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    Flooding in Florida

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

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    Significant Florida Floods
    • Cape Sable Hurricane of 1947

      Storm History
      This tropical system developed off the coast of Cape Gracias Nicaragua on Oct 9, 1947.  It organized into a tropical storm and crossed Cuba the night of the 10th just west of Havana.  The storm quickly intensified as it moved over the warm waters of the extreme southeast Gulf of Mexico and Florida Straits and became a hurricane on Oct 11th. The hurricane then turned northeast and made landfall over the extreme southwest coast of Florida just north of Cape Sable the night of Oct 11 and tracked northeast over extreme south Florida exiting the east coast between Miami and Palm Beach on the 12th.

      Florida Flood Impact
      Although the storm by itself was not extreme in terms of rainfall, it served as the climax to a very wet rainy season in which a major hurricane had moved across the same region only 4 weeks earlier. Rainfall totals in general ranged from 5-14 inches. But some areas received prolific rains in short periods of time. The Hialeah Water Plant measured 6 inches of rain in 75 minutes before the gage overflowed. The Miami City Office measured 3.60 inches in 1 hour of which 1.32 inches fell in 10 minutes. Severe widespread flooding developed across much of the southern half of the Florida peninsula in every county. In the wake of the hurricane, approximately 90% of the eastern Florida peninsula south of Orlando was flooded. In all, approximately 5,000,000 square acres of the Florida peninsula was flooded with water ranging from 6 inches deep to 10 feet deep. The pictures below document the wide extent of the flooding which covered county after county. U.S. Highway 1, which was built along the Atlantic coastal ridge, flooded and became impassible between Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

      The long-term fix as a result of the flood of ’47 was to create the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), which was established in 1949. The agency was tasked to develop an improved flood control plan for south Florida. Their role in south Florida has evolved and expanded over the decades and currently their mission is “To manage and protect water resources of the region by balancing and improving water quality, flood control, natural systems, and water supply.”

      water levels from 1978 flood

      power plant flooded
      Power Plant in Broward County FL surrounded by flood waters


      layton park, Riviera Beach, FL
      Layton’s Park, Riviera Beach FL, Palm Beach County

      Ranch in Highlands County FL
      Ranch in Highlands County FL


      Roadway flooded to Brighton Indian Reservation, Glades County FL
      Roadway flooded to Brighton Indian Reservation, Glades County FL

      Main Highway to US 1 in Martin County FL
      Main Highway to US 1 in Martin County FL.

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    • Hurricane Dora 1964

      Storm History:
      Hurricane Dora began as a Cape Verde disturbance August 28, 1964, and tracked across the tropical Atlantic acquiring hurricane strength on September 2, passing northeast of the Leeward Islands as it moved northwest. When the hurricane was approximately 300 miles south of Bermuda, the storm turned west and was briefly a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 130 mph. The storm slowed in forward speed and weakened slightly as it approached the northeast coast of Florida the evening of Sep. 9. The large eye moved over St Augustine just after midnight of Sep. 10, with landfall based on radar at 12:20 am 6 miles north of St Augustine, FL. Peak winds in St Augustine were estimated at 125 MPH. Dora was the first hurricane to make landfall over northeast Florida in the 20th century.

      Florida Impacts:
      Due to the hurricane approaching the coast at a perpendicular angle and the strong, long duration of onshore winds, tides ran 5-8 feet or more above normal along the northeast Florida coast. Tides were estimated at 12 feet moved across Anastasia Island off St Augustine. Extensive damage was observed along the coast due to the storm surge with numerous coastal roads damaged or destroyed, with over 40 homes lost along the coast. Very heavy rain spread inland as Dora continued to push west over north Florida on Sep 10, while also weakening. On Sep. 11, Dora began to make a near 180 degree turn and headed east-northeast across southern Georgia on the 12th and 13th. This allowed heavy rain to continue across much of north Florida. Storm total rainfall of over 10 inches occurred over an estimated 10,000 square mile area. The heaviest rains fell across Lafayette and Suwannee counties on the 12th. Mayo recorded the greatest storm total with 23.73 inches of rain, while the heavily flooded town of Live Oak recorded 18.62 inches. One death due to drowning was reported in Live Oak.

