Skip to navigationSkip to content

If all Hurricane Harvey’s rain were snow, it would top 200 inches

Residents wade through flood waters from Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 27, 2017.
Reuters/Adrees Latif
Now imagine this is a snowdrift.
By Elijah Wolfson
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Since Hurricane Harvey began to impact the central Texas coast last Thursday, parts of the Houston area have seen as much as 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, leading to catastrophic flooding, infrastructure damage, tens of thousands of homeless, dozens of injuries, and at least five deaths accounted for so far.

The worst rains came over the weekend. On Sunday (Aug. 27), Houston’s George Bush airport had 16.07 inches of rain, double the previous record set in 1945. To put that in context: According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, on average, 13 inches of snow equals one inch of rain in the US. So, 16.07 inches would be the equivalent of nearly 210 inches, or 17.5 feet (5.3 meters) of snowfall.

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US record for snowfall in a single 24-hour period is the 78 inches that fell on Mile 47 Camp in Valdez, Alaska, in February, 1963. In 2015, Italian media reported that over 100 inches of snow had fallen in Capracotta, a small town in central Italy. The most snow ever recorded for a single storm in the US was 189 inches, which fell on Mount Shasta in northern California in February 1959.

That said, snowfall extremes tend to be relatively smaller than rainfall extremes; the record for the most rain in a 24-hour period in the US is 42 inches, recorded in July, 1979, during Tropical Storm Claudette—also on the gulf coast of Texas, in a town called Alvin.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.