As a River City, Louisville has its fair share of floodplain and drainage issues. Flooding can occur from Ohio River flooding, flash flooding from interior streams, and flooding from overloaded storm systems. Louisville Metro is a participant in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and MSD is responsible for enforcing the local Floodplain Management Ordinance and for administrating both the National Flood Insurance Program and Floodplain Management Program. Tasks include issuing floodplain permits and maintaining the flood protection system, Flood Insurance Rate Maps, Flood Insurance Studies, drainage system, as well other stormwater related tasks.
To encourage communities to establish sound floodplain management programs that go beyond the NFIP minimum requirements, in 1990 the Community Rating System (CRS) was created by FEMA. Louisville Metro participates in the CRS program and as of 2016, has achieved a Class 3 Rating, which awards residents in the community with up to a 35% discount on flood insurance premiums. Click Community Rating System - CRS tab below to learn more about the program.
Flood related Links: www.fema.gov   |   www.floodsmart.gov   |   www.ready.gov/floods
Flood Safety & Warnings
Generally two types of floods occur in Louisville-Jefferson County, Ohio River flooding and flash flooding. Ohio River flooding typically occurs between January and May.
Ohio River flooding occurs over a longer period of time (days or weeks) and is generally predicted in advance through the National Weather Service. Flash flooding occurs as a
result of heavy rains over a short period of time, or can occur from a dam or levee failure. Flash floods rise and fall quickly, sometimes in just a few minutes.
To receive emergency warnings such as flash flood warnings and other severe weather warnings on your phone by voice or text and through email, sign up for Louisville's emergency warning system, LENSAlert
Emergency Alert System:
The National Weather Service manages the Emergency Alert System and issues flood watches and warnings on television and radio stations.
Outdoor sirens are used for emergency warnings. If you hear outdoor sirens, check local television or radio stations to learn what type of
warning is being issued.
Residents are encouraged to purchase a weather radio for their home. A weather radio provides 24-hour emergency information and alerts
you to weather dangers such as floods and tornadoes. For more information about weather radios, click here
Ohio River Flooding
Ohio River levels are forecasted for the next four days at both the Upper McAlpine and Lower McAlpine gauges. To check the current and forecasted river levels, click here.
Information about Ohio River stages is also published in the Courier Journal daily. During flood stage, warnings are issued by the local media on local television and radio stations.
Maps showing the 10-year, 100-year, and 500-year flood for the Ohio River can be found here
Flood stages for the Ohio River and actions to be taken are shown in the tables below for both the Upper McAlpine Gauge
and Lower McAlpine Gauge
|Ohio River Upper and Lower Gage Flood Stages|
|Flood Stage||Upper Gage||
|Minor Flood Stage||23||55|
|Moderate Flood Stage||30||65|
|Major Flood Stage||38||73|
|Ohio River Upper Gage River Stages and Actions|
|55.2||Water reaches top of floodwall.|
|53||Sandbagging of low areas of Louisville floodwall begin.|
|52||Flooding begins in Jeffersonville city limits. Shelby Street in Louisville is closed at floodgate.|
|50||Jackson Street, Schoeffel Alley, Hancock Street, Preston Street and 13th Street and closed at floodgates.|
|48||Franklin, 18th, and 26th Streets are closed at floodgates.|
|47||Clay Street, Letterle Avenue, and Washington Street are closed at floodgates.|
|44||Campbell, 12th, Franklin, Wenzel, and Adams Streets are closed at floodgates.|
|42||Buchanan and Cabel Streets are closed at floodgate.|
|40||Mellwood Avenue, Webster Street, and Rowan Street are closed at floodgate.|
|38||6th, 7th and 8th Streets are closed at floodgates. US 42 floods at Harrods Creek.|
|36||11th Street is closed at floodgates.|
|29||Parts of Utica IN flood. Third Street ramp off of I-64 closes. 10th and 27th Streets are closed at floodgates.|
|28||More sections of River Road floods. Beachland Beach area is cut off. Lime Kiln Lane floods south of River Road.|
|27||River Road floods at many locations from 3rd St. to Glenview. Blankenbaker Lane closes south of River Road. River Dell Rd. floods at Mellwood Ave. Riverside Dr. floods at many locations.|
|26||Mockingbird Valley Rd. floods south of Mellwood Ave.|
|24.5||Waldoah Beach and Transylvania Beach areas are cut off. River Road near Indian Hills Trail floods. Adams St. and Witherspoon Rd. closes.|
|23||Some sections of River Road are closed from 3rd St. to 8th St. Eifler Beach and Juniper Beach areas are cut off. Parts of Campbell St., Frankfort Ave., and Mockingbird Valley Rd. close. Right turns onto River Rd. from the I-64 ramp are prohibited.|
If You Evacuate:
|Ohio River Lower Gage River Stages and Actions|
|88.5||The flood will reach the top of the floodwall. A large part of downtown Louisville floods. Parts of I-64 and I-65 flood. Homes along 31W (Dixie Highway) are destroyed. New Albany and Clarksville will suffer major damage.|
|76||US 31W (Dixie Highway) closed at floodgate.|
|74||Houk Lane is closed at floodgate.|
|71||KY 44 is closed.|
|66||Lock is closed. Floodgates at Riverport are closed.|
|65||Parts of US 31W (Dixie Highway) flood from I-265 (Gene Synder Freeway) interchange to West Point KY. Riverfront parks in Clarksville and New Albany flood.|
|59||Overbrook Rd. floods south of Lake Dreamland Rd.|
|58||IN 111 is flooded upstream of Bridgeport.|
|55||Parks and riverfront areas in Clarksville and New Albany flood. Some yards along US 31W (Dixie Highway) from Pleasure Ridge Park to West Point KY flood.|
After a Flood:
- Lock your house. Preplan a designated spot (and a phone number) out of the flooded area where everyone can meet if the family becomes separated.
