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 NRAamy:
On biggest enviromental disaster in history!!!!

you mean when Al Gore at that case of Slim Jims and coctail weiners?
got any pics of that?
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Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Could end up being a really bad year for the Gulf States and Florida when all is said and done between the oil and potential hurricanes.....I would urge any of you folks along the Gulf and in Florida to make sure to volunteer some time and money, if you can, this year if called upon to assist with clean up and the like as circumstances dictate if you can make the time......


Way to go Wannabee!

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On biggest enviromental disaster in history!!!!

you mean when Al Gore at that case of Slim Jims and coctail weiners?
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 316 Comments: 31944
Quoting Beachfoxx:
Chick,
I'm getting ready to float home... we've had about 4 1/2 inches rainfail in about 2hrs.


I hear ya beachfoxx.. and we got more coming.. :(
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301. TexasGulf 4:20 PM CDT on May 03, 2010

Good post TexasGulf. I agree 100%. It's our best chance, while the relief well is being drilled.
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Quoting adkinsadam1:
If the oil spill continues unabated for three months, what would the effects be? Does anybody have any detailed thoughts on this?


really bad
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If the oil spill continues unabated for three months, what would the effects be? Does anybody have any detailed thoughts on this?
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Chick,
I'm getting ready to float home... we've had about 4 1/2 inches rainfail in about 2hrs.
Quoting Chicklit:


You guys can pinpoint better, but looks like wicked weather headed east from Macon to Tallahassee, at least!
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 157 Comments: 29378
If they can get the domes set in place over each of the leaks, they should be 80%-90% successful in funneling the oil to retrieval piping. Then, by just applying a little suction pressure at the surface, they can create a significant flow of oil to surface.

5,000 bpd (200,000 gallon/day) may seem like a lot... but that is minimal flow rate through a relatively straight 5,000 ft long piping. That's only a rate of 145 gpm... or roughly 50 gpm from each of the three leaks. From what I understand, the surface oil skimmer & coalescer unit can handle 4 times that flow rate.

The real trick will be getting these things to sit properly over the piping without causing any further damage. Let's all wish BP good luck on getting each of the domes in place.

Doing this operation at any time is tricky. Going into an active hurricane season just makes the job that much harder to manage.

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Spoken like a true American! :)
And Help, I don't care what your political party is - He is Mr. President.
Quoting Greyelf:
Isn't it funny how you can always identify Hannity sheep? "The Messiah" always seems to be a part of everything they say. Seriously...help4u, at least use his name. Like him or not, he's the president and is entitled to this respect.
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 157 Comments: 29378
Quoting DEKRE:


How does the filter work?

It's on top of the blogging page. You can set it to "show worst, show average" etc.
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A hurricane might be just what is needed... to disperse the oil and dissolve away.
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Government have not been on top of anything until 2 days ago!!Too busy at the white house party on Sunday and bashing wall street and business all last week!! A 31 second speech by the president last week!!LOL!!!On biggest enviromental disaster in history!!!!
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
i kinda like help4u myself
why not come in and talk some weather iam sure if ya tried real hard ya could slap together a tropical weather office right there in yer basement in no time
it is a funny little troll aint it...
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You guys can pinpoint better, but looks like wicked weather headed east from Macon to Tallahassee, at least!
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Quoting adkinsadam1:
If the oil spill continues unabated for three months, what would the effects be?
a real dark and dead GOM
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52230
292. DEKRE
Quoting Chicklit:

If you set your filter to "show average" his posts don't appear.



How does the filter work?
Member Since: April 27, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 306
Quoting adkinsadam1:
If the oil spill continues unabated for three months, what would the effects be?


bad
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Could end up being a really bad year for the Gulf States and Florida when all is said and done between the oil and potential hurricanes.....I would urge any of you folks along the Gulf and in Florida to make sure to volunteer some time and money, if you can, this year if called upon to assist with clean up and the like as circumstances dictate if you can make the time......
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting help4u:
Thanks for calling me a troll!!Someone who is not an enviromental wacko!! I LIKE THE NAME!!
i kinda like help4u myself
why not come in and talk some weather iam sure if ya tried real hard ya could slap together a tropical weather office right there in yer basement in no time
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52230
What would happen in a situation if Hurricane Gustav was going into the Gulf of Mexico into the massive anticyclone currently in the Gulf?
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The Government Has Been On It From Day One?

Title 40--Protection of Environment
CHAPTER I--ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

PART 300--NATIONAL OIL AND HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES POLLUTION CONTINGENCY PLAN


%uFFFD 300.323 Spills of national significance.
(a) A discharge may be classified as a
spill of national significance (SONS) by
the Administrator of EPA for discharges
occurring in the inland zone
and the Commandant of the USCG for
discharges occurring in the coastal
zone.

TIMELINE:

Monday, March 22, 2010 - Spill of National Significance SONS 2010 Exercise Begins. The US Coast Guard practiced for this event a month before it actually occurred!

The platform exploded on April 20 and sank two days later, leaving 11 workers missing and presumed dead, and producing one of the largest oil spills in history in U.S. water.

April 29: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared the slick "a spill of national significance," meaning the government is designating more forces to contain its spread toward the U.S. coastline.

Bottom Line: It took nine (9) days for the U.S. Government to declare the oil leak in the Gulf as a "spill of national significance."

