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Flood of September 22, 1998, in Arecibo and Utuado, Puerto Rico

January 1, 2002

Hurricane Georges made landfall on the southeastern part of Puerto Rico during September 21, 1998. Georges, with maximum sustained winds of 185 kilometers per hour and gusts to 240 kilometers per hour, produced 24-hour total rainfall amounts of 770 millimeters on the island's mountainous interior. Severe flooding affected almost half of the island's 78 municipios during September 21-22, 1998. The most affected municipios were Adjuntas, Aguada, Aguadilla, A?asco, Arecibo, Cayey, Ciales, Comerio, Barceloneta, Dorado, Jayuya, Manati, Mayaguez, Morovis, Orocovis, Patillas, Toa Alta, Toa Baja, and Utuado. The combination of strong winds, intense rainfall and severe flooding caused widespread property damages. More than 20,000 houses were destroyed and more than 100,000 houses sustained damage. Floodwaters and landslides destroyed or damaged many bridges and roads throughout the island.

Records indicate that Hurricane Georges induced flood discharges in the Rio Grande de Arecibo Basin that were the largest on record. Floodwaters inundated urban and rural areas, affecting urban subdivisions, businesses, vehicles, bridges, roads, and high-tension electric power lines. To define the extent and depth of inundation, more than 280 high-water marks were identified and surveyed in Arecibo and Utuado. In addition estimates of flood magnitude and frequency were made at selected gaging stations, and flood profiles were developed for certain stream reaches. Flooding was most severe in the towns of Arecibo and Utuado. In Arecibo, the most affected communities were the rural area of San Francisco, the urban subdivisions of Martell, Nolla, and Arecibo Gardens, and the low-lying areas of downtown Arecibo. In these areas, the water depths ranged from 0.6 to 1.8 meters. In Utuado, floodwaters from the Rio Vivi and the Rio Grande de Arecibo inundated the downtown area affecting homes, public facilities, and businesses. In the urban subdivision of Jesus Maria Lago, the depth of flooding exceeded 2.5 meters. Frequency analysis indicates that flood-peak discharges equaled or exceeded the 100-year recurrence interval at five streamflow-gaging stations in the Rio Grande de Arecibo Basin.

Publication Year 2002
Title Flood of September 22, 1998, in Arecibo and Utuado, Puerto Rico
DOI 10.3133/wri20014247
Authors Heriberto Torres-Sierra
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series Number 2001-4247
Index ID wri20014247
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Caribbean Water Science Center