- Do not walk or drive through flowing water. Drowning is the number one cause of flood deaths. Six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet. One foot of flowing water can move a car. Always use a pole or a stick to make sure the ground is in reach before you enter an area that is flooded.
- Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. Electrocution is the number two cause of flood deaths. Electrical current will travel through water. Report downed power lines to LG&E at 589-3500.
- Turn the gas off at the main valve next to the meter. If you smell natural gas, or hear a hissing noise, chances are good there is a natural gas leak. Immediately call the LG&E Gas Trouble Dept. at 589-5511 or dial 911.
- See that your pets are taken out of harms way. Move them to high ground with you, or take them to a friend whose home is not threatened by the flooding.
- Take care of yourself and your family. A flood is tough on both the body and spirit. The effects a disaster has on you and your family may last a long time. Keep your eyes open for signs of anxiety, stress, and fatigue.
- Always look before you step. After a flood, the ground, floor, and stairs may be slippery and are usually covered with debris, mud, broken bottles, and nails. Stream banks also can be unstable.
- Be alert for gas leaks. Use a flashlight to inspect for damage.
- Make sure that the electricity is turned off when you return home. Do not use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned, and dried.
- Carbon monoxide exhaust kills. Use a generator or gasoline-powered machines and camp stoves outdoors. Fumes from charcoal are especially deadly.
- Wash and clean everything. Floodwaters can carry chemicals and germs that could be harmful to your health. Spoiled food, flooded cosmetics, and medicines are health hazards. When in doubt, throw it away!
- Get a floodplain permit before you repair flood damage. The Louisville Metro Floodplain Ordinance requires development in the floodplain, including repairs and improvements, to be permitted. Click floodplain permitting tab
for more information.
Flood MapsFloodplain Determinations
To check to see if a building in Louisville/Jefferson County is in the FEMA floodplain, click here
LOJIC Online Maps
If you like to see a map showing the floodplain, go to http://ags2.lojic.org/lojiconline/
and follow these directions:
FEMA’s Map Service Center
- Enter the address at the top of the page.
- On the left side of the page, click on Floodplains
- Finally, check the Jefferson FEMA 100 Year (1% Annual) Review Zones for the FEMA floodplain limits or the Jefferson Floodplain Ordinance Review Zones for the Local Regulatory Floodplain limits.
To view, print or order the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) please visit FEMA’s Map Service Center
. To view interactive FEMA flood maps, visit FEMA's National Flood Hazard Layer Map
FEMA’s Flood Insurance Study
A copy of the Louisville-Jefferson County Flood Insurance Study with flood profiles can be found below....
Flood Insurance Study - Volume I
Flood Insurance Study - Volume II
Surface Water Modeling
To download the surface water models used in the floodplain mapping, go to https://stantecweb.com/swdms/login.php
To build, develop, or repair in a floodplain, both the Kentucky Division of Water (KDOW) and Louisville Metro require permits. Download the Kentucky and Louisville Metro floodplain permits here:
Following are the steps the property owner needs to take regarding state and local permitting.
STEP 1: Verify if the site is in a floodplain or special flood hazard area (SFHA)—a shaded A Zone area on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM).
STEP 2: Check to see if the project meets the definition of “development” of both the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) and the local ordinance.
- If the project site is obviously outside of the shaded A-Zone, then floodplain regulations do not apply.
- If the project site is in a shaded A-Zone or is a borderline question, proceed to Step 2.
As a general rule of thumb, anything which alters the natural topography of the floodplain needs permit review. “Development” includes:
- Construction, reconstruction, or placement of a building
- Additions to existing buildings
- Manufactured homes
- Travel trailers (RV’s)
- Filling or regrading
- Construction or erection of levees, dams or walls
- Storage of materials in floodplain (including gas or liquid tanks)
- Any other activity that might change the direction, height, or velocity of floodwaters
Development does not include: maintenance of existing building and facilities, resurfacing roads, gardening, plowing, and similar agricultural practices that do not involve filling, grading, or construction of levees.
STEP 3: Complete a Kentucky “Stream Construction Permit”/ Floodplain Permit Application
A USGS map showing the site should be attached to the application form. Plans of the proposed development should also be attached showing existing and proposed conditions, including all appropriate dimensions and elevations. The application requires signature of the local floodplain manager. Additions and renovations to existing structures also require a cost estimate of the proposed work and a copy of the Property Valuation Administrator’s value of the structure or an appraisal of the structure, if available.
STEP 4: Does the project include a new building or substantial improvement of an existing building?
A “building” is a structure that is principally above ground and is enclosed by walls and a roof, including manufactured homes and prefabricated buildings. The term also includes recreational vehicles and travel trailers installed on a site for more than 180 days. Regulations require that the vehicles be road ready (fully licensed and insured) and have quick disconnect utilities.
