Flooding death toll in Southeast U.S. floods rises to 24; oil slick moving little

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:11 PM GMT on May 04, 2010

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The death toll from last weekend's record flooding in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi has risen to 24, making it the deadliest non-tropical storm or hurricane flood disaster in the U.S. since the October 1998 Central Texas floods that killed 31 when a cold front stalled over Texas. As flood waters recede today, the toll from last weekend's floods is expected to grow higher. Particularly hard-hit was the Nashville, Tennessee area, where ten fatalities were reported. The city had its heaviest 1-day and 2-day rainfall amounts in its history over the weekend. A remarkable 7.25" of rain fell on the city Sunday, breaking the record for most rain in a single day (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, only two days into the month, the weekend rains made it the rainiest May in Nashville's history.

Rainfall records were smashed all across Tennessee, Kentucky, and northern Mississippi over the weekend, 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.


Figure 1. Satellite-estimated precipitable water at 23 UTC (7 pm EDT) Sunday, May 2, 2010. Precipitable water is a measure of how much rain would be produced if all the water vapor and cloud moisture through the depth of the atmosphere were to fall as rain. Values above 50 mm (about 2 inches) are frequently associated with flooding. Sunday's precipitable water image showed a tropical disturbance crossed Mexico into the Gulf of Mexico, dragging a plume of very moist air northwards over the Southeast U.S. Image credit: University of Wisconsin GOES Satellite Blog.


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

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. 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. Accompanying this warm air was moisture from a tropical disturbance that crossed over Mexico from the tropical East Pacific over the weekend (Figure 1.)

The record rains sent the Cumberland River in downtown Nashville surging to 51.86' this morning, 12' over flood height, and the highest level the river has reached since a flood control project was completed in the early 1960s. The previous post-flood control project record level was 47.6', set on March 15, 1975 (the river hit 56.2' in 1929, before the flood control project was built.) The river has now crested (Figure 2) and is expected to recede below flood stage by Wednesday morning. There are no further rains in the forecast this week for Tennessee. At least four rivers in Tennessee reached their greatest flood heights on record this week. Most remarkable was the Duck River at Centreville, which crested at 47', a full 25 feet above flood stage, and ten feet higher than the previous record crest, achieved in 1948 (to check out the flood heights, use our wundermap for Nashville with the "USGS River" layer turned on.)

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 eighteen 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. 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. 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. According to the latest NWS marine forecast, winds will be light and variable through Wednesday, resulting in little transport of the oil slick. Winds will then resume a weak onshore flow at 5 - 10 knots, Thursday through Friday, then reverse to blow offshore at 5 - 10 knots over the weekend. The net result of this wind pattern will be little transport of the oil slick. The only areas at risk of landfalling oil over the next five days will be 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. I'll have a post on the long-range prospects for oil to enter the Loop Current later this week, and a discussion of how a hurricane might affect and be affected by the oil spill.


Figure 3. Forecast location at 6pm CDT Tuesday, May 4, 2010, of the oil slick from the Deepwater Horizon blowout. Image credit: NOAA Office of Response and Restoration. See also the trajectory maps available at State of Louisiana web site.

Jeff Masters

Alice Aycock sculpture (laughingjester)
If you saw my other pics of this sculpture you cam get an idea how high the Cumberland river has risen. when I left it was still getting higher.
Alice Aycock sculpture
Harpeth River Flooding (XMLP)
Harpeth River Flooding
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..
Removing the flood damaged cars and trucks.
Nashville Flooding (jadnash)
This is looking east - the Cumberland River is just on the other side of the buildings.
Nashville Flooding
Parking via Mother Nature (jadnash)
This car drove into the swiftly moving water at the Belle Meade Kroger and was thrown up against a parking deck. Luckily someone got a ladder and dropped it down to break the rear window and the driver climbed out safely!
Parking via Mother Nature

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Quoting Tazmanian:
20 to 28 name storms 7 too 10 hurricans and 5 cat 3 or higher hurricanes



my forcast


Wow, Taz...I guess you'd call that "All in"
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Quoting CycloneOz:


Risk vs. reward...

I've lived my entire life on that premise...and look where it's gotten me today! :)


Ummm, what would that be a black eye or a funny hair doo ? LoL J/K <:)

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20 to 28 name storms 7 too 10 hurricans and 5 cat 3 or higher hurricanes



my forcast
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54268
Quoting Floodman:


Get used to low shear values...with a neutral ENSO, we'll see a lot of low shear this season.

Get ready folks, cause here it comes...anyone else feel like they're strapped into a roller coaster?


