnam a woman died as a pickup truck was swept away. In Salem, a woman died as she tried to escape her stalled truck. In New London, an 8 year old was drowned in his flooded basement. In Clinton, a pedestrian was swept away to his death.

    One of the ironies of this event was that one of the facilities impacted by this event was the Northeast River Forecast Center. The NERFC offices, which at that time were in Bloomfield, were flooded for a day. Forecasters had to move to other locations to work.

    Estimated damages from the flooding were more than $276 million (1982 dollars). Thousands of homes were damaged.  The floods also caused significant damage to roads and bridges. This event caused over a dozen dam failures; additional dams required repairs due to the floodwaters.

    Rainfall across southern New England during June 4-7, 1982
    Rainfall across southern New England during June 4-7, 1982


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Flood Hazard 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...
Protect Life and Property NWS Forecast Offices and River Forecast Center (RFC) Covering Connecticut