According to the Louisville Metro Floodplain Management Ordinance, "Substantial improvement" means any combination of repairs, reconstruction, alteration, additions or improvements to existing development, taking place during a ten-year rolling period and begun on or after January 1, 2006 in which the cumulative cost equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure. (See definition for Market Value below.) The term includes repairs made to a structure which has incurred substantial damage in which the cumulative costs equals or exceeds 50% of the pre-damage market value of the structure, as determined by the administering agency and/or the Commonwealth of Kentucky, regardless of the cumulative cost of the actual repair work performed. The cost of repairs, reconstruction, alteration, additions or improvements shall reflect the value in the marketplace of the labor and materials to be used. The first alteration of any wall, ceiling, floor or other structural part of the structure whether or not that alteration affects the external dimensions of the structure constitutes beginning of construction of the substantial improvement or substantial damage. The term does not include the cost of floodproofing or elevating a structure or any portion thereof to the freeboard elevation.
The market value of a structure is the appraised value of the structure determined by a certified general real property appraiser licensed and certified by the Kentucky Real Estate Appraisers Board or lacking that, the current assessment of the structure shown by the Property Valuation Administrator of Jefferson County, prior to the start of the addition, repair or improvement, or in the case of damage, prior to the damage's occurrence.
STEP 5: Once the state issues a “stream construction permit”, a copy will be provided to the property owner, the local floodplain official, and the Division of Water Regional Office. There will be stipulations on the state permit, as well as the base flood elevation (BFE) to which the property owner must build the lowest floor.
Local ordinances may be more stringent than state regulations and take precedence over the state permit. In this case, a 1-foot freeboard requirement in the Louisville Metro Floodplain Management Ordinance takes precedence.
STEP 6: Submit request for a local permit prior to starting construction from MSD.
Submit a plan set, along with a Plan Review Application
and an Application for Permit to Develop/Repair in a Floodplain
to MSD's Development Team. Drop plans off at the front desk at MSD, 700 W. Liberty Street. This step can be done concurrently with the Kentucky Division of Water Floodplain Application; however, MSD cannot permit the project until Division of Water has approved the project.
Please note a $1,000 elevation certificate bond is required for new buildings and additions prior to floodplain permit issuance and will be returned once the final elevation certificate is approved by MSD.
STEP 7: After construction (Foundation only and Full Construction), submit a completed an Elevation Certificate (and Floodproofing Certificate, if applicable), signed by a professional engineer, architect or licensed surveyor.
Ensure the Elevation or Floodproofing Certificate is properly completed, including:
- Fully enclosed areas below the lowest floor have at least a minimum of two (2) openings, with a total net area of not less than 1 square inch per square foot enclosed area. The bottom of the openings should be no higher than 1 foot above the lowest grade. (See picture of vents and openings in the Elevation Certificate.)
- Materials used below the lowest finished floor are resistant to flood damage;
- Verification of proper elevation of heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), electrical, plumbing equipment, and utility meters;
- Waterproof all water and sewer pipes and electrical and telephone lines located below the base flood elevation.
To obtain an Elevation or Floodproofing Certificate, visit MSD or go to FEMA’s website
. You should also read FEMA’s Technical Bulletins
STEP 8: Keep copies of all pertinent records of the following:
- State “Stream Construction Permit” for construction in or along a stream
- Local floodplain permit
- Location map and plans, if required
- Elevation or Floodproofing Certificate
Flooding History in Louisville
The Louisville area has been subject to flooding for thousands of years. Low-lying land along the Ohio River is covered frequently in the winter and spring. Ohio River floods typically
occur over days or weeks and waters rise relatively slowly. Louisville is also prone to flash flooding from interior streams. Heavy rains can also cause intense flash flooding along local
streams. Flash floods can also occur due to a dam or levee failure. Large expanses of flatlands, lowlands and former swamplands can be quick to flood and slow to drain. Flash flooding
often occurs over a short period of time, sometimes in just a few minutes.
Top 10 Highest Ohio River Floods in Louisville
#1 – Flood Crest at 52.15 ft (Upper Gauge) on 01/27/1937
In 1937, the worst Ohio River flood in history covered 60 percent of the City of Louisville and 65 square miles of Jefferson County outside the old city. About 23,000 people were evacuated. Damages totaled more than $1 billion in today’s dollars.
In January of 1937, rains began to fall throughout the Ohio River Valley; eventually triggering what is known today as the "Great Flood of 1937”. Overall, total precipitation for January was four times its normal amount in the areas surrounding the river. In fact, there were only eight days in January when the Louisville station recorded no rain. These heavy rains, coupled with an already swollen river, caused a rapid rise in the river's level.
The morning of January 24 the entire Ohio River was above flood stage. In Louisville, the river rose 6.3 feet from January 21-22. As a result, the river reached nearly 30 feet above flood stage. Louisville, where light and water services had failed, was the hardest hit city along the Ohio River. On January 27, the river reached its crest at 460 feet above sea level or 40 feet above its normal level, which is well over a 100-year event. Almost 70 percent of the city was under water, and 175,000 people were forced to leave their homes. The U.S. Weather Bureau reported that total flood damage for the entire state of Kentucky was $250 million, an incredible sum in 1937. The number of flood-related deaths rose to 190. The flood completely disrupted the life of Louisville, inundating 60% of the city and 65 square miles.
The 1937 flood prompted the construction of the Ohio River Flood Protection System. Started in 1948, it took nearly 40 years to complete. The floodwall stretches for 29 miles from northeastern Louisville Metro to the southwest, protecting about 110 square miles from Ohio River flooding. Sixteen pumping stations move stormwater from the protected area into the river.