Yeppars,U betcha!!
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128616
Quoting Floodman:


Get used to low shear values...with a neutral ENSO, we'll see a lot of low shear this season.

Get ready folks, cause here it comes...anyone else feel like they're strapped into a roller coaster?


Neutral Cold Bias, Low Shear, Low Dust, Boiling SST's. Yep and about ready to take the plunge too.
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Quoting CycloneOz:


If we see a "Bertha type" CV in early July, I'll you-know-what into my Depends!


I thought you wore "Oops I crapped my pants"! Oh well, my mistake.
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Quoting Jeff9641:
80 right now north of Orlando with 90% humidity. This heat and humdity is quite intense for this time of year. Heating of the day should really fire intense thunderstorms across C FL today.
Feels so unstable outside.
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I REALLY hope this yers season holds off for as long as possible and we get less storms than forecast. I just had my new roof installed from Ike, and I am delighted to be stopping leaks after 18 months but I do nt want to go through this again.
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463. beell
TROPICAL WEATHER DISCUSSION
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
805 AM EDT WED MAY 05 2010

...ITCZ...

THE ITCZ AXIS IS CENTERED FROM THE NORTHERN COAST OF LIBERIA
NEAR 6N10W...WESTWARD ALONG 3.5N20W 5N30W 3.5N40W 4N51W. AN
EMBEDDED SURFACE TROUGH IS ALONG 30W FROM 1N TO 8N.
SCATTERED
SHOWERS ARE WITHIN 40 NM OF THE TROUGH AXIS. STRONG CONVECTION
IS FROM THE EQUATOR TO 15N BETWEEN 10W AND 17W. SIMILAR
CONVECTION IS FOUND SCATTERED WITHIN 150 NM OFF THE COAST OF
LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE. MODERATE TO STRONG CONVECTION IS FROM
1N TO 10N BETWEEN 31W AND 37W.
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Quoting atmoaggie:
Hmm.

Ozone action day down here. (defined as Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups)



Interesting.

Last Friday I said:


I don't think I'll call that a 5 day forecast of surface ozone...closer to legally-blind squirrel finding a nut. I thought it interesting, though. (but I am probably alone in this)


Keep in mind that the Air Quality Index (AQI) is usually based not only on ozone, but also PM 2.5, PM 10, NOx, SOx, and CO.

There may be more going on in along the central Gulf Coast. In addition, it looks like a section of the Texas coast will also be in the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (USG) category today.
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
I tried to call u at work just now...no answer....


Call again...sorry...I was rocking out.
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Quoting MahFL:
"Shear is supposed to relax in 36 hours too"

Lol how many times will we read these words this year ?




Thousands, I'm sure!
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Quoting CyclonicVoyage:
Low shear all the way out as well.



Get used to low shear values...with a neutral ENSO, we'll see a lot of low shear this season.

Get ready folks, cause here it comes...anyone else feel like they're strapped into a roller coaster?
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457. MahFL
"Shear is supposed to relax in 36 hours too"

Lol how many times will we read these words this year ?

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I tried to call u at work just now...no answer....
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:



It damn near got u under a EF4 with my help....


Doug! It's all coming together man! We're getting our team hooked up with bluetooth intercom / cell phone communications.

If we intercept this year...it will rock.
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Quoting StormW:


Bertha, July 03, 2008


Thank you Chief..........
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Quoting CycloneOz:


Risk vs. reward...

I've lived my entire life on that premise...and look where it's gotten me today! :)



It damn near got u under a EF4 with my help....
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452. beell
Quoting StormW:


I'm still analyzing things, but I would almost be willing to bet, the area near 35W is a AEW. The ITCZ is also becoming more active over Africa.


Could be, storm. I think this feature began as a surface trough embedded in the ITCZ and it is interacting some with the upper level trough to its W/NW.

It may just be a deepening of the surface trough from the bottom up. Certainly some turning along the axis at the low levels.

Shows up in the GFS at 700mb. Gotta happen sooner or later-right?
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A Very interesting article on the Sister Rig to the Deepwater Horizon that had the fire and sank, causing the current problem in the Gulf.
The Deepwater Nautilus is a sister rig a bit to the south of the accident site and seems to have a similar configuration.
See the article at http://tinyurl.com/295o89n
.
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Quoting StormW:


Bertha, July 03, 2008


If we see a "Bertha type" CV in early July, I'll you-know-what into my Depends!
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Quoting fireflymom:

A black eye from a 2x4 and both information and entertainment for us?


All that AND MORE! :)
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Quoting CycloneOz:


Risk vs. reward...