      Dora produced the flood of record on the Santa Fe River at Fort White and was the previous flood of record for the St Mary’s River Basin until Tropical Storm Debby in 2012 eclipsed it.Total storm damage in Florida was estimated at $200-230 million ($2.76-3.17 billion dollars 2012 value).

      The link below is historical video footage from Hurricane Dora:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KP2qtp0vCww

      Hurricane Dora Storm Track

      Hurricane Dora Storm Track

      Radar track of Hurricane Dora
      Radar track of Hurricane Dora

      Hurricane Dora Rainfall totals by city
      Hurricane Dora Rainfall totals by city

      Daytona Beach radar track of eye of Hurricane Dora sep 8-10, 1964
      Daytona Beach radar track of eye of Hurricane Dora Sep 8-10, 1964

      Main St Bridge, Jacksonville FL
      Main St Bridge, Jacksonville FL

      La Chateau, A famous Atlantic Beach restaurant.
      La Chateau, A famous Atlantic Beach restaurant.

      Oceanfront homes destroyed by the storm surge. In all 43 homes were lost along the coast.
      Oceanfront homes destroyed by the storm surge. In all 43 homes were lost along the coast.

      Coastal damage along the Jacksonville Beaches
      Coastal damage along the Jacksonville Beaches

      Coastal flooding in the Jacksonville area
      Coastal flooding in the Jacksonville area

      Flooding in Live Oak, FL
      Flooding in Live Oak FL

      National Guardsman on flood duty, Live Oak, FL
      National Guardsman on flood duty, Live Oak, FL

      Flooded street in Live Oak, FL
      Flooded street in Live Oak, FL

      getting the mail in a row boat
      Taking a boat to the mailbox in Live Oak, FL

      Governor surveying damage in Live Oak, FL

      Governor surveying damage in Live Oak, FL

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    • Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928

      Storm History:
      At approximately 6:15 pm on Sep. 16, 1928, a Category 4 hurricane made landfall on the southeast coast of Florida between Jupiter and Boca Raton. The system likely developed as a Cape Verde storm on Sep. 6, but the first report of the storm didn't occur until Sep' 10 from the S.S. Commack near latitude 17N, longitude 48.25W. The storm strengthened into a major hurricane east of the Leeward Islands and crossed the islands in the vicinity of Guadeloupe on Sep. 12. The hurricane briefly attained Category 5 strength as it moved over Puerto Rico on Sep. 13. The storm weakened slightly after passage over land, but maintained major hurricane status as it tracked over the Bahamas before making landfall over southeast Florida the evening of the 16th. The hurricane then moved across Lake Okeechobee still as a Category 4 hurricane before turning north through the interior Florida peninsula and weakening.

      Lake Okeechobee Impacts:
      The hurricane caused widespread devastation around the most heavily populated area of Lake Okeechobee. Most residences had initially evacuated the low lying areas around the Lake, but when the hurricane did not arrive as soon as expected; many assumed the storm had missed the region and returned to their homes. Unfortunately, the eye of the storm approached Lake Okeechobee the evening of the 16th. Major hurricane force northwest winds created a storm surge on the southeast side of the lake which easily overtopped the 4-5 foot dike that was in place and swamped the region. The resulting flood covered an area of hundreds of square miles with some areas experiencing water over 20 feet deep. The area flooded by the lake was approximately 75 miles wide and 6 miles long. Entire houses floated off of their foundations. Many of those that survived the flood, along with the bodies of the ones that didn’t, were swept by the flood waters into the Everglades, never to be found. As the eye of the hurricane moved west of the lake, the wind shifted to the south which reversed the storm surge to the north side of the lake, breaching the dike along the northern side of the lake and caused similar but not as widespread a flood that occurred on the southeast side.