#2 – Flood Crest at 42.10 ft (Upper Gauge) on 03/08/1945
Although the Great Flood of 1937 gets most of the attention, and perhaps deservedly so, the flood that beset the Ohio River Valley eight years later was also extremely damaging. While 1937 is the flood of record at Louisville, 1945 is in second place (albeit a distant 2nd), with a peak stage at Louisville of 42.10 feet. This stage is about ten feet below the 1937 stage. The flood drove 50,000 people from their homes, and caused millions of dollars of damage.
As is almost always the case with massive Ohio River floods, snow melt had very little impact. The deepest snow cover at Louisville between New Year's Day and the flood was only 3 inches on the 29th of January, and that melted away in a few days. The bulk of the heavy rain that caused the flood fell during a three week period leading up to the flood. Rainfall during that time was over 500% of normal in southern Indiana, and around 400% of normal along the length of the Ohio River.
#3 – Flood Crest at 41.70 ft (Upper Gauge) on 02/16/1884
In February of 1884, nearly the entire country experienced above average rainfall. The heavy rains and melting snow caused major problems along the Ohio River. On February 14th, the river was rising one inch every hour before it crested on February 16th. This was the largest Ohio River flood on record at the time. Because the river rose relatively slowly, property owners had warning of the flood and some property was able to be saved; however, the total losses to the City were still estimated to be $100,000 dollars.
#4 – Flood Crest at 41.20 ft (Upper Gauge) on 03/12/1964
In 1964, the community experienced its third greatest flood of the 20th century. This flood approximated the 100-year base flood. Most of the flood damage occurred in the southwest section of the county with about 1,200 homes being flooded. Property damage was estimated at $3,600,000.
#5 – Flood Crest at 39.50 ft (Upper Gauge) on 02/16/1883
The flood of 1883 was the fifth largest flood Louisville has experienced. Unlike usual flooding along the Ohio River, this flood impacted the community suddenly due an embankment that burst. The embankment had been built to protect the city from flooding around an area of the city called “The Point,” which was located north of Main St and east of 1st Street. The embankment was intended to protect the area from flooding of the Ohio River; however on February 13, 1883 around midnight, the embankment suddenly broke, flooding the area with 10-30 feet of water in 30 minutes. Some houses were swept off the foundations and people were forced to swim or wade through the floodwaters to escape. Thirty people were rescued from trees they had climbed to escape the water. Hundreds of livestock were lost. Thousands were left homeless, one-fifth of the city was under water, and approximately 30 people lost their lives in this flood.
#6 – Flood Crest at 39.40 ft (Upper Gauge) on 04/02/1913
The New Year in 1913 brought extensive rains to Kentucky and surrounding states causing every major river and stream in Kentucky to flood. Kentucky's total average rainfall for January was 11.41 inches, three times the normal amount. The U.S. Weather Bureau described the lowland areas of the state as being "vast inland seas”. The Monthly Weather Review for January of that year collected details of the damage in dollar amounts. For the Louisville district, it reported property damages from the flood at $200,000, a very large sum for 1913. Total crop losses in the Louisville district totaled $50,000.
#7 – Flood Crest at 38.76 ft (Upper Gauge) on 03/07/1997
In March of 1997, Louisville experienced severe flash flooding as a result of record rainfall over a 2-day period. As floodwaters began receding from the flash flooding in southern Louisville Metro, the flood stage of the river became a threat. A week after the record rains, the Ohio River crested in Louisville 15.8 feet above flood stage. Flooding along the Ohio River continued for two weeks throughout Kentucky. The President declared 87 of the 120 counties in Kentucky federal disaster areas eligible for federal aid statewide. The southwest floodwall, which was completed in the 1980’s, passed its first test and protected many areas that flooded in 1964 and 1978.
In Kentucky, twenty-one people were killed and an estimated $250 to $500 million in damages where caused by the flooding. The damages incurred by the entire Ohio River flood exceeded $1 billion and over 67 deaths. Fortunately, the floodwalls partially protected Louisville, preventing even more damage.
#8 – Flood Crest at 36.40 ft (Upper Gauge) on 01/22/1907
The 1907 flood occurred in January after heavy rains in the Ohio River Valley. Thousands of people were homeless due to the flood. Many factories in Louisville, Jeffersonville, and New Albany were closed, leaving people without work. Estimated damage for this flood was approximately a quarter of a million dollars.
# 9 – Flood Crest at 36.00 ft (Upper Gauge) on 04/19/1948
In April of 1948, the Ohio River reached its ninth largest flood stage. That same year, the Army Corps of Engineers began construction of the first section of flood wall in Louisville to protect a large portion of the city from flooding from the Ohio River. This section of flood wall was completed in 1957 and protected the area from Beargrass Creek to just south of Rubbertown.
#10 – Flood Crest at 34.10 ft (Upper Gauge) on 03/23/1933
The 1933 flood was the largest flood Louisville had experienced since the 1913 flood. The flood was caused by heavy rainfall that fell on saturated ground in the middle and upper basins of the Ohio River. Due the regular flooding of the Ohio River, in the 1930’s proposals were made to construct an extensive system of flood control measures along the Ohio River and its tributaries to control the river and help maintain navigation.
Recent Flash Flooding in Louisville
Louisville Metro is prone to flash flooding throughout the year. The 4 largest rainfall events in Louisville Metro since 1997 were in March 1997, September 2006, August 2009, and October 2013. Each of the rainfall events were concentrated in different parts of the county.
