The most outstanding floods in the United States during 1969 are described in chronological order. The areas most seriously affected by flooding were: Central and southern California (January and February); the upper Midwestern States of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois (April); north-central Ohio (July); Mississippi, Alabama, and Virginia (Hurricane Camille in August); and Florida and Georgia (September).
Severe floods in central and southern California were caused by three storms during January and February. At least 60 lives were lost. Homes and property were destroyed or damaged, by rainstorms, floods, and mudflows. Many floods approached or exceeded the maximum known. The severe flood damage was due partly to recent home construction in floodprone areas.
The April floods in the upper Midwestern States of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois were expected because of a large accumulation of snow containing as much as 8 inches of water. Flood-protection procedures, together with cool temperatures, had a mitigating effect on the flood. The floods were the largest since the late 1800's, and their recurrence intervals exceeded 50 years at many of the gaged sites. Estimates of flood damage were about $147 million. More than a million acres of rich agricultural land were inundated, thousands of culverts and bridges were washed out, 23,000 people were forced from their homes and 11 lives were lost in the six-State flood area.
Intense rainstorms and wind with gusts as much as 100 miles per hour, July 4-5, caused record floods in north-central Ohio, July 4-8. The storm and floods left trees uprooted, more than $66 million in damage, and 41 deaths. In many places the floods were the largest of record. Together with the wind and rainstorm, the hydrologic conditions were among the most significant experienced in the area.
Hurricane Camille was the most intense hurricane on record to enter the United States mainland. It struck the Mississippi-Alabama coast on August 18, with tidal waves as high as 25 feet above mean sea level and wind velocities more than 190 miles per hour. Tidal wave and flood damage was about $1.3 billion. In Mississippi the known dead totaled 139 and 76 other persons were missing. The hurricane intensity decreased as it moved inland until it merged with severe rainstorms over the Appalachian mountains. The intensified hurricane then caused record-breaking floods of streams in a 50-mile-wide area as it moved eastward from Sulphur Springs, W. Va., to Fredericksburg, Va. Total flood damage in Virginia exceeded $116 million. There were 113 known deaths, 102 injuries, and 39 people missing.
A tropical storm that was nearly stationary over northwest Florida for about 48 hours, September 20-23 produced record rains and floods. Near Quincy, Fla., the total rainfall for the period exceeded 20 inches. On Little River near Quincy, the peak discharge was nearly twice the previous maximum of record and was three times that of a 50-year flood. Flood damage to agricultural lands, bridges, culverts, and roads was about $1.7 million.
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Summary of floods in the United States during 1969