      The following report, in part, was submitted from the official in charge of the Weather Bureau office at Miami:

      From Pompano north to Jupiter, especially at Delray, Lake Worth, Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, and Kelsey City, there was serious structural and water damage, the losses greatest at Palm Beach and West Palm Beach. There has been no authentic statement as to the total losses, but they will amount to several million dollars.

      In the Lake Okeechobee region, the great loss of life and the damage to property were caused by the overflowing of the lake along the southeast shore, principally at Belle Glade, Pahokee, and South Bay. The small houses in those localities were washed away or inundated, and approximately 2,000 persons were drowned (note this figure has since been revised to over 2,500). In addition to the immediate losses caused by the storm, practically the entire Everglades region south of Lake Okeechobee has been flooded, making it impossible for growers to prepare the land for the usual early winter crops. This condition represents one of the largest items in the list of losses resulting from the storm.


      With the ground saturated and nowhere for the water to flow over the relatively flat lands of south Florida, floodwaters persisted south of the Lake for several weeks, which greatly impeded recovery efforts. Mass graves were used as burial services were overwhelmed. Around 75% of the fatalities were migrant farm workers, making identification of both dead and the missing difficult and the precise death toll unknown. An official casualty estimate by the Red Cross on Oct 28, 1928, put the number of fatalities at 1,836. Further research in 2003 revised the number of deaths to “at least 2,500,” making the Okeechobee hurricane the second deadliest natural disaster in United States history behind the 1900 Galveston Hurricane. Another way to look at the death toll of this horrific hurricane, the population of south Florida was approximately 50,000 people in 1928. That equates to a death toll of at least 5% of the population of south Florida.

      There is still tangible evidence of this historical tragedy. In West Palm Beach’s Woodlawn Cemetery, a stone marker stands today in memory of 69 victims of the storm. Also in West Palm Beach, at the corner of Tamarind Avenue and 25th Street, a new State of Florida historical marker stands in sentinel over the place where 674 victims of the storm were buried after being transported from the Belle Glade area. At the Port Mayaca cemetery in Martin County, another stone marker was placed over a mass grave of approximately 1,600 victims. Near the Belle Glade Public Library in downtown Belle Glade, a beautiful memorial stands as a remembrance of the deadly storm and its devastation.

      The storm left thousands of people homeless as entire homes were removed from their foundations and smashed to bits in the rapidly moving flood waters. Property damage was estimated at $25 million ($330 million equivalent in 2012 dollars). The hurricane is one of only three to make landfall over south Florida with a central pressure below 940 mbar (27.76 in Hg): 1926 Miami Hurricane and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

      In response to the Okeechobee hurricane, Herbert Hoover personally visited the Lake Okeechobee region, and through Congress directed the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to create a plan to mitigate flooding and put measures in place to prevent a recurrence of the Okeechobee hurricane. Major flood control projects were implemented with the creation of a series of canals, levees, and control gates to move water through the Lake Okeechobee hydrologic system. The Herbert Hoover Dike was also created, which increased the height of the dike from 4-5 feet to approximately 30 feet. As a result of the hurricane, the Florida State Legislature created the Okeechobee Flood control District. Monitoring and flood control of Lake Okeechobee is currently being accomplished by the South Florida Water Management District which works jointly with USACE to manage the height of the lake year round. The dike has yet to be tested against a category 4 or 5 hurricane, and it remains to be seen whether the dike can withstand such a storm.
      Damage and severe flooding post hurricane vicinity Belle Glade.

