Flooding from record rains kills 11 in Tennessee; oil spill update

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:52 PM GMT on May 03, 2010

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Nashville, Tennessee remains virtually paralyzed this morning thanks to that city's heaviest recorded 1-day and 2-day rainfall in its history. A remarkable 7.25" of rain fell on the city Sunday, breaking the record for most rain in a single day (previously 6.60", set September 13, 1979.) Nashville's third greatest day of rainfall on record occurred Saturday, when 6.32" fell. Nashville also eclipsed its greatest 6-hour and 12-hour rainfall events on record, with 5.57" and 7.20", respectively, falling on Sunday. And, remarkably, only 2 days into the month, May 2010 is already the wettest May on record for Nashville.

Rainfall records were smashed all across Tennessee and Kentucky, with amounts as high as 17.73" recorded at Camden, TN, and 17.02" at Brownsville, TN. According to Chris Burt, the author of the excellent book Extreme Weather, the 13.30" that fell on Camden in 24 hours just missed eclipsing the state's all-time 24-hour precipitation record, the 13.60" inches that fell on Milan on September 13, 1982. Jackson, Tennessee had its rainiest day in its 63-year weather history on Sunday, 7.93". Bowling Green, Kentucky had its heaviest 2-day precipitation event on record, 9.67". Records in Bowling Green go back to 1870. The University of Wisconsin GOES Satellite Blog has some excellent imagery showing the remarkable plume of tropical moisture that crossed over Central America from the Eastern Pacific and fed the record rains.


Figure 1. Radar estimated rainfall for May 1 - 2, 2010 from the Nashville, Tennessee radar. A large region of the Tennessee and Kentucky received over ten inches of rain, with many areas receiving more than fifteen inches.


Figure 2. Flood forecast for the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee. Image credit: NOAA.

The record rains triggered massive flooding that has killed at least eleven people in Tennessee, with two missing. The Cumberland River in downtown Nashville has surged to a height of 51', which is 11' over flood height, and the highest level the river has reached since a flood control project was completed in the early 1960s. The river is expected to crest this afternoon at 11.5' above flood stage, bringing flood waters to a large portion of the downtown area. The mayor has ordered all schools, parks, and libraries closed today, and commuter bus and train services have also been suspended. Five people died in Nashville due to the flooding. The Harpeth River at Bellevue, Tennessee to its greatest flood height since record keeping began in 1921. The river had a depth of 2 feet early Saturday morning before the rains began, and was running at a depth of 29' early this morning, breaking the record of 24.34' set in 1948. (To check out the flood heights, use our wundermap for Nashville with the "USGS River" layer turned on.) The Duck River at Hurricane Mills reached 28.7' yesterday morning before its streamgage stopped operating, its 2nd greatest flood height since record keeping began in 1926 (record: 30.7' in 1948.)

The record rains were accompanied by a surge of very warm air that set record high temperature marks at 21 major airports across the Eastern U.S. on Saturday; 19 more records were set on Sunday. This is not surprising, since more moisture can evaporate into warmer air, making record-setting rainfall events more likely when record high temperatures are present.


Figure 3. A portable classroom building from a nearby high school floats past submerged cars on I-24 near Nashville, TN on May 1, 2010. One person died in the flooding in this region of I-24. Roughly 200 - 250 vehicles got submerged on this section of I-24, according to wunderphotographer laughingjester, who was a tow truck operator called in to clear out the stranded vehicles.

Funding issues to take 17 Tennessee streamgages offline
According to the USGS web site, seventeen Tennessee streamflow gages with records going back up to 85 years will stop collecting data on July 1 because of budget cuts. With up to thirteen people in Tennessee dying from flooding this weekend, now hardly seems to be the time to be skimping on monitoring river flow levels by taking 17 of Tennessee's 94 streamflow gages out of service. These gages are critical for proper issuance of flood warnings to people in harm's way. Furthermore, Tennessee and most of the northern 2/3 of the U.S. can expect a much higher incidence of record flooding in coming decades. This will be driven by two factors: increased urban development causing faster run-off, and an increase in very heavy precipitation events due to global warming. Both factors have already contributed to significant increases in flooding events in recent decades over much of the U.S. According the landmark 2009 U.S. Climate Impact Report from the U.S. Global Change Research Program, "the amount of rain falling in the heaviest downpours has increased approximately 20 percent on average in the past century, and this trend is very likely to continue, with the largest increases in the wettest places." The USGS web site advertises that users who can contribute funding for the non-Federal share of costs to continue operation of these streamgages should contact Shannon Williams of the USGS Tennessee Water Science Center at 615-837-4755 or swilliam@usgs.gov. Tennessee is not the only state with streamgages at risk of closing down; fully 276 gages in 37 states have been shut down or will be shut down later this year (Figure 4.)