Compare the government's speed in reaction after Katrina vs. after this oil spill.

Same manure...different consistency.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3420
If the oil spill continues unabated for three months, what would the effects be?
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285. xcool
UPDATED: 8:30 am EDT, May 3, 2010 by Mark Sudduth email me
SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURES TRULY GETTING OUT OF HAND

I have never seen the sea surface temperature anomaly map look like the one below. It is the NHC's Reynolds method anomaly map which is updated once per week. This map gives an excellent representation of what is going on with SSTs across the Atlantic Basin and looking at today's edition, it is alarming. Such an enormous area, from Africa all the way to the western Caribbean, is at or above 1 degree Celsius above normal. That alone is enough to warrant serious concern for the upcoming hurricane season. However, the fact that a growing area of 2 degrees Celsius is now manifesting itself raises the stakes even higher. While it is true that sea surface temps alone do not cause intense hurricanes, seeing them this warm makes me wonder what will happen once the upper level winds relax and we do in fact get a hurricane to develop? Even the Gulf of Mexico, which was running well below normal until recently, is now mostly cleaned out of those cold anomalies. This has huge implications for the efforts to thwart the oil leak crisis in the Gulf- the last thing they need is a hurricane to come plowing through.

So what is causing this incredible warm up in the Atlantic? I have discussed this earlier in the year but will address it again. Basically, lower than normal pressures in the sub-tropical Atlantic are causing the trade winds to be weaker and are thus not blowing across the deep tropics as strong, resulting in less evaporation and cooling. That is the simple explanation. Now it seems like it is feeding back on itself as the warm ocean leads to more heat and moisture and thus lower air pressure. Climate models suggest that this pattern will remain in place for the duration of the season ahead- but none of them have predicted this much warming that I can recall. I hate to sound like Mr. Doom and Gloom here but I am serious, I have never seen anomalies this warm across such a large area of the Atlantic- not even during the 2005 season.

With only a few weeks left until the season begins, the Herculean effort in the Gulf to stop the leaking oil becomes that much more important. I do not want to think about what could happen if a hurricane, let alone a major hurricane, were threaten those efforts. I do not know much about how oil and the ocean interact with each other except only that oil is lighter than water. I wonder if a hurricane would act as the ultimate dispersement agent and break up the slick enough to render it far less problematic? The heavy rain, aggitated sea state and strong wind could do a lot to break down the slick and spread it out over a much larger area- resulting in less concentration in a single region. I suppose though that it is a matter of picking your poison. Unless the oil just goes away, there is no good outcome. However, with the clock ticking towards the start of the hurricane season, it is something that needs to be considered and I would assume that the powers that be who are involved with the efforts are well aware of this added urgency.

I will post another update here on Wednesday with a look at long range computer models as well as some thoughts about our June 1 broadcast as we open the 2010 hurricane season.


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Quoting NRAamy:
Grey...I like how you think...

Thank ya... thank ya very much.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


Just put him on ignore, I did that a long time ago.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:





That is just a great post! You just forgot one item. They never read snopes.com. Good one Keeper!!!!!
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Those with the Octagon Shaped Tin Foil Hats,go to Channel 212 for a update.

That is all.

"beep"
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125551
Quoting tkeith:
I hope those aren't nukes...


I thought the same thing when I saw the pic, but I think they are actually toys > not sure
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Over 4inches of rain and counting.. this site is near me but not mine from home.. Mine is a lil more but O well.. More storms training over me. Blah!
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Quoting NRAamy:
wouldn't tunnels help?

;)
you runnin PR for CB?

:)
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Help4u, you need help. Seriously. What do you think you accomplish by spamming the blog with handle after handle?

If you set your filter to "show average" his posts don't appear.

NOAA Civil Emergency and Flood Warning Messages Nashville, TN

Link
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Maybe they could drop those bombs and detonate at certain feet close enough to the pipes and cause them to pinch shut.... I'm just thinking wild ideas.
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Grey...I like how you think...

;)
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 316 Comments: 31944
wouldn't tunnels help?

;)
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 316 Comments: 31944
Quoting help4u:
Still cannot believe you enviromentals on here our going to let the messiah get away with a piss poor job on response to "BIGGEST ENVIROMENTAL DISASTER IN THE WORLD"!


Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52230
Heh..maybe they should talk to Cyclonebuster about building a tunnel out there to siphon away the oil elsewhere.
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Quoting Ossqss:
Well the failure of the rams stinks. Plan B, use subs to crush the pipe together?

I hope those aren't nukes...
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Well the failure of the rams stinks. Plan B, use subs to crush the pipe together?

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Isn't it funny how you can always identify Hannity sheep? "The Messiah" always seems to be a part of everything they say. Seriously...help4u, at least use his name. Like him or not, he's the president and is entitled to this respect.
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Quoting sonofagunn:
Oil could enter the Loop Current "within a day". http://www.baynews9.com/content/36/2010/5/3/614351.html?title=Scientists:+Oil+could+reach+

I didn't think it was that close yet or the winds/currents taking it that way very fast, but at least one person does...

Thank you. Dr M's post said "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." I hope he will update/clarify soon.
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Even as bad as Attila the Hun was, I thought he wore his furs and horns tastefully.

Barbarian wear by Gucci....

;)
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 316 Comments: 31944

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About JeffMasters

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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