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Water-Resources Investigations Report

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

By Heriberto Torres-Sierra


In cooperation with the


Water-Resources Investigations Report 01-4247


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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, Añasco, Arecibo, Cayey, Ciales, Comerío, Barceloneta, Dorado, Jayuya, Manatí, Mayagüez, 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 Río 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 Río Viví and the Río Grande de Arecibo inundated the downtown area affecting homes, public facilities, and businesses. In the urban subdivision of Jesús María 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 Río Grande de Arecibo Basin.



Río Grande de Arecibo Drainage Basin
Flood History
Flood Discharge
Flood Profile
Flood Frequency
Flooded Areas
Water-Surface Contours



  1. Flood of September 22, 1998, in Arecibo, Puerto Rico

  2. Flood of September 22, 1998, in Utuado, Puerto Rico

Download the Report (PDF, 25.9MB).


The citation for this report, in USGS format, is as follows:


Torres-Sierra, Heriberto, 2002, Flood of September 22, 1998, in Arecibo and Utuado, Puerto Rico: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 01-4247, 23 p., 2 pls.


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