Zooming in: Drought and flood

Images from UCAR’s online photo collection

corn field

Corn stalks from the previous year’s harvest lie atop parched fields in northeast Colorado in early June 2012. Heat and drought devastated corn crops in the summer of 2012 across much of the United States, the world’s leading corn producer. 

Texas windmill

A windmill stands in a dry field in northern Texas.

cracked soil

A symbol of drought: Drying soil contracts and cracks as it loses moisture.

water fountain

In urban areas, children (and adults) often flock to water fountains to escape the heat.

Cumulonimbus over Mitchell Lake on the day of the Big Thompson flood

A massive thunderstorm complex near Rocky Mountain National Park dumped more than 12 inches of rain in a four-hour period on July 31, 1976, sending a wall of water more than 20 feet high through Big Thompson Canyon. 143 people died in one of Colorado's worst natural disasters.

Heavy rain

Heavy rain pelts the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The state is prone to flooding from intense thunderstorms as well as from hurricanes and tropical storms.

Flooded path

Snowmelt and heavy rain can lead to high water along creeks in Boulder, Colorado, and prompt the closure of pedestrian paths, as in this case from early July 2011.

high water in Boulder Creek

in Boulder, Colorado, heavy rains and snowmelt can lead to high, fast-moving waters in Boulder Creek, especially in late spring and early summer.

Flooded street with buffalo statue

The downtown area of Custer, South Dakota, experienced significant street flooding on August 3, 2011, after nearly two inches of rain fell in the area.

Tourist shop and closed street

Streets were closed in the downtown area of Custer, South Dakota, after nearly two inches of rain fell in the area on August 3, 2011.

Aerial view of flooded neighborhood

This aerial view shows homes submerged in the 1993 Midwest flood, one of the nation's worst natural disasters of the 20th century. Damages totaled $15 billion, 50 people died, and thousands of people were evacuated, some for months.

Red car half-submerged in flood waters

Countless cars were lost to the great Midwest flood of 1993, which was triggered by weeks of torrential rainfall across the region.

Flooded Dairy Queen

High water paralyzed communities across the Midwest during the great flood of 1993. The flood was unusual in the magnitude of the crests, the number of record crests, the large area impacted, and the length of the time the flood was an issue.

Sand bags piled in front of downtown stores

Despite sandbags, many riverside towns and cities were inundated by the Midwestern flood of 1993, one of the nation's worst natural disasters of the 20th century.

Stop sign and route indicators under high waters

Road signs barely clear high water amid the Midwest flood of 1993. Some 30,000 square miles (78,000 square kilometers) were inundated by the flood—an area more than half as large as the entire state of Iowa.

Partially submerged silos and farmers in boat

Unlike the rampage of a flash flood, river flooding can appear oddly peaceful, as in this placid scene from the great Midwest flood of 1993. Some 15 million acres (60,000 square kilometers) of farmland were inundated by the flood.

Traffic is stopped by mudslide across road

Mudslides are common during wet periods across the steep slopes of Colorado's Front Range.

Partially washed out bridge

A flood-damaged bridge and resulting debris posed the risk of further flooding  along Boulder Creek just upstream of Boulder, Colorado in June 2010.

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