200 Year Rainfall Event Causes Widespread Devastation in Rhode Island, Sep 2023

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October 17th, 2023

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

In September 2023, Rhode Island experienced catastrophic flooding, triggered by a 200-year rainfall event. This extreme weather event left a trail of destruction and widespread flooding in various areas across the state. A combination of factors led to extreme flooding, including the convergence of moisture-laden air masses from the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, unusually warm sea surface temperatures in the region, and a slow-moving frontal boundary. Additionally, the remnants of Hurricane Lee, which had recently passed through the Atlantic Ocean, contributed to the moisture content of the storm system, exacerbating the rainfall.

Over a period of just five days, September 15th-19th, Rhode Island received an astonishing amount of precipitation. Some areas recorded rainfall totals exceeding 20 inches during this short time frame. These figures are supported by data collected by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The flooding caused by this extraordinary rainfall event was widespread, affecting both urban and rural areas across Rhode Island. However, certain regions bore the brunt of the devastation.

  1. Providence: The city of Providence was particularly hard-hit, with extensive flooding in low-lying neighborhoods. The rivers that traverse the city, including the Woonasquatucket and Providence Rivers, overflowed their banks, inundating homes, businesses, and roadways.
  2. Warwick: Coastal city Warwick faced severe flooding, especially in neighborhoods near the coastline, where storm surges and heavy rainfall combined to cause extensive damage. Evacuations were necessary as floodwaters continued to rise.
  3. Cranston: Cranston, adjacent to Providence, faced similar challenges as the overflowing rivers from the capital city spilled over into parts of Cranston, causing extensive flooding in certain neighborhoods.
  4. South County: The southern part of the state, known as South County, also suffered from severe flooding, especially in low-lying coastal areas. Beach communities like Narragansett and South Kingstown saw significant damage to homes and infrastructure.

Several waterways, including the Pawtuxet River, Pawcatuck River, and Blackstone River, reached flood stage due to the relentless rainfall, inundating surrounding areas and contributing to the overall damage.

The financial impact of the September 2023 floods in Rhode Island has been significant, with property damage estimates running into billions of dollars.

Natural hazards such as rainstorms, riverine and coastal flooding, flash flooding, are events that we cannot control. However, Risk Logic can help prevent flood damage by recommending proper flood mitigation procedures, routine inspections of flood prevention systems, and the development of flood emergency response planning. More information about managing property risks from flooding can be found here, along with more general information on flood protection and flood mitigation.  Please reach out to Risk Logic so we can partner with you to protect your property!