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 Ossqss:
Hummm,something to keep a pulse on that could impact the hurricane season also.......

Scientists warn Eyjafjallajokull could trigger the Katla volcano to erupt

"Katla has been dormant for decades, but since the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull , it has seen a 200% increase in activity."

Pitt expert keeps eye on second volcano in Iceland

Iceland Volcano closing air space over Ireland:
Link
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559. beell
Quoting atmoaggie:

One must exit and reload the blog after posting from my boysenberry, but not sign out...or reposting occurs.


Thanks for that tip, atmo!
YW, indianrivguy. 10 year old rig/4 year old paper (exactly 4 yrs this month)
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Quoting sirmaelstrom:
I apologize for the multiple posts earlier, they were unintentional. I was posting from my phone. I think I have fixed the problem though. If it happens again I'll simply sign out. I don't think I was the one stretching the blog. If that appears to be the case let me know.

ok your forgiven
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I think it's amazing. Next Saturday! EPAC season starts!
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Anyone know what the WPAC season will be like this year, active like last year or less active.
Last year seemed like they were getting hit a one stage in the season.
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Quoting sirmaelstrom:
I apologize for the multiple posts earlier, they were unintentional. I was posting from my phone. I think I have fixed the problem though. If it happens again I'll simply sign out. I don't think I was the one stretching the blog. If that appears to be the case let me know.
No prob.
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Thanks beell, I appreciate the info.
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Quoting sirmaelstrom:
I apologize for the multiple posts earlier, they were unintentional. I was posting from my phone. I think I have fixed the problem though. If it happens again I'll simply sign out. I don't think I was the one stretching the blog. If that appears to be the case let me know.

One must exit and reload the blog after posting from my boysenberry...or reposting occurs, but signing out unnecessary.
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Quoting StormW:


Yea I saw that, that really isn't good, 2.5 degrees above normal.
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I apologize for the multiple posts earlier, they were unintentional. I was posting from my phone. I think I have fixed the problem though. If it happens again I'll simply sign out. I don't think I was the one stretching the blog. If that appears to be the case let me know.
Member Since: February 19, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 571
Quoting KoritheMan:


Not to mention SSTs in that area generally don't reach the 26C isotherm until late July or early August.


Exactly.

Tropical waves this year will likely be able to hold together MUCH more easily than normal years.
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Hummm,something to keep a pulse on that could impact the hurricane season also.......

Scientists warn Eyjafjallajokull could trigger the Katla volcano to erupt

"Katla has been dormant for decades, but since the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull , it has seen a 200% increase in activity."

Pitt expert keeps eye on second volcano in Iceland
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Not to mention SSTs in that area generally don't reach the 26C isotherm until late July or early August.
Well that's not good.
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Quoting beell:
Risk Assessment of Surface vs. Subsurface BOPs on Mobile Offshore Drilling Units
Texas A&M Offshore Technology Research Center-May, 2006

Thanks, beell.
(I guess them Aggies are good for something...)
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:


That particular loop was focused on the cooling of the Gulf of Guinea which will increase Africa's rainfall.

We're already 2.5 degrees above normal near the Cape Verde islands, so thats not really a 'concern'.


Not to mention SSTs in that area generally don't reach the 26C isotherm until late July or early August.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
IMO...Nothing in the first half of May...All the ingredients are not coming together at the same time. We may not see an early storm this month.

Wait for the MJO in mid-May.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Warm waters need to expand northward, relatively cool waters over the Cape Verde Islands.


That particular loop was focused on the cooling of the Gulf of Guinea which will increase Africa's rainfall.

We're already 2.5 degrees above normal near the Cape Verde islands, so thats not really a 'concern'.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
IMO...Nothing in the first half of May...All the ingredients are not coming together at the same time. We may not see an early storm this month.



I can agree with the first half of May not featuring any storms, but the last few days of May are pretty tricky.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
IMO...Nothing in the first half of May...All the ingredients are not coming together at the same time. We may not see an early storm this month.