      Damage and severe flooding post hurricane vicinity Belle Glade
      Damage and severe flooding post hurricane vicinity Belle Glade

      Approximate flood zone. Note: The Palm Beach County label is misplaced. North of Canal Point has been in Martin County since 1925
      Approximate flood zone. Note: The Palm Beach County label is misplaced. North of Canal Point has been in Martin County since 1925


      Track of hurricane Sep 12-20, 1928

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    • Tropical Storm Debby 2012

      Storm History:
      Tropical Storm Debby formed in the central Gulf of Mexico the morning of June 23, 2012. Debby moved slowly and erratically northeast over the northeast Gulf of Mexico the 24th and 25th before turning east northeast toward the Florida Big Bend on the 26th. The center made landfall near Steinhatchee, FL, around 5 pm EDT June 26th and tracked east across north central Florida exiting the state over northeast Florida the morning of the 27th. Debby dissipated off the northeast Florida coast on the 27th.

      Florida Impacts:
      Debby was a slow moving tropical storm, and the slow movement and interaction with a non-tropical trough across the Southeast U.S. led to torrential and persistent heavy rainfall for 36-48 hours across north Florida. Widespread heavy rain totaling over 10 inches occurred over west central Florida north of Tampa, over the eastern Florida panahandle, and east across portions of northeast Florida. Two rainfall maximums were observed in excess of 20 inches. One was located over the eastern Florida panhandle and the other between Lake City and the Florida/Georgia border.

      Many areas from Apalachicola eastward through Live Oak reported storm total rainfall of over 15 inches. In Panacea, 20.63 inches of rain fell in 24 hours. The peak storm total rainfall occurred in Curtis Mill (Southwestern Wakulla County): 28.78 inches. This report was just outside the area of heaviest rainfall estimated by the Tallahassee radar. Rainfall in the area just south of Tallahassee resulted in widespread flash flooding across much of Wakulla County and led to a record crest on the Sopchoppy River. There was a 29 foot rise in water level on the Sopchoppy River in 30 hours. After the onset of heavy rain, the river reached flood stage in less than 8 hours and major flood stage in 12 hours. At least 400 structures were reported to have been impacted by the flood waters. A record crest on the Suwannee River was also recorded to the northeast of Live Oak at White Springs. Black Creek in Clay County recorded its 2nd highest flood and close to 600 homes along the banks were inundated. Significant flooding also occurred in Live Oak as the Suwannee river was at it’s highest level since hurricane Dora in 1964 which closed a portion of U.S. Highway 90 for nearly two weeks. The St Mary’s River at Macclenny reached a record flood stage with some of the flooding affecting Interstate 10, which was closed for two days when water crossed the roadway. Gainesville, FL recorded its second highest daily rainfall total on record with 6.95 inches of rain on June 24th. In Marion County, State Road 40 was closed due to high water and as many as 50 sinkholes were reported to have formed near roadways.

      Across west central Florida, the Suncoast Parkway was closed for a week due to flood waters. Severe flooding was also reported on the Anclote and Pithlachascotee rivers in Pasco county with several communities reporting water “head deep”. Damage occurred to 106 homes along the two rivers. Coastal flooding was also a major problem as significant beach errosion occurred with tides running 3 to 5 feet above normal. Much of Bayshore Blvd in Tampa was flooded for three consecutive days. Storm surge flooding also occurred along U.S. Highway 19 near Hudson.

      FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) reported over $40 million dollars in flood damage across Florida. The total storm damage was estimated at $250 million dollars. 22 counties were declared Federal Disaster Areas.

      Not only did Debby produce prolific rains across the Big Bend and northern half of the Florida peninsula, but a tornado outbreak occurred across the central Florida peninsula with a total of 24 tornadoes.