March 1997 brought the worst local flooding in more than 50 years. Heavy rains dropped up to twelve inches of water in less than two days. Numerous strong thunderstorms along a stalled out warm front triggered a record 24-hour rainfall for Louisville Metro. On March 1, Louisville Metro area received 7.22 inches of rain, the highest total on record for one-day. On March 7, 1997, the Ohio River also crested, causing additional flooding from the river. Rain from this storm was concentrated in the southern portion of the county.
The hardest hit areas were in the southwestern section of Louisville Metro along the Ohio River. Two other inland areas hit hard were in the Pond Creek watershed south of Louisville and along Floyds Fork in the east. More than 50,000 residences experienced some level of flooding. In addition, high water briefly closed Interstates 64 and 65, as well as scores of secondary roads. The flood pump station at the mouth of Pond Creek alone moved 2.6 billion gallons of water a day, draining the flood-ravaged neighborhoods of Okolona and Fairdale. During the first few days of the flood, MSD received more than 7,000 calls mostly about sewer backups and surface flooding. MSD estimated that as many as 25,000 customers may not have reported basement backups during the March 1997 flood.
Damage was estimated at $65 million not including the river flooding on the Ohio River. The Ford factory on Fern Valley Road had damage to up to 1,500 Explorers. 24-hour rainfall totals beginning around February 28 to March 1 ranged from around 6 inches along the Ohio River to 11.5 inches across the communities of Okolona and Fairdale in the southern part of the county. The previous record 24-hour total was 6.97 inches. An estimated 2,500 homes in numerous subdivisions in Okolona and Fairdale and across other parts of the county had to be evacuated with hundreds relocated in temporary shelters. Okolona and Fairdale lie in the Pond Creek floodplain, which was formerly swampland.
The National Guard evacuated many people by boat and dump trucks. Thousands of cars were evacuated or stalled out due to the high waters. Numerous rescues were made with people trapped in cars and in houses. Bloated storm sewers popped off manhole covers that left cars quickly inundated in advancing high water. Several roads were closed around the Jefferson County Memorial Forest due to mudslides. A 16-year-old boy was killed near Jeffersontown as his van was swept off the road by the swollen Chenoweth Creek. Numerous roads including parts of Interstate 65 and 64 were closed through the morning of March 2. Because of all the damage, the County-Judge Executive declared the county a state of emergency.
A slow-moving storm system brought torrential rains to the region on September 22 and 23, 2006, resulting in widespread flash flooding. Up to 10 inches of rain fell on parts of Jefferson County in 24 hours. The northern portion of the county saw the largest concentration of rain from this storm. Six people were killed in the Louisville NWS office's area of responsibility. It was the worst general flood since the March 1997 flood. In Buechel, the Bent Creek Apartments were flooded and more than 100 residents had to be evacuated to an area shelter. Interstate 64 between Cannons Lane and Interstate 71 was closed. Water covered many roads in the vicinity of Veteran's Hospital in Louisville. Three feet of water covered 29th Street and two to three feet of water covered Brownsboro Road about half a mile east of the Mellwood Avenue intersection. Water rescues were conducted in the Lake Forest area and in Jeffersontown. Old Henry Road was flooded and impassable.
On August 4, 2009 record-breaking heavy rains fell on the Louisville Metropolitan area causing widespread flash flooding. Rainfall intensities as high as 8.5-inches per hour and rainfall totals up to 8 inches were recorded in 75 minutes, which overwhelmed many portions of MSD’s drainage system. The intense rainfall created massive flash flooding issues across the northwest and central part of Louisville Metro and caused millions of dollars in damage in Louisville.
Nearly 200 people were rescued by emergency workers from the tops of cars and houses. About 50 people were rescued by boat from a University of Louisville administrative office building. Two children were pulled from a swollen creek when neighbors saw them get swept away as they walked too close to the stream.
Water was reported up to several feet deep in parts of Louisville. Many homes were flooded, especially in the western part of Louisville. Numerous commercial buildings downtown had damage and roads were flooded with several feet of water. Major flooding affected Churchill Downs and surrounding neighborhoods. Floodwaters poured into homes and engulfed Louisville's main public library downtown, several area hospitals, the horse barns at Churchill Downs, and the University of Louisville campus. The entire basement of the Louisville Free Public Library was inundated with water causing damage to books, computers, vehicles, and other items. Thousands of books were destroyed at the Louisville downtown library, with a million dollars in damage.
The University of Louisville campus had several buildings damaged by the flood and water rescues had to be performed. Four University of Louisville classroom buildings were closed for more than a month, resulting in a shuffling of numerous classroom locations.
Interstates 64, 65 and 264 were all closed for a period of time due to high water. Other water rescues were performed downtown as people became stranded in vehicles during rush hour traffic.
On October 5-6, 2013, Louisville Metro received up to 6.5 inches of rain in 24 hours. The most intense rainfall fell in the central part of the county causing flooding in areas such as Buechel, Hikes Point, Newburg, and Okolona. Hundreds of residents were affected by the flash flood. Twelve boat rescues were reported and 166 basement backups were reported to MSD. Many streets were closed due to the high water. The American Red Cross opened a shelter at Atherton High School for displaced residents.
Louisville Metro participates in the National Flood Insurance Program
so that community members can purchase flood insurance to protect themselves from flood losses and so that the community is eligible to receive federal disaster assistance.
In order to participate in the NFIP, the community is required to adopt and enforce a floodplain ordinance. To learn more about Louisville Metro’s Floodplain Ordinance, click
Louisville Metro also participates in the Community Rating System (CRS). Currently, Louisville Metro is a Class 3 in the CRS program, which automatically gives community members up to a 35% discount on flood insurance premiums. The CRS program saves the community approximately $2 million each year! For more information about the CRS program, click the CRS
Why buy flood insurance?
