For Central Kentucky and Southern Indiana

 A flash flood is a rapid or extreme flow of high water or a rapid rise in a stream or waterway that begins within six hours of an event (heavy rain, dam break, etc.). Flash flooding puts people, property, and the environment at risk by combining the power and availability of water with everyday life. Flash flood events are difficult to report and observe because of the small size of the affected area as well as the magnitude of each individual event.

In an effort to celebrate, remember, and respect flash flooding, we at the Louisville National Weather Service Forecast Office have made an attempt to gather the ten most important flash flood events for the central Kentucky and southern Indiana area. We understand that, as with any list of extremes, there will be differences of opinion on which events are more or less significant than others.  In organizing this list we endeavored to consider several factors, including number of fatalities, geographical area affected, monetary amount of damage, and singularity.  If you wish to express your feelings about this list, or if you have personal stories you'd like to share, please e-mail us at w-lmk.webmaster@noaa.gov.  Please let us know if we may include your comments or experiences here on this page.

 THIS PAGE IS STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION AS WE CONTINUE TO RESEARCH HISTORICAL FLASH FLOODS ACROSS THE REGION.  IF YOU HAVE A SUGGESTION FOR A FLASH FLOOD THAT WE SHOULD CONSIDER FOR INCLUSION ON THIS LIST, PLEASE LET US KNOW!

1. Kentucky's Heaviest Rain

March 1-2, 1997

Louisville in 1997

This event as a whole is one of the largest and worst flood flooding events in the State of Kentucky’s history. In this case, several flash floods were the cause of property destruction and death amidst a much larger river flood event.

From March 1-3, up to a foot of rain fell in northern Kentucky and southern Indiana. The storm was caused by a low pressure center in western Kentucky with an associated warm sector causing rains over the area, and as the strong cold front associated with the low pressure moved northeast, even heavier rains contributed to the situation. These rains caused extensive river flooding and flash flooding throughout the area. 

The event caused over 500 million dollars in damages and damaged or destroyed over 14,000 homes. A total of 33 people lost their lives in this event and 21 were from Kentucky. Nearly a dozen deaths were by drowning as vehicles were swept away by flood currents. Several others were attributed to drowning while either out doing river activities or by returning home and then being trapped by rising water.

There was record flash and river flooding in Boston, KY, caused by the Rolling Fork River.

2. Big September Rain

September 22-23, 2006

Bluegrass flooding in 2006

This storm system in late September of 2006 brought some severe weather and local flooding throughout the southeastern United States and the Louisville county warning area. There were several accounts of heavy rain and flash flooding from around the area. Flooding was observed as far north as French Lick, Indiana, in Orange County where Monon Road had to be closed due to localized flooding. Flooding was also reported as far South as Logan County, Kentucky, where in North Russellville the bridge at Coopertown Road was flooded and impassable. Radar and personal accounts of the event illustrate rain in some areas of 6 inches or more. A report using an electronic rain gauge suggested that Leavenworth, Indiana received over 2.5 inches of rain in a one hour period.

The event caused over a million dollars in damages and caused numerous civilians to flee residences due to quickly rising waters. This was the deadliest weather event since March of 1997. Six people died in the county warning area due to localized flooding, in many cases where vehicles were overcome by rising water. Interstate 64 had to be closed due to standing water. Also an apartment complex in the Louisville area had to be evacuated due to the danger of the rising waters.

3. Allen County, KY to Red Boiling Springs, TN

June 23, 1969

Deadly 1969 flash flood

On this date, a slow moving line of thunderstorms came through south central Kentucky as well as parts of north central Tennessee. The presence of low pressure around Chicago, a cold front setting up west of Kentucky and Tennessee, and a warm air mass that had already moved through set up the conditions for the system.  These storms caused a record breaking amount of rainfall. In Allen County, Kentucky, over 8 inches of rain fell in 6 hours. Trammel Creek came out of its banks in Allen County, which caused 3 deaths as well as nearly 30 million dollars in damages to property all over the county due to the flash flooding that resulted. In Scottsville, more than 2 inches fell between 4 and 5am alone, which was the peak rainfall in the event. The effects of the event were felt around the area, but Allen County in Kentucky and Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee were hit the hardest in terms of loss of life and damages.

4. Louisville's Wettest August Day

August 4, 2009

water rescue

Flash flooding impacted southern Indiana and north central Kentucky on August 4, 2009, as slow-moving thunderstorms moved over the same areas.  Among the hardest hit locations were Louisville, Jeffersonville, New Albany, and Clarksville.  Several roads were closed due to flood waters including I-65 and I-264, two water rescues were performed in New Albany, several buildings in downtown Louisville flooded, major flooding occurred around Churchill Downs and on the University of Louisville campus, and numerous residential basements flooded across the area.  Also there was one lightning related fire on Hurstbourne Lane near I-64.

Another round of thunderstorms and heavy rain moved through the area in the afternoon and additional flooding occurred in the Bluegrass Region, including the Lexington area. 

Officially at Standiford International Airport (SDF), 4.53 inches of rain fell, which broke the old record for highest rainfall in a single day in August (set back in 1879).  Three inches of that rain fell in one hour.


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