      There were four direct deaths attributed to Tropical Storm Debby in the state of Florida. One woman was killed as the result of a tornado. One person drowned in rough surf along the Pinellas county coast. One person drowned when his canoe flipped in Lake County. And one person was found floating in flood waters near Anclote Key and is presumed to have drowned.

      hurricane Debby storm track

      Rainfall totals associated with Tropical Storm Debby, June 22-27, 2012. This map was produced by the NOAA Hydrometeorological Prediction Center.
      Rainfall totals associated with Tropical Storm Debby, June 22-27, 2012. This map was produced by the NOAA Hydrometeorological Prediction Center

      Hydrograph of the Sopchoppy River near Sopchoppy
      Hydrograph of the Sopchoppy River near Sopchoppy

      National Weather Service, Tallahassee FL
      National Weather Service, Tallahassee FL

      Before and after flooding of home on Sopchoppy River
      Before and after flooding of home on Sopchoppy River

      National Weather Service, Tallahassee FL (Storm Total Precipitation)
      National Weather Service, Tallahassee FL (Storm Total Precipitation)

      National Weather Service, Jacksonville FL (Storm Total Precipitation)
      National Weather Service, Jacksonville FL (Storm Total Precipitation)

      Flood waters surround a convenience store in Crawfordville, FL, AP Photo/Dave Martin

      Flood waters surround a convenience store in Crawfordville, FL, AP Photo/Dave Martin

      Flood waters surround a convenience store in Crawfordville, FL, AP Photo/Dave Martin

      Near downtown Live Oak, FL/ AP Photo/Dave Martin

      Live Oak, Source: Gainesville Sun
      Live Oak, Source: Gainesville Sun

      Cassat Ave near I-10 in Jacksonville, FL, Photo by Richard McKinney, First Coast News
      Cassat Ave near I-10 in Jacksonville, FL, Photo by Richard McKinney, First Coast News

      DOT image at I-10 and Cassat Ave in Jacksonville, FL
      DOT image at I-10 and Cassat Ave in Jacksonville, FL

      Suncoast Parkway in Hernando County, FL, Photo: Tampa Bay Times/Will Vragovic
      Suncoast Parkway in Hernando County, FL, Photo: Tampa Bay Times/Will Vragovic

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    • Tropical Storm Fay 2008

      Storm History:
      Tropical Storm Fay began as tropical depression off the northwest coast of Puerto Rico over the Mona Passage on August 15, 2008. The depression tracked west over the southern Dominican Republic and Haiti and despite being over land, became Tropical Storm Fay on August 16. Fay then tracked over the Windward Passage and strengthened slightly before making a very brief landfall near Cabo Cruz, Cuba on the 17th. On the 18th, Fay turned northwest and made another landfall over western Cuba 20 nautical miles west of Cienfuegos. After exiting the north coast of western Cuba, Fay crossed the Florida Straits and began a turn to the northeast and made landfall over Key West, FL the evening of the 18th. After passing Key West, the storm started to become better organized while over Florida Bay; and made landfall on the Florida mainland between Cape Romano and Everglades City during the early morning of the 19th. Shortly after landfall, a well-defined eye developed which was visible in both radar and satellite imagery as Fay tracked over the warm and swampy Everglades. Fay was at its peak intensity of 60 knots as it tracked near the northwestern end of Lake Okeechobee. Fay reached the east central Florida coast late on the 20th. On the 21st the steering currents collapsed and Fay drifted north, just off the central Florida coast near Cape Canaveral, at 3-4 knots. Convective bands developed and persisted along the east central coast of Florida and trained across the region producing widespread rainfall totals of over 20 inches centered over Brevard County. This produced the highest measured storm total rainfall amount associated with Fay of 27.65 inches located 8 nautical miles northwest of Melbourne, FL. Late on the 21st, Fay turned back to the west and made a third landfall over Florida near Flagler Beach. Fay continued west across north central Florida bringing heavy rain to the area and moved back over water as it entered the extreme northeast Gulf of Mexico late on the 22nd. Fay tracked west northwest and made its fourth and final landfall just southwest of Carrabelle in the Florida panhandle the night of the 22nd with a secondary intense rainfall maximum of over 20 inches occurring across the Big Bend of Florida and extreme southern Georgia. The storm continued west northwest and weakened to a depression northeast of Pensacola the evening of the 23rd. Fay moved northwest and finally exited the state of Florida early on the 24th. Fay had maintained tropical storm intensity from its initial landfall over southwest Florida the night of the 18th through its fourth and final landfall the 23rd. In all, Fay spent 7 days over the state of Florida and is the only storm to have produced four separate landfalls in the state.