Which only implies additional heat during the actual season. :/
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IMO...Nothing in the first half of May...All the ingredients are not coming together at the same time. We may not see an early storm this month.

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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Warm waters need to expand northward, relatively cool waters over the Cape Verde Islands.


They're still well above average.

I just can't see any inhibiting factor this season.. the conditions in place right now are what we should be seeing in Late June! The TCHP in the Caribbean didn't get as high as it did in 2008 and 2009 until July.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23565
538. beell
Risk Assessment of Surface vs. Subsurface BOP's on Mobile Offshore Drilling Units
Texas A&M Offshore Technology Research Center-May, 2006

As water depth increases, the weight of conventional risers increases to a point that only a very few fifth generation floating rigs have the capability to drill in ultra-deep water. The deck loads increase tremendously, the volume of mud required to fill the riser increases, and the choke line friction increases to a point to where successfully circulating a kick from the well becomes almost impossible. The small diameter, high pressure riser can alleviate the deck load requirements, reduce the volume of mud required, and eliminate the high choke line friction pressure experienced with conventional marine risers. This will also, minimize the problems associated with riser gas.

Choke Line
A high-pressure pipe leading from an outlet on the BOP stack to the backpressure choke and associated manifold. During well-control operations, the fluid under pressure in the wellbore flows out of the well through the choke line to the choke, reducing the fluid pressure to atmospheric pressure. In floating offshore operations, the choke and kill lines exit the subsea BOP stack and then run along the outside of the drilling riser to the surface. The volumetric and frictional effects of these long choke and kill lines must be considered to control the well properly.
Pressure Drop
a loss of pressure that results from friction sustained by a fluid passing through a line, valve, fitting, or other device...
Schlumberger Oilfield Glossary

Final (Abstract) of Risk Assemnent:
Texas A&M Offshore Technology Research Center

Results from the qualitative comparison suggest an acceptable risk and high reliability for high-pressure riser systems and surface preventers. The quantitative portion of the study is influenced by the data quality of the high-pressure system, however it provides a range of possible reliability values with an acceptable overall risk.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Don't count on it, I'm sure they will get something.


Unfortunately, it doesn't even take a tropical cyclone to kill thousands in the highly impoverished nation. In May 2004, a tropical disturbance killed thousands of people from heavy rainfall.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:



Warm waters need to expand northward, relatively cool waters over the Cape Verde Islands.
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Quoting Drakoen:
Another thing is that temperatures are continuing to cool in the Gulf of Guinea. The European models suggest this area will become anomalously below average which will aid yielding anomalously higher precipitation values over Africa.




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Quoting Drakoen:
Another thing is that temperatures are continuing to cool in the Gulf of Guinea. The European models suggest this area will become anomalously below average which will aid yielding anomalously higher precipitation values over Africa.


Been watching that...a little bothersome.

Have you seen anything about a link between Gulf of Guinea SST anomaly and the timing of the onset of Sahel rainfall? (not just the rainfall amount anomaly...)
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Magnitude 6.4 quake shakes Chile, no damages

(AP) – 1 hour ago

SANTIAGO, Chile — The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude-6.4 earthquake has struck of Chile's central coast. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The USGS says the quake's epicenter was 151 kilometers (94 miles) south-southwest of Concepcion, Chile, at a depth of 20 kilometers (12 miles).

Radio stations in the Bio-Bio region reported no major damages or injuries from Monday's tremor.

The area has been shaken by hundreds of smaller quakes since a huge magnitude-8.8 quake hit on Feb. 27, triggering a tsunami and killing 486 people. On Sunday, a 5.9-magnitude quake struck the area, one of more than a dozen perceptible temblors since Saturday.

Tens of thousands of Chileans are still living in tents or temporary huts.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Another thing is that temperatures are continuing to cool in the Gulf of Guinea. The European models suggest this area will become anomalously below average which will aid yielding anomalously higher precipitation values over Africa.

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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
I believe I see rotation in the convection south of Panama, I'm not sure about it though.

Link


It doesn't have the best conditions for development due to proximity to land and some moderate shear, but there is some 850mb vorticity.