Cost of Flooding
- Federal disaster assistance is usually a loan that must be paid back with interest. For a $50,000 loan at 4% interest, your monthly payment would be around $240 a month ($2,880 a year) for 30 years. Compare that to the average flood insurance policy, which is about $650 per year, or about $54 per month.
- In most cases, it takes 30 days after purchase for a policy to take effect, so it's important to buy insurance before the storm approaches and the floodwaters start to rise.
- In a high-risk area, your home is more likely to be damaged by flood than by fire.
- Even though flood insurance isn't federally required, anyone can be financially vulnerable to floods. In fact, people outside of mapped high-risk flood areas file nearly 25% of all National Flood Insurance Program flood insurance claims and receive one-third of Federal Disaster Assistance for flooding.
Only a few inches of water to cause major damage to your home and its contents. Find out how much flooding could cost you by clicking here
Do you need a elevation certificate for your home or business? As part of the CRS program, MSD has been collecting elevation certificates since 1990. If you need an elevation certificate, click here
to see is MSD has one on file for your address. If not your address is not on this list, you will need to hire a surveyor to complete an elevation certificate for your home. If your address is on the list, contact Lori Rafferty
to request the elevation certificate.
For more information about flood insurance, go to the following links:
Answers to Questions About the National Flood Insurance Program, F-084 (2011)
Water Quality and Natural Functions of Floodplains
Why do we need floodplains and stream buffers?
Floodplains are the land needed by a river or stream to convey and store flood waters. When there are high amounts of rain and/or snowmelt, rivers and streams fill with water. If there is enough water, the river or stream will rise higher than the banks and spread out into the low lying areas along the river or stream, called the floodplain. Floods allow sediment to be deposited along streams and rivers, which makes the soil more fertile over time. Floods also transport large woody materials that provide fish habitat and bank stability and promote plant establishment.
The Louisville Metro Floodplain Management Ordinance
requires a 25 foot stream buffer be maintained along all blue line streams as defined by the USGS Topographic Maps. The purpose of the stream buffer is to help stabilize stream banks, provide habitat for wildlife, control erosion and sedimentation, and to improve water quality by filtering pollutants. Vegetation in stream buffers is a major source of energy and nutrients for stream and overhanging vegetation keeps streams cool. Vegetation along streams also allows water to soak into the ground and recharge groundwater.
When stream buffers are removed, water quality in the stream is worsened and fish and wildlife populations are reduced. Water temperatures are increased and dissolved oxygen levels are decreased. Loss of stream vegetation also contributes to stream bank erosion and sedimentation of the stream.
Why is water quality important?
Drinking water for much of Jefferson County comes from the Ohio River upstream of Louisville. Our local streams carry pollution from Jefferson County, and discharge into the Ohio River downstream of our drinking water intake. Therefore, our activities impact the water supply for the people down river of Jefferson County. The water supply for these communities is dependent on how well we manage our streams, just as we are dependent on those communities upriver from us. Over three million people get their drinkin g water from the Ohio River.
We depend on our streams for recreation (fishing, wading, swimming, and canoeing) and aesthetics. Water from our streams is used to irrigate golf courses, to water farm animals, and is also utilized by fish and wildlife. Unfortunately, the poor water quality of many Jefferson County streams does not provide suitable conditions for recreational uses such as fishing and swimming, and is a degraded habitat for fish and other aquatic species.
Keeping our streams clean and flowing are important to the overall health of our waterways. MSD policies encourage the preservation of natural vegetation and trees as helpful to water quality, erosion control, removal of pollutants from run-off, and preservation of natural wildlife habitats.
How can you help?
Don’t Litter!: Street litter, such as plastic bags, paper, and cups often are swept away with rainwater, entering into storm drains and eventually ending up in the streams and later, rivers. A great deal of litter is plastic. Plastic takes hundreds of years to break down. Recycle as much of trash as possible and put all litter in garbage cans. Never throw trash in the street or down a storm drain. If you see trash on the ground, pick it up and toss it in the nearest trash can.
Grass Clippings, Leaves, and Fill: Brush, grass clippings, and leaf debris can easily cause flooding. Dumping of material can restrict the stream and force water to back-up behind debris. This can cause the water to overflow stream banks and ditches and flood upstream areas or your neighborhood. Grass clippings and leaves also can "choke out" the plants and animals within the stream. Never dump grass and leaf litter into a ditch or a stream. When the grass and leaf material break down it can increase nutrients, decrease oxygen, and cause death of aquatic organisms. The result is a degraded stream with reduced biodiversity.
Illegal Dumping: Illegal dumping of chemicals, household products, garbage, septic waste, commercial waste, industrial waste, and yard waste can create impacts in streams. Illegally dumped or discharged waste can frequently produce impacts to plants and animals. Organic waste and yard waste can also stimulate bacteria and algae, causing rapid growth in populations, and resulting in reduced oxygen levels in the water. Dumped materials also may draw undesirable animals; create foul odors, and present physical dangers to wildlife and people.
Oil/Antifreeze: Motor oil and antifreeze contaminates water and can damage or kill plants and animals. Never pour used motor oil or antifreeze down a storm drain, on to the soil, or into a waterway. Put used oil or antifreeze in a sturdy container and take it to a recycling center.
Hundreds of chemical spills occur annually in the Louisville metropolitan area. However, with 24-hour response and required spill control plans, environmental impacts are greatly reduced.
