VIDEO: Remembering July 1996 Record Flash Flooding in Kane County

VIDEO: Remembering July 1996 Record Flash Flooding in Kane County


As we prep for the hottest weather we’ve experienced in two years, here’s a trip down memory lane regarding one of the worst weather events in Kane County history — the infamous July 1996 rainfall event and flash flood.

In case you aren’t old enough to remember, here’s the scoop, courtesy of the National Weather Service Chicago, plus some resources available on the Kane County website.

Basic Facts and Statistics

  • Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 11.28.48 AMAt the time it ranked as the second most costly weather disaster in Illinois behind the 1993 flood. Damages totaled $600 million to $700 million. Recovery also lasted for more than a year after the flooding occurred.
  • Exactly 16.94 inches of rain fell in Aurora, setting a statewide record for the greatest rainfall for a single 24-hr period.
  • This impressive rainfall event was the result of a Mesoscale Convective System (MCS) that developed in the evening of July 17 and moved slowly over northern Illinois.
  • In Illinois six people were killed from this event. Two people were killed in Iowa due to the MCS the night prior to the one over Illinois.
  • Prior to the MCS formation, severe weather during the afternoon of the 17th produced large hail, damaging lightning, and three tornadoes.
  • Only about 1 percent of the people who owned homes that experienced flood damage had flood insurance.

Record Rainstorm and Flood of July 17-18, 1996

  • By Jim Angel, Illinois State Climatologist

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 11.29.14 AM

The rainstorm on July 17-18, 1996, produced several rainfall records and was the second most costly weather disaster in Illinois behind the 1993 flood.

The 16.94 inches recorded at Aurora still stands as the statewide record for the most rain from a single 24-hour period. The 10.99 inches on the west side of the Chicago metro area was the most recorded in the Chicago urban area. Just as impressive as the point values was the size of the area covered by heavy rainfall.

It was estimated that 16.3 inches fell over the wettest 100 square mile area of the storm, 12.6 inches over the wettest 1000 square mile area, and 5.2 inches over the wettest 10,000 square mile area. Another way to look at it is that the an area of 1,350 square miles exceeded the expected 100-year, 24-hour storm while 4,650 square miles exceeded the expected 10-year, 24-hour storm for northeast Illinois.

The widespread heavy rains led to excessive flooding. The damage estimates in the order of $700 million — and that’s in 1996 dollars. FEMA estimated that more than 35,000 residences were flooded.

Some 201 NWS gauges, a vast majority of them cooperative observers, as well as 278 gauges from other networks were used to define the area of the storm. In addition, data from long-term cooperative observer sites were used to calculate the design values such as the 100-year, 24-hour storm.

More information on the July 17-18 storm can be found in this Water Survey publication: Angel, James R., Stanley A. Changnon, David Changnon, Floyd A. Huff, Paul Merzlock, Steven R. Silberberg, and Nancy E. Westcott, 1997 Illinois State Water Survey, Champaign, IL.

Kane County’s Stormwater Management Plan

SOURCE: Executive Summary, Kane County Stormwater Management Plan

In July 1996, the southern portion of Kane County as well as many areas of the region, experienced record flooding as a result of unprecedented rainfall. In Aurora, almost 17 inches of rain fell in less than 24 hours. The resultant flooding caused massive damages throughout the southern portion of Kane County as well as many other areas around the region. Flood damages were nearly $14 million in the Blackberry Creek watershed alone.

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 11.36.38 AMOn June 11, 1996 the Kane County Board adopted their 2020 Land Resource Management Plan. This comprehensive plan identifies protection and enhancement of stream, lake, and wetland resources as important elements to preserving the high quality of life in Kane County.

These two events combined with the increasing frequency of drainage complaints from around the County focused attention on the need to perform countywide, watershed based planning for stormwater management. To provide for a more coordinated and comprehensive approach to stormwater and floodplain management, the Kane County Board formed the Kane County Stormwater Management Planning Committee as authorized by State Statute 55 ILCS 5/5-1062

The stormwater committee, composed of six municipal and six county representatives and three ex-officio members, was charged with preparing a plan to form a countywide stormwater management program. At its initial meeting, the Stormwater Management Planning Committee established a Technical Advisory Committee made up of 12 members and three ex-officio members to add technical expertise in preparing the plan.

More Information