How two 1-in-1000 year rain events hit the US in two days

First, a record-breaking deluge engulfed St. Louis on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT) killing one person. Then, the next night, eastern Kentucky bore the brunt of a second onslaught of high water that swamped entire communities. At least 16 people have died, and the toll is expected to rise.

The back-to-back deluges unloaded double-digit rainfall totals and sent stream levels to record heights.

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Both flood disasters were spurred by 1-in-1000 year rain events. Triggered by the same atmospheric setup, they exemplify the type of dangerous weather scientists think will become more common as the Earth warms.

Not all flash floods begin the same way. Sometimes, slow-moving tropical storms unleash downpours for days over a large area, such as Hurricane Harvey in Texas in 2017 or Hurricane Florence in North Carolina the next summer. In other instances, single stalled thunderstorms unload all of their water on one unfortunate location.


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