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Looks like the Gulf's rapid warming will be halted by a cold front passing through on day 6.

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Quoting AussieStorm:

Haiti don't want any hurricanes this season also
Don't count on it, I'm sure they will get something.
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I believe I see rotation in the convection south of Panama, I'm not sure about it though.

Link
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Quoting TexasGulf:
Thanks StormW. Sorry, didn't see your earlier posting.

That is REALLY bad if the high stays to the West or if ridging builds to keep storms moving West this year.

I understand that hurricanes are nature's way of cooling off the tropics... and this year they need more cooling then most. However, when nature is done with removing the excess heat from the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean, I would prefer that the hurricanes move directly North from there.

We don't need any extra cooling in the Gulf. Hurricanes need to only go as far as Cayman Islands this year, then hook a hard right and go across Cuba. Better yet, I'm sure Venezuela can use some cooling off this year. Making a sharp Left is always a good idea for hurricanes.

Don't send them into the Gulf, please.

Haiti don't want any hurricanes this season also
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Quoting alexhurricane1991:
Not as hot here 81 degrees but still its almost 9:00 and still in the 80s it is like july.
79˚F here in Miami.
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Quoting Jeff9641:
It is still very hot on the north side of orlando 86 with a dewpoint of 74 at 8:45pm. I am also noticing very tall building cumulus clouds to my WNW toward Mount Dora this could be the seabreeze collision.
Not as hot here 81 degrees but still its almost 9:00 and still in the 80s it is like july.
Member Since: April 8, 2010 Posts: 15 Comments: 2572
GFS 1-5 day 850mb temperature anomalies features above normal low level temperatures across the Sun Belt region which should aid in the GOM warm-up:

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For the people that love tracking hurricanes, this will be a very interesting, busy season ahead of us. Possibly rival 1995 or 1933 as the second busiest hurricane season on record. I don't know if it will beat 2005 but that's only because 2005 had a lot of storms form in the Atlantic.. but expect a lot of MAJOR hurricanes this year for the United States, specifically Florida. I don't think Florida will escape another big hurricane this year (it's been 5 years).
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Quoting atmoaggie:

Yet, well, I did a work up of the MDR April mean ST for analogue years. Check my blog. Interesting that we currently resemble 2 seasons on the opposite ends of the spectrum in MDR temps.


Very interesting read, thanks!
-----------------------------------------------
Updated today:

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Quoting cyclonekid:
i thought you were in chat... :D (matt)


I thought I was too. Isn't it amazing how you can be in more than one place at one time? :)
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Thanks StormW. Sorry, didn't see your earlier posting.

That is REALLY bad if the high stays to the West or if ridging builds to keep storms moving West this year.

I understand that hurricanes are nature's way of cooling off the tropics... and this year they need more cooling then most. However, when nature is done with removing the excess heat from the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean, I would prefer that the hurricanes move directly North from there.

We don't need any extra cooling in the Gulf. Hurricanes need to only go as far as Cayman Islands this year, then hook a hard right and go across Cuba. Better yet, I'm sure Venezuela can use some cooling off this year. Making a sharp Left is always a good idea for hurricanes.

Don't send them into the Gulf, please.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
This area south of Panama looks impressive (looks like it is spinning because of the bands).

My bad, that an old pic, here is a more up-to-date one:



*Sadly the ASCAT didn't get that area.
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This area south of Panama looks impressive (looks like it is spinning because of the bands).

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The way the Gulf is warming, I wouldn't be surprised if this verified.

If we have decent atmospheric conditions to go along with the much above normal SST's, this will be a very interesting season.
(72 hour SST forecast)
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Amazing warmth.


Yet, well, I did a work up of the MDR April mean ST for analogue years. Check my blog. Interesting that we currently resemble 2 seasons on the opposite ends of the spectrum in MDR temps.
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These are the North Carolina State University numbers (released 4/26/10)

Named Storms: 15-18

Hurricanes: 8-11

Major Hurricanes: N/A
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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.

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