My grandmother’s best friend lived in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio with many instances of water damage claims in their home. Yes, Ohio homes are prone to flooding. 

Floods are among the most frequent natural disasters in Ohio. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, it is the no. 2 most common natural hazard in the state, occurring about 7 days, on average. They are an annual risk in the region. 

In 2010, an estimated 314,000 Ohioans were living in flood-risk locations known as Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA). Also known as the 100-year floodplain, SFHAs are defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as those “areas that will be inundated by the flood event having a 1% chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year.”

In terms of structures, nearly half a million properties are at risk of flooding, according to an analysis conducted by the First Street Foundation, a non-profit that provides data on physical climate risk. More than 2,000 of these are repetitive-loss properties and over 60 are severe repetitive-loss residential properties as of 2016.

Repetitive-loss properties are those buildings and/or their contents that are insured by the National Flood Insurance Program and for which the program has paid at least two claims of over $1,000 in any 10-year period since 1978. Severe repetitive-loss properties are those residential buildings and/or their contents for which the program has paid at least four claims of more than $5,000 or at least two building-only claims that exceed the current value of the property. 

Ohio Flooding Background and History

Floods are a common outcome of intense storms. They can also result from storm surges, coastal storms, thawing snow, and overflowing dams and water systems. 

In Ohio, a source of flooding is the Ohio River, from which the name of the state originates. It borders Ohio in the south, while in the north, it’s Lake Erie. In addition, there are many other rivers and inland streams from which a potential flooding event can emanate from, including the Scioto, Cuyahoga, Muskingum, Maumee, and Great Miami rivers. In all, Ohio has nearly 30,000 miles of river. 

Lake Erie is also a potential cause of flooding in the state. In the past, the great lake’s water rose to a high level one Memorial Day weekend and resulted in cars getting stuck on flooded roads, among other things.

Even when the rivers and lakes are frozen in winter, flooding is still a concern. In January 1959, three to six inches of rain fell on central Ohio, including on the state’s rivers. The inundation melted the snow, but the ground was still frozen. Most of the water poured into streams which caused a flood that affected the entire state. Properties and public structures were damaged, 49,000 people had to leave their homes, and 16 died.

Some of the most historical floods in Ohio are as follows: 

Xenia Flood of 1886

On May 12, 1886, a heavy nighttime downpour flooded Shawnee Creek. The flood waters moved south to Xenia, leaving over 300 residents homeless and killing 28 others. It is considered to be the deadliest flash flood in the state’s history. 

The Great Flood of 1913

A deluge in late March 1913 resulted in the swelling of the rivers of Ohio until the banks could no longer hold them in. The Ohio Valley and neighboring areas received the excess waters, leading to hundreds of millions of damages, 25 million people homeless, and countless more dead. 

“The rush of floodwaters through railroad underpasses created whirlpools and great rapids Tuesday night [March 25] that scoured away nearly every building for four blocks on Glenwood and Central Avenues (George W. Mindling, Weather Headlines in Ohio [1944]),” Thomas and Jeanne Schmidliln wrote in their book Thunder in the Heartland. 

The historic flood put Sandusky Street under 8 feet of water, in what would be the first of such events. 

Independence Day Flood of 1964

Another unforgettable Ohio flood is the one that occurred on Independence Day 1964. Heavy rain from Lake Erie storms moved inland resulting in 10 inches of floodwaters. Over 10,000 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed, more than 500 people were injured and 41 died due to the storm. 

House Damages Caused by Ohio Floods

Floods can develop slowly or quickly in the form of a flash flood, which can occur within minutes. But, whether the waters come at a snail’s pace or rapidly, they can leave behind a costly mess. Estimates peg the amount of damage to $25,000 for just one inch of water. 

When the water reaches six inches, people will have difficulty walking through it, while at one foot, it can carry away vehicles. Floods can cause people to be stranded in their homes, isolate communities, or leave them helpless in their vehicles. According to the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness, most flood-related deaths occur while in a vehicle. Transportation is disrupted too and outages can occur. Plus, floods can damage buildings, properties, and public structures like bridges. 

And, after the flood has subsided, there’s cleanup, repair and restoration to think about. For water damage in houses and other residential buildings, homeowners can expect to pay thousands, on average, for labor, materials, and other additional expenses like hotel accommodation during the repair.  

How Homeowners Can Deal with Floods in Ohio

When you buy a house, it’s important to learn about any historical risks in the area. It’s also wise to know if your residence is located in any high-risk zones and prepare appropriately. Contact your local floodplain administrator to find out if you live in a floodplain or flood-prone area. You can also reach out to your insurance agent or a National Flood Insurance Program provider. 

The best thing you can do is to purchase flood insurance as both homeowner’s and renter’s insurance don’t cover flood-related damages. Flood insurance is available to everyone, and it can help offset your clean up, repair and restoration costs. 

In addition, if you are living in a high-risk zone, it’s time to start thinking about how you can protect your home against floods. But, before you start any projects, however, make sure you’ve talked to your local floodplain administrator regarding building and permit requirements as well as federal and state grants you might be able to avail of. 

Are Ohio homes prone to flooding?

When it comes to floods, preparation is key, along with knowing what to do during a flood and afterward.