Flash floods in Nebraska kill 23 - HISTORY
Year
1950

Flash floods in Nebraska kill 23

In Nebraska on this day in 1950, a flood caused by 14 inches of rain kills 23 people. Most of the victims drowned after being trapped in their vehicles by flash flooding.

In southeastern Nebraska, cornfields dominate the landscape. It is the rainiest region of the state, getting approximately 35 inches annually. The spring and summer of 1950 far exceeded that total. The deadly flash flooding was part of a series of floods to hit the area near Lincoln, Nebraska, where the Big Blue River feeds into the Kansas River, between May and July of that year because of a spate of thunderstorm activity.

Despite the deadly floods, the rain totals in Nebraska that day did not approach national or world records for most rainfall in one day. The 14 inches that fell in southeastern Nebraska on May 8 paled next to the 43 inches that fell in Alvin, Texas, on a single day in 1979, the United States record, and the 73 inches received by Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean in 1952. Reunion Island is the notorious owner of several rain records, including getting doused by a whopping 155 inches in only 5 days in 1980.

The world record for most yearly rainfall was set in 1986 by the town of Lloro, Colombia, where rainfall exceeded 1,000 inches. However, it is intense short-term rain—like that which fell in southeastern Nebraska—that is more deadly, especially in areas that are ordinarily arid. Hard, dry ground cannot absorb water quickly, allowing a sudden and heavy storm to easily cause flash flooding. The vast majority of deaths from flooding are from flash floods—most of the fatalities are among people who become trapped in their vehicles and drown.

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