Midwestern States Can Suffer Hurricane Damage, Flooding

Midwestern States Can Suffer Hurricane Damage, Flooding

Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan among states that can be impacted by tropical cyclone flooding

University of Iowa researchers say East Coast dwellers aren't the only ones affected by the impacts of hurricanes – residents of Midwestern states are, too, as hurricane remnants can bring about major flooding in the heartland.

"Our results indicate that flooding from tropical cyclones affects large areas of the United States and the Midwest, as far inland as Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan," said Gabriele Villarini, UI assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan among states that can be impacted by tropical cyclone flooding. (Farm Progress file photo)

Villarini studied the discharge records collected at 3,090 U.S. Geological Survey stream gauge stations from 1981 to 2011 to find that North Atlantic tropical cyclones can impact large areas of the United States away from the East Coast.

Flooding from a single tropical cyclone often impacts 10 to 15 states located hundreds of miles from the coast and covering a wide area, explained Villarini, who also conducts research at IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering.

Maximum water discharges recorded by USGS stream gauges helped the researchers construct maps for each storm that showed the relationship between inland flooding and tropical cyclones.

The USGS stream gauges used for the study, located east of the Rocky Mountains, showed that tropical cyclones can cause major flooding over the Midwest, including the southeastern corner of Iowa, Villarini said.

Despite impacts of inland flooding, inland tropical cyclone flooding has received little attention in the scientific literature, although the news media have begun to pay more attention following Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, he said.

The flood ratio map for Hurricane Ike (2008) shows areas in yellow and orange that approach or exceed 10-year flood peaks at their respective stream gauge stations.

Villarini said that the amount of financial damage caused by the storms in the Midwest and the eastern United States will be the subject of a future study.

The research paper, "North Atlantic Tropical Cyclones and U.S. Flooding," can be found in the September issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

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