Flooding – Deadly Risk in Illinois with 28 Deaths in 19 Years

Right now the attention is on the widespread flooding in Texas and Oklahoma, with the number of deaths sitting at 21 and climbing. Illinois has been faced with deadly flooding in the past. An examination of the national storm database reveals that Illinois has had 28 flood-related deaths in the last 19 years*.

Here are the numbers by year in Illinois. Some years like 2000, 2008, 2009, and 2013 were especially bad with 4 to 5 deaths each. A few years had no deaths, including 2004-07, 2012, and 2014. While not part of this database, six deaths were reported in Illinois during the 1993 flood, according the ISWS report.

Flood-related deaths in Illinois from 1996 to 2014, based on data from the National Climatic Data Center.
Flood-related deaths in Illinois from 1996 to 2014, based on data from the National Climatic Data Center.

Over the same period, Illinois suffered 37 tornado-related deaths. Therefore, the life-taking threat of flooding rivals that for tornadoes in Illinois so take flooding as seriously as tornadoes.

Stay tuned to your local National Weather Service office for flood watches and warnings in Illinois. You can find a comprehensive review of flood safety here. From their website,

Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is due to walking into or near flood waters.

People underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn you the road is flooded.

A mere 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles. It is NEVER safe to drive or walk into flood waters.

*Flood-related records were obtained from the National Climatic Data Center https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/stormevents/ and go back to 1996.