Animal Waste Collection: Animal wastes contribute significantly to the number of bacteria and organic matter in storm water runoff. This problem is particularly serious because the wastes are deposited directly into the streams. Animal wastes can be controlled by the collection and removal of the waste from curbsides, yards, parks, roadways, and other areas where the waste can be washed directly into streams.
Install a rain barrel: Rain barrels collect and store rain water from your roof top to use later for watering your garden or lawn. Reusing the water keeps it out of the drainage system and saves you money in water costs. For more information about installing a rain barrel, click here
Install a rain garden: Rain gardens infiltrate storm water runoff by catching runoff before it reaches the storm drains. Diverting storm water into rain gardens from our roofs and other hard surfaces such as driveways or patios helps improve the water quality of our local streams and at the same time creates functioning gardens which support biodiversity. For more information on how to plant a rain garden, click here
How can MSD help?
MSD offers flood protection advice. An MSD staff person can speak with you by phone or meet you at your property to give you advice on what could be done to mitigate flooding.
MSD also offers advice on financial assistance that may be available related to floodplain issues.
What can you do to mitigate flooding?
- For flooding and drainage problems or basement backup prevention, contact customer service at 587-0603.
- For questions about flood insurance, Increased Cost of Compliance, or future grant programs, call 540-6344.
- If you live in an area with an approved floodplain mitigation grant and have questions about the grant, contact the Grant Hotline at 540-6535.
After a Flood
- Buy flood insurance. Learn more about flood insurance click the Insurance tab.
- Be prepared for a flood. Learn more about flood preparedness click the Be Prepared tab.
- Move water heaters, furnaces, air conditioners, and electrical panels and switches at least 1 foot above the floodplain elevation.
- Make sure your yard is sloped away from your home so that water is directed safely away from or around your home during rain events.
- If your home floods frequently, consider elevating the home so that the first floor is at least 1 foot above the floodplain elevation. This option is expensive, but great reduces your risk and will likely reduce your flood insurance costs.
- If your home is on a crawl space, flood vents should be installed in the foundation to allow the water to flow through the building and not build up hydrostatic pressure, which can cause damage to the foundation. One square inch of flood vent is required for every square foot of floor space to meet FEMA requirements. Adding flood vents to meet this requirement can lower your flood insurance costs if you do not have the required amount of vents and your home is on a crawl space. Check with your insurance agent to find out if adding flood vents could lower your flood insurance cost.
- If water is entering the basement windows, glass blocks can be installed to better seal the windows.
- If feasible, construct barriers to stop floodwaters from entering buildings and seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds.
- If you have enough warning, move furniture, rugs, and other belongings to higher floors or another safer location.
- Store irreplaceable items and valuables in an area safe from flooding.
- Move vehicles to higher ground.
- Keep debris out of ditches and streams. To report a blockage in a stream, call MSD Customer Service at 540-0603.
Selecting a Contractor
- If you have flood insurance, call your insurance agent to file a claim.
- Before entering your home, check for structural damage.
- Take photos of floodwater in your home and save any damaged personal property.
- Make a list of damaged or lost items and include their purchase date and value with receipts, and place with the inventory you took prior to the flood. Some damaged items may require disposal, so keep photographs of these items.
- Keep power off until an electrician has inspected your system for safety.
- Boil water for drinking and food preparation until authorities tell you that your water supply is safe.
- Prevent mold by removing wet contents immediately.
- Wear gloves and boots to clean and disinfect. Wet items should be cleaned with a pine-oil cleanser and bleach, completely dried, and monitored for several days for any fungal growth and odors.
- Get a floodplain permit from MSD before rebuilding.
MSD recommends you always check on a contractor’s history before signing a contract. Visit, call, or go online and inquire the Better Business Bureau about a company.
Better Business Bureau:
Inquire directly online about a firm or company, at http://search.bbb.org/
The Better Business Bureau
844 S. 4th Street
Louisville, KY 40203 –2186
Phone: (502) 583-6546
Fax: (502) 589-9940
Building Industry Association
Are you looking for a Registered Builder or Registered Remodeler?
The Building Industry Association of Greater Louisville has a list of Registered Builders and Registered Remodelers in the Louisville area.
Building Industry Association of Greater Louisville
1000 North Hurstbourne Parkway
Louisville, KY 40223
Phone: (502) 429-6000
Fax: (502) 429-6036
For inexpensive disaster rebuilding tips from FEMA, click here
For more flood protection information from FEMA, click here
Floods are the most severe natural disaster in Louisville Metro according to the Louisville Metro Multi-Hazards Mitigation Plan. Flooding can occur from the Ohio River, interior streams, or a dam or levee failure. River floods generally develop slowly over several days or weeks, but flash floods from heavy rains or a dam or levee failure can occur in just a few minutes. Everyone should be aware of the flood hazards and be prepared.
Click the Maps
tab to find out more about the flood maps and how to determine if you are located in a floodplain.
To prepare for a flood, you should:
- Have a Disaster supply kit.
- Make a Family Plan and a Pet Plan.
- Have a Safe Place to Go.
- Get flood insurance. Go to www.floodsmart.gov for flood insurance information.
- If you live in the floodplain or a floodprone area, elevate you mechanicals, such as the air conditioner, furnace, water heater and electric panel above the flood elevation.
- If you have problems with basement flooding, check out MSD’s free Plumbing Modification Program.
- If feasible, construct barriers to stop floodwaters from entering buildings and seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds.