I've lived my entire life on that premise...and look where it's gotten me today! :)

A black eye from a 2x4 and both information and entertainment for us?
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SST's between Africa and the Caribbean are "there" already so the dominant factor for the start of the CV season will be viable disturbances coming off the coast when the sheer drops.............What I don't know is if we may have any viable "early" CV storms as opposed to the regular August timeframe......Anybody out there know what the earliest storm date is for a Cape Verde hurricane in a season?
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I think everyone should say a little prayer when the domes go down tomorrow. If it doesn't work, we're in deep doo-doo.
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Nothing like helping people in time of need!That alone is worth it!
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Shear is supposed to relax in 36 hours too ..that little thing at 35W 8N and something at 15W 8N but mostly thats ITCZ.
There is There is some convection/moisture thats been persistient at 45W 8N.
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Hmm.

Ozone action day down here. (defined as Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups)



Interesting.

Last Friday I said:
Quoting atmoaggie:
A comment about air quality...

We are told that toxic levels of pollutants are not in the air...probably right. Could be carcinogenic in the long run, health effects are not my forte, though.

Looking through the LA dept of environmental quality air monitoring sites, I see that the Chalmette site usually doesn't get much in the way of non-methane volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs include a lot of things from isoprenes from oak trees to benzene from gasoline to olefins from refinery releases.

The monitoring at the Chalmette site did record a peak of 0.64 ppmc of the compounds yesterday when the wind picked up from the south-southeast, up from a ~0.15 ppmc earlier in the day (winds more from the west)
(The units ppmC, sometimes given as ppmvC, means that the volume concentration of the gas is multiplied by the number of carbon atoms in the molecule.)

Today's data hovering around 0.35 ppmc (labeled NMOC, non-methane organic compounds):


Also noted that the methane concentration is about the same as it was earlier this month...apparently not a component of the volatile components of the oil slick.

What does it mean, batman?
Well, this is what is being smelled. High numbers, more of a scent.

Plus, once we get back to sunny days, and if we don't have a good north wind to push this out to the gulf, the VOCs are part of the surface ozone cycle and, usually, the limiting factor on sunny days.
could be a spike in surface-level ozone in our near future.


Back to poking around for data...


I don't think I'll call that a 5 day forecast of surface ozone...closer to legally-blind squirrel finding a nut. I thought it interesting, though. (but I am probably alone in this)
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Quoting help4u:
Hope the people trying to cap the oil leak are very careful.Very dangerous work and are risking their lives.


Risk vs. reward...

I've lived my entire life on that premise...and look where it's gotten me today! :)
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Hope the people trying to cap the oil leak are very careful.Very dangerous work and are risking their lives.
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Although the Africa ITCZ area is pretty active with lots of stuff moving across the continent these days...

...I still believe our first tropical system will pop up right there in the SW Caribbean and either move back to the west...or north until it moves east into Florida.
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Quoting CycloneOz:


It is true the Germans really do make good stuff.
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Quoting presslord:


"You'll love my...." oh....nevermind....


Go ahead, say it
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We've had a couple kind of baby waves come off africa already but it's mostly stuff that can be attributed to the ITCZ..
There has been lots of convection over africa but so far soon as it comes off the coast it been dying.
That said I still think our first atlantic tropical event will be soon and out of the ITCZ.
It's moving north fast and we are at 29deg water already over the southern tropical atlantic and caribbean.. I'm pretty sure that didn't happen until late june last year. As soon as the shear relaxes some more things will start popping



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Thanks!
That confirms most of what I have been hearing.
A day or two ago they shut an annular ram that partially killed the oil flow from the well and that they were successful yesterday in shutting off at least one of the leaks.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
According to Walton and Johnson on the radio, they are going to drop ShamWow! towels on the ocean to absorb the oil.


"You'll love my...." oh....nevermind....
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According to Walton and Johnson on the radio, they are going to drop ShamWow! towels on the ocean to absorb the oil.
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Looks like the first report of a capped leak is true...but overall...they need to still stop major leaks.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100505/ap_on_bi_ge/us_gulf_oil_spill_leak
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NWS already shows a wave at 30W down in the ITCZ.
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Quoting SAINTHURRIFAN:
folks i agree with you about being concerned about the hurricane season, but its a prediction for now. most of on the gulf coast are much more concerned with the obvious which is the oil spill which i assure you if it does come ashore the economy of the gulf coast will be much more devasted than any hurricane would cause. not picking on anyone but i think we should woory more about the inevitalbe than the possible, have a blessed day.


good to see you...
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Good morning Senior Chief!
Member Since: September 23, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 2556
Quoting StormW:
Good morning!


Just the man we needed!

Storm, do you think we have the first AEWs of the season over Africa today?

Updated:

Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15920

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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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