Spring snowstorm adds to flooding potential for the Midwest

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:52 PM GMT on March 24, 2011

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A major spring snowstorm dumped heavy snow in excess of six inches over a wide swath of the Upper Midwest this week, adding to a snowpack that is already near or in excess of record levels over Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. This is bad news for residents in flood-prone areas of the Upper Midwest, as the new storm added more than half an inch of melted rainfall equivalent to the record wet snowpack. When all that snow melts in April, we can expect major and possibly record flooding for North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and the Upper Mississippi River north of St. Louis, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Their March Spring Flood Outlook released last week warned: A large swath of the North Central United States is at risk of moderate to major flooding this spring. Heavy late summer and autumn precipitation have left soils saturated and streams running high before the winter freeze-up. National Weather Service models show this year's snowpack contains a water content ranked among the highest of the last 60 years, which is similar to the past two years. This threat area extends from northeastern Montana through Wisconsin and along the Mississippi River south to St. Louis. For the third consecutive year, forecasters predict major flooding along the Red River of the North, which forms the state line between eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. Other areas of the Midwest primed for major flooding include Devils Lake in North Dakota, the Milk River in Northeastern Montana, the James and Big Sioux Rivers in South Dakota, the Minnesota River, and the Mississippi River from its headwaters near St. Paul, Minnesota, downstream to St. Louis.


Figure 1. U.S. spring 2011 flood risk. Image credit: NWS.


Figure 2. NOAA's latest significant river flood outlook shows that spring flooding is already occurring over South Dakota and on the Mississippi River near its junction with the Ohio River, but is not yet widespread across the Upper Midwest.

There is a huge amount of snow on the ground in North Dakota along the tributaries of the Red River, thanks to fall precipitation that was 150% - 300% of normal, and winter snows that have dumped up to 400% more precipitation than usual. If one were to melt this snow, it would amount to 4 - 6 inches of rain. If heavy rains occur at the same time that the snow melts, there is the potential for the greatest flood in history to affect the cities of Fargo and Grand Forks, the largest and third largest cities in North Dakota. NWS is giving a 35% chance that Fargo will see its greatest flood in history this spring, up from the 20% chance they gave in their February spring flood outlook.

The situation is similar in Minnesota, which has received about double its normal precipitation over the past 3 to 4 months, resulting in the 5th snowiest winter on record in Minneapolis. Snow depths are in excess of 20 inches over wide swaths of of the state, and this snow has a very high water content equivalent to 4 - 6 inches of rain. NWS is giving a 95% chance that the Mississippi River at St. Paul will exceed major flood stage this spring.

In South Dakota, heavy snows this winter have also left a snowpack with a high water content over the northeast corner of the state. The NWS is predicting a 25% chance that the the James River at Huron, SD will reach its highest flood height in history, and a 50% chance for the Big Sioux River at Brookings, SD.


Figure 3. The snow water equivalent of the Upper Midwest's snowpack as of March 24, 2011. Large sections of Minnesota and North Dakota have the equivalent of 3.9 - 5.9 inches of rain (purple colors) stored in their snowpack. Image credit: NWS/NOHRSC.

When will all this flooding occur?
The latest guidance from the GFS model predicts winter-like conditions will persist over the Upper Midwest for the next week, with no major storms for the region through early next week. Late next week, there is the potential for a snowstorm that could bring an additional 0.5 - 1" of melted equivalent snow, though this is very uncertain at this point. The first chance of a major thaw will not occur until Sunday, April 3. This will give some time for the current pulse of flood waters generated during last week's warm spell over South Dakota and southern Minnesota to move downstream, and makes the peak of this year's spring flood unlikely to occur until at least the second week of April. Looking back at past great floods in the Upper Midwest, the record 2009 Red River flood peaked on March 28 in Fargo. The great 1997 Red River flood that devastated Grand Forks, causing $3.5 billion in damage, crested on April 18. St. Paul's greatest flood in history crested on April 19, 1965. I expect this year's peak flood will most likely arrive during the 3rd week of April.

Mostly offshore winds expected over Japan for the next week
Radioactive plumes emitted from Japan's troubled Fukushima nuclear power plant will mostly head eastwards out to sea over the next week, thanks to high pressure that will dominate Japan's weather. Latest trajectory plots using NOAA's HYSPLIT model do not show air from the Fukushima plant heading towards Tokyo over the next four days.

Jeff Masters

Not liking Spring (all4paws)
10 inches of snow today. Not good if you're a robin.
Not liking Spring
Spring? (jf)
Spring?
Spring?

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Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25488
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


Yeah. It's unbelievable how many warnings we've had in just a couple hours. Read my posts 898 and 899 for how it went down at the cherry blossom festival.


