Study: East Coast Hurricanes Impact The Midwest

Nov 16, 2014

A new research shows that hurricanes touching the U.S. East coast can flood the Midwest. The study was conducted at the University of Iowa and published in Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

The study examined the climatology of flooding from North Atlantic tropical cyclones and found that the effects of those cyclones impact Midwest areas such as Illinois, southeastern Iowa, Missouri, and Michigan.

“We found that tropical cyclones can cause major flooding over large areas of the Midwest, including some of the biggest metropolitan cities, from St. Louis to Kansas City to Chicago and into Detroit,” said Gabriele Villarini, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Iowa.

He explained that the research studied the discharge records collected at 3090 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) stream gauge stations from 1981 to 2011.

“We looked at the direct relationship between tropical cyclones, their track, what direction would fall within tropical cyclone track, and then looked at the magnitude of the flood picks that were associated with these storms,” Villarini said.

This inland flooding is produced when the rainfall, concentrated in the center of a cyclone when it is over the ocean, gets pushed away as the storm moves inland.

“It moves three, four or five hundred kilometers away from the center of the storm, and that’s what causing flooding over the Midwest,” Villarini said.

This study is the first attempt at developing a climatology of flooding from tropical cyclones. Villarini says the next step in their research is now to look at the economic impact of those floodings.