- Store irreplaceable items and valuables in an area safe from flooding.
- Keep debris out of ditches and streams. To report a blockage in a stream, call MSD Customer Service at 540-0603.
For more information about flood preparedness, click here
Community Rating System
The National Flood Insurance Program's (NFIP) Community Rating System (CRS) is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum NFIP requirements.
As a result, flood insurance premium rates are discounted to reflect the reduced flood risk resulting from the community actions meeting the three goals of the CRS:
1. Reduce flood damage to insurable property;
2. Strengthen and support the insurance aspects of the NFIP, and
3. Encourage a comprehensive approach to floodplain management.
Currently, Louisville Metro is a Class 3 in the CRS program, saving the community approximately $2 million each year. Louisville Metro earns this rating by engaging in many floodplain management activities, such as providing flood information, preserving open space in the floodplain, maintaining the drainage system, and outreach.
The table below shows the credit points earned, classification awarded and premium reductions given for communities in the NFIP CRS.
|Credit Points||Class||Premium Reduction|
|4,000 – 4,499||2||40%||10%|
|3,500 – 3,999||3||35%||10%|
|3,000 – 3,499||4||30%||10%|
|2,500 – 2,999||5||25%||10%|
|2,000 – 2,499||6||20%||10%|
|1,500 – 1,999||7||15%||5%|
|1,000 – 1,499||8||10%||5%|
|500 – 999||9||5%||5%|
|0 – 499||10||0||0|
|*Special Flood Hazard Area|
**Preferred Risk Policies are available only in B, C, and X Zones for properties that are shown to have a minimal risk of flood damage. The Preferred Risk Policy does not receive premium rate credits under the CRS because it already has a lower premium than other policies. The CRS credit for AR and A99 Zones are based on non-Special Flood Hazard Areas (non-SFHAs) (B, C, and X Zones). Credits are: classes 1-6, 10% and classes 7-9, 5%. Premium reductions are subject to change.
As a Class 3 community, Louisville-Jefferson County is among the top 7 Community Rating System communities in the country for greatest insurance premium discounts:
|Class 1: ||Roseville, California |
|Class 2:||Tulsa, Oklahoma |
King County, Washington
Pierce County, Washington
|Class 3:||Louisville-Jefferson County, Kentucky|
Sacramento County, California
|Class 4:||Charleston County, South Carolina |
Fort Collins, Colorado
Maricopa County, Arizona
Snohomish County, Washington
Thurston County, Washington
For more information about the Community Rating System, click here
Flood Related Documents
Multi-Hazards Mitigation Plan/Floodplain Management Plan
The current Floodplain Management Plan has been consolidated into the Louisville Metro Multi-Hazards Mitigation Plan. The Multi-Hazards Plan is a 5-year plan developed to meet the requirements of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 and the Community Rating System. The plan covers 13 hazards likely to affect the Louisville Metro area: flood, dam/levee failure, drought, earthquake, extreme heat, hail, hazardous materials, karst/sinkholes, landslide, severe storms, severe winter storms, tornadoes, and wildfire.
The current Louisville Metro Multi-Hazards Plan can be found below:
The previous Floodplain Management Plan, as well as the 2002 Revised Action Plan and 2004 Progress Report can be found below:
Watershed Master Plan
The Watershed Master Plan was developed for Louisville Metro by MSD. MSD assumed responsibility of the community’s public stormwater system, along with the flood protection system, in 1987. The basis of this WMP was MSD’s original Watershed Master Plan, which was created in 1988 as part of the Stormwater Drainage Master Plan. The purpose of this plan is to help effectively manage present and future regional stormwater drainage in Louisville Metro.
Watershed Master Plan
Watershed Master Plan Maps
Floodplain Management Ordinance
- Middle Fork Beargrass Creek Watershed
- Muddy Fork Beargrass Creek Watershed
- South Fork Beargrass Creek Watershed
- Cedar Creek Watershed
- Floyds Fork Watershed
- Goose Creek Watershed
- Harrods Creek Watershed
- Mill Creek Watershed
- Ohio River/City Watershed
- Pennsylvania Run Watershed
- Pond Creek Watershed
Our nation’s floodplains are regulated by federal, state, and local regulations. The Commonwealth of Kentucky and Louisville Metro regulates construction and development in floodplains so that buildings will be protected
from flood damage. The regulations require a floodplain permit before
you start any repair, renovation, development, improvement, or construction. Development means any changes to the property, including filling,
regarding, and excavating. Also, our floodplain ordinance requires houses substantially damaged by fire, flood, or any other cause must be elevated one foot above the flood level.
The local floodplain ordinance includes strict requirements for both new construction and development in the floodplain. Therefore, you will need a floodplain permit before
starting construction. All development
in the floodplain requires two floodplain permits: one from the Kentucky Division of Water (DOW), and a local permit from MSD.
Example Floodplain Regulations:
2006 Louisville Metro Floodplain Ordinance
2015 Louisville Metro Floodplain Ordinance Amendment
- Construction or filling cannot reduce the ‘storage capacity” for floodwaters in a floodplain.
- There must be road access above the level of a 100-year flood
- The first floor of a new building must be at a level at least one foot above the 100-year flood level.
- Changes, improvements, and additions must meet the substantial improvement requirement for Pre-FIRM structures.
For more information on how to apply for a permit to develop in a floodplain, click the Permitting
tab or contact Lori Rafferty
FEMA Programmatic Agreements
FEMA Historic Preservation Programmatic Agreement