Figure 4. Streamgages that have been discontinued or are being considered for discontinuation or for conversion from continuous record discharge to stage-only stations. Funds for these 276 threatened streamgages are from the U.S. Geological Survey and other Federal, State, Tribal, and local agencies. For those streamgages that have already been discontinued, extensive efforts were made to find another funding source; however, when no funding was made available the streamgages had to be discontinued. For those streamgages at risk for discontinuation, the current funding source has indicated that it can no longer fund the streamgage. Efforts are currently underway to identify another funding source for the operation of these streamgages; however, if no funding is identified, then these streamgages will have to be discontinued also. If you have questions about specific streamgages, click on the state of concern on the USGS web page of threatened stream gages.

Oil spill update
The oil slick from the April 20 explosion and blowout of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon has retreated from the coast, thanks to a slackening of the persistent onshore winds that have affected the northern Gulf of Mexico over the past week. Onshore winds of 10 - 15 knots will continue today, according to the latest NWS marine forecast, then shift to sideshore (out of the west) on Tuesday, as a cold front passes. Winds will then resume a weak onshore flow at 5 - 10 knots, Wednesday through Friday. These winds should cause only a slow transport of the oil slick towards the coast. I don't expect the spill will affect any land areas for the remainder of the week, with the possible exception of the mouth of the Mississippi River in Louisiana and the Chandeleur Islands. The latest forecast of Gulf currents from the NOAA HYCOM model (see also this alternative view of the HYCOM ocean current forecast) show weak ocean currents affecting the region during the remainder of the week. These currents will not be strong enough to push any oil southwards into the Loop Current over the next five days, so the Keys and South Florida are safe from oil for now.


Figure 5. Previous location and forecast location for tomorrow of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Image credit: NOAA Office of Response and Restoration. See also the trajectory maps available at State of Louisiana web site.

Jeff Masters

Flooding on I-24 (XMLP)
Flooding on I-24
Lick Creek Bridge (Wingman100)
God is cleaning out the creek and I think making a statement about cleanliness
Lick Creek Bridge
Removing the flood damaged cars and trucks. (laughingjester)
I am a wrecker driver for Martin's wrecker service. We were called to remove the vehicles that got caught in the flooding on interstate I 24 westbound near the Bell Road exit in Nashville Tennessee. Of course this is after the waters had subsided. It was roughly 200, 250 cars and trucks that got caught up in the flood. The debris to left is actually the remnants of a portable classroom that floated alongside the interstate and eventually rolled over and disintegrated.
Removing the flood damaged cars and trucks.

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Quoting cajunkid:
Good news Link


Excellent, and stated by other sources. The second shear ram will stop it completely. I should say, they think. Finally, some good news :) Thanx
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StormW: Thanks for the seasonal outlook.

You said that the Bermuda high is currently situated further West than normal.

Is that expected to continue well into the summer months, or is there a good possibility of the high shifting further to the east during the next few months?

The steering patterns from that West-trending high could spell big trouble for Florida, Georgia and the Bahamas... not to mention the southern ridging guiding systems on Westward into the gulf.
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Yes, and my umbrella is in the car! ugh!
Quoting DestinJeff:


Its almost as bad as Tropical Storm Claudette out there isn't it? ... I might even need an umbrella later!

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106. IKE
Up to around 3/4th's of an inch. Moderate to heavy rain now.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Good news Link
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...downpour, gullywasher, niagra falls, looking for Noah to float by
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Its here! Getting some steady rain now.
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98. IKE
Quoting NttyGrtty:
Give it a minute. Just went "ga-woosh" in Ft. Walton...


Same here. I just got heavy rains. I'll check my rain gauge again....
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Check out the TPW MIMIC

Link

See the huge amount of moisture lifting out from the equator poleward. ITCZ is not wasting any time and the speed that is lifting up.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
Tropical wave
Link

Link


It would appear that there's a weak inverted trough in the area... but I believe is more like the leading edge of the ITCZ lifting up.
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Really? Still not much here, a little more wind.
Quoting NttyGrtty:
Give it a minute. Just went "ga-woosh" in Ft. Walton...
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Good afternoon everyone! This hurricane season outlook is from Crownweather. What do you think of it? Link!
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Tropical wave
Link

Link
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Quoting Beachfoxx:
Hey Ike, just a little drizzle here iin Destin - not much in N'ville either.
Give it a minute. Just went "ga-woosh" in Ft. Walton...
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so do you think for us guys down here in cayman will get it bad hurricanewise?
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Let's hope the weather decides to cooperate. Push the slick off shore.
Quoting IKE:


At least the news about the oil spill making it to over here seems less likely for now:)
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87. IKE
Quoting Beachfoxx:
Hey Ike, just a little drizzle here iin Destin - not much in N'ville either.