      Florida Impacts:
      The biggest impact from Tropical Storm Fay was the intense rainfall and associated flooding. There were numerous reports of over 20 inches of rain across east central Florida, and rainfall of over 10 inches was common across the remainder of central and north Florida. A good portion of each county of east central Florida measured at least 12 inches of rain in less than 48 hours. Melbourne broke a 50 year old rainfall record when it recorded 11 inches of rain in 24 hours. Numerous roads became impassible across east central Florida, including a few major roads such as State Road 46 in eastern Seminole County, due to the flood waters. Moderate to major flooding occurred on the St Johns River with the forecast point at Geneva recording an all-time record crest. Heavy rain over the Big Bend of Florida and south central Georgia caused the Ochlockonee River above Tallahassee to swell to a record crest at the forecast point near Concord and the second highest crest at the forecast point near Havana. One large subdivision in Leon county required residents to be evacuated by boat as flood waters made roads impassable.

      Although widespread flooding occurred across east central Florida, there was one benefit. Lake Okeechobee had been running low due to lingering drought conditions. The significant runoff down the Kissimmee River valley allowed Lake Okeechobee to rise four feet returning the lake to seasonal normal. Not only was Fay a prolific rain maker, but it spawned 18 tornadoes across Florida. One was rated an EF-2 in Wellington, FL which destroyed a weak building and knocked down numerous trees. An EF-1 tornado occurred in Barefoot Bay, which was also suffering the effects of the intense rainfall, and damaged 59 homes with 9 determined to be uninhabitable. The only area of the state that was spared from the heavy rain was west central Florida and the extreme western Florida panhandle.

      A significant portion of the damage attributed to Fay was due to flooding. More than 15,000 homes were flooded, the vast majority over east central Florida in the region of the most intense rainfall. Some areas of Brevard and St Lucie counties reported standing water up to five feet deep. Five deaths were reported in Florida as a direct result of Fay. Total damage in Florida was estimated at $390 million dollars. Following Fay, the entire state of Florida was declared a Federal Disaster Area.

      Track of Tropical Storm Fay

      Best track positions for Tropical Storm Fay, August 15-26 2008. Track positions during the inland tropical depression and extratropical stages are based on a blend of analyses from the NOAA Hydrometeorological Prediction Center and the National Hurricane Center.

      Rainfall totals for Tropical Storm Fay during its traverse across Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. Rainfall maxima of 27.65 inches occurred 8 nautical miles northwest of Melbourne, FL (graphic courtesy of NOAA/NCEP Hydrometeorological Prediction Center).

      Rainfall totals for Tropical Storm Fay during its traverse across Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. Rainfall maxima of 27.65 inches occurred 8 nautical miles northwest of Melbourne, FL (graphic courtesy of NOAA/NCEP Hydrometeorological Prediction Center)

       

      Okeechobee, along State Road 441, Northlake shopping center KFC, Photo: Bill Ingram/The Post
      Okeechobee, along State Road 441, Northlake shopping center KFC, Photo: Bill Ingram/The Post

      Weeping Willow Way colapse, eastern Leon County.
      Weeping Willow Way colapse, eastern Leon County

      Market Place Square Plaza on U.S. Highway 1 in Jensen Beach, truck under water, AP Photo/Stuart News
      Market Place Square Plaza on U.S. Highway 1 in Jensen Beach, truck under water, AP Photo/Stuart News

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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 6 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 and Coastal Flooding

      Wildfires burn away the vegetation of an area, leaving behind bare ground that tends to repel water. When rain falls, it runs off a burn scar towards a low lying area, sometimes carrying branches, soil and other debris along with it. Without vegetation to hold the soil in place, flooding can produce mud and debris flows. 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 Florida