Intense rainfall inundated south-central New Jersey on July 12-13, 2004, causing major flooding with heavy property, road, and bridge damage in Burlington and Camden Counties. Forty-five dams were topped or damaged, or failed completely. The affected areas were in the Rancocas Creek, Cooper River, and Pennsauken Creek Basins.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) documented peak stream elevations and flows at 56 selected sites within the affected area. With rainfall totals averaging more than 6 inches throughout the three basins, peak-of-record flood elevations and streamflows occurred at all but one USGS stream gage, where the previous record was tied. Flood-frequency recurrence-intervals ranged from 30 to greater than 100 years and maximum streamflow per square mile ranged from 13.9 to 263 cubic feet per second per square mile (ft3/s/mi2).
Peak streamflow at USGS stream gages surrounding the affected basins are associated with considerably lower recurrence intervals and demonstrate the limited extent of the flood. A high tide of about 1 foot above monthly mean high tide did not contribute to high-water conditions. Low ground-water levels prior to the rainfall helped to mitigate flooding in the affected basins. Compared with historical floods in the Rancocas Creek Basin during 1938-40, the July 2004 flood had greater streamflow, but lower stream elevations.
Property damage from the event was estimated at $50 million. Governor James E. McGreevy declared a State of Emergency in Burlington and Camden Counties on July 13, 2004. After assessment of the damage by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), President George W. Bush declared Burlington and Camden Counties disaster areas on July 16, 2004.