At least the news about the oil spill making it to over here seems less likely for now:)
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858




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Hey Ike, just a little drizzle here iin Destin - not much in N'ville either.
Quoting IKE:


I'm under a flash flood watch but I still don't see it happening. I live at the + to the right of Crestview,FL. I've only had about two-tenths of an inch of rain so far today.

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â„– 63

Quote: "Mr. Limbaugh—arguably the Republican Party's de facto leader"

Oh for the love of..., Rush Limbaugh is about as much of a "party leader" as Keith Olbermann is.
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82. IKE
Quoting beell:


That looks significantly dry, lol.


I'm under a flash flood watch but I still don't see it happening. I live at the + to the right of Crestview,FL. I've only had about two-tenths of an inch of rain so far today.

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858


oil recovery fitting
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Quoting IKE:


That looks significantly dry, lol.
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Quoting StormChaser81:
My work will probably be featured on CNN tonight. I'll let you guys know when I hear more info.


You go boy! Congrats...
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Quoting AussieStorm:

yeah, it is a worry ain't it.
Goodnight all. stay safe


U2 man!
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Quoting Floodman:
Hey, HJ, how are you doing? Nice info there in your last couple of pposts...oddly, the the 7 worst seasons of 12 are all in the last decade; a pattern emerges, huh?


Good. I hope today finds your back in great shape! Indeed, the pattern is interesting.
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Quoting hurricane23:
Unreal! sst's are just part of the equation BUT ive never seen anything like this. 2c approaching the caribbean now.


Did a little comparison of SST in the MDR for a bunch of analogue years (many of those that follow an El Nino). Mean values of April going back to 1958 in my blog.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
75. IKE
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
2nd AVE in Downtown Nashville, TN:

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Could Volcanic Ash Impact Hurricane Season?

Gheeze, the saving grace of a slower hurricane season could be in the hands of the Katla Volcano. Talk about lesser of two evils ??????

Katla is the sister volcano mentioned in the article.
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TROPICAL WEATHER DISCUSSION
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
205 PM EDT MON MAY 03 2010

...DISCUSSION...

GULF OF MEXICO...
AS OF 1500 UTC...A COLD FRONT EXTENDS INTO THE CENTRAL GULF OF
MEXICO FROM JUST E OF MOBILE ALABAMA NEAR 31N87W CONTINUING SW
TO NEAR 27N92W BECOMING STATIONARY TO A 1010 MB LOW NEAR 23N93W.

A SURFACE TROUGH EXTENDS FROM THE LOW CENTER TO THE YUCATAN
PENINSULA NEAR 20N90W. SURFACE CONVERGENCE NEAR THE FRONT
COMBINED WITH A SWATH OF UPPER LEVEL MOISTURE IN SWLY FLOW ALOFT
FROM THE BAY OF CAMPECHE TO GEORGIA IS SUPPORTING SCATTERED
SHOWERS/ISOLATED THUNDERSTORMS WITHIN 60 NM AHEAD...30 NM BEHIND
THE FRONT N OF 26N. SIGNIFICANT DRY AIR ALOFT...
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My work will probably be featured on CNN tonight. I'll let you guys know when I hear more info.
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Things a little quiet on the Blog but not because of lack of weather/disaster issues...Just got back from lunch (in North Florida) and I think folks are in a bit of shock between the floods/deaths yesterday in the South and the looming Oil Spill and it's impacts for the Gulf.......Very somber moods right now around the Gulf going into H-Season in several weeks.
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9134
Quoting hurricane23:
Unreal! sst's are just part of the equation BUT ive never seen anything like this. 2c approaching the caribbean now.



This HURR season might bring long lived Majors crossing the ATL and Carib. specially the Carib.
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Quoting hurricane23:
Unreal! sst's are just part of the equation BUT ive never seen anything like this. 2c approaching the caribbean now.



Pray for shear, freight train, something. There's going to be some biggies this year, that's for sure.
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Good Afternoon...
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Big Tuna Domo!!!!!

:)
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Quoting aspectre:
8 presslord "aspectre...Why does my handle appear whenever you post a graphic?

Laziness. Mostly just changing a consolidation of old postings to reflect current dates and maps...
...And giving credit where credit is due. You were the first one to inform the blog that the new estimate was 5000barrels per day rather than BritishPetroleum's "1000barrels per day".

Though now that I look at it, perhaps quoting your words in italics, while quoting mine in plain-text but without attribution, is less clear than it seemed when I originally pieced together the form.
So I'll edit the commentary to make clear that aspectre wrote post1043.

If you desire, I'll remove your name, though I'd like to leave the blog&post numbers unless you wish those to be removed also.


was just curious.../defer to your wishes and superior judgement ; )
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61. JRRP
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.