Wow, that sounded bad! Did the city not notify anyone or did the Tornado Sirens just go off all over town? We live off of Bass Road in the NW section just outside of the city limits. There is a fire station two blocks NE of us on Northside Drive, when that thing goes off it is just as loud and the one Keeper just downloaded. Glad your Mom is OK, hope her artwork wasn't damaged. Watching channel 13 right now and it looks bad down south of us. :(
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hey snake are still here
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WTO,

"TEPCO's Fukushima office acknowledged Saturday that it had known earlier that the radiation in the underground level of the turbine building of one of the reactors was extremely high, but had not made the information available to pertinent parties."

Does this really surprise you?
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PRELIMINARY LOCAL STORM REPORT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TALLAHASSEE FL
812 PM EDT SAT MAR 26 2011

..TIME... ...EVENT... ...CITY LOCATION... ...LAT.LON...
..DATE... ....MAG.... ..COUNTY LOCATION..ST.. ...SOURCE....
..REMARKS..

0722 PM AVALANCHE BENEVOLENCE 31.88N 84.74W
03/26/2011 RANDOLPH GA EMERGENCY MNGR

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT/RANDOLPH SHERIFF DEPT. REPORT A
TORNADO TOUCHDOWN IN THE CITY OF BENEVOLENCE. DAMAGE
INCLUDES SEVERAL TREES AND POWERLINES DOWN...ONE MOBILE
HOME DESTROYED...ONE MOBILE HOME SEVERELY DAMAGED...AND
SEVERAL OUT BUILDINGS DESTROYED.


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That siren sure sounds serious and ominous. Thanks for that, KOTG.
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Quoting RTLSNK:


Hi Swirl, just got back on, and the siren just went off again, Channel 13 shows a doppler tornado signature coming in just south of Macon between Macon and Warner Robbins near I-75 heading east at 45mph.


Yeah. It's unbelievable how many warnings we've had in just a couple hours. Read my posts 898 and 899 for how it went down at the cherry blossom festival.
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Quoting Grothar:
is any body having trouble getting on the blog?
only for the past hour and half.....I just cant believe it was stalled for that long....on a very busy weather day at that !!
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1492
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TALLAHASSEE FL
808 PM EDT SAT MAR 26 2011

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN TALLAHASSEE HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
NORTHERN LEE COUNTY IN SOUTHWEST GEORGIA...

* UNTIL 830 PM EDT

* AT 803 PM EDT...A DEVELOPING TORNADO HAS BEEN DETECTED BY THE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE 8 MILES SOUTHWEST OF SMITHVILLE...OR 17
MILES SOUTHWEST OF AMERICUS...MOVING EAST AT 30 MPH.

* OTHER LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO
NEYAMI...SCRUTCHINS AND CHOKEE.

TAKE COVER NOW! THIS STORM HAS A HISTORY OF PRODUCING DESTRUCTIVE
TORNADOES. SEEK SHELTER NOW IN A STURDY STRUCTURE ON THE LOWEST
FLOOR AWAY FROM WINDOWS AND OUTSIDE WALLS.

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this from an msnbc.msn.com article:

Government spokesman Yukio Edano urged Tokyo Electric Power Co. to be more transparent, two days after two workers at the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi plant suffered skin burns when they stepped in water that was 10,000 times more radioactive than levels normally found near the reactors.

"We strongly urge TEPCO to provide information to the government more promptly," Edano said.
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Quoting RTLSNK:


Hi Swirl, just got back on, and the siren just went off again, Channel 13 shows a doppler tornado signature coming in just south of Macon between Macon and Warner Robbins near I-75 heading east at 45mph.
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You GA guys stay safe now. Looks like some serious weather there in a few places.

Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25488
Looks like New Orleans could be in for a wet week.

Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25488
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


Make that 3 severe thunderstorm warnings. Another one just went up. The warning also mentions the possibility of another tornado.


Hi Swirl, just got back on, and the siren just went off again, Channel 13 shows a doppler tornado signature coming in just south of Macon between Macon and Warner Robbins near I-75 heading east at 45mph.
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Latest news on the nuclear situation from Kyodo News - it's still very serious.

Get a load of this:

"TEPCO's Fukushima office acknowledged Saturday that it had known earlier that the radiation in the underground level of the turbine building of one of the reactors was extremely high, but had not made the information available to pertinent parties."

Not even the people ON SITE have the information that they need to stay out of danger. TEPCO is not sharing critical information (no pun intended) with their own subs. What a circus.

Best wishes for those who are staring at those storm cells. May the winds be kind.

WTO
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Tornado warning up for Macon.. again. 2nd one now.
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Quoting Grothar:


I couldn't get in for about a 1/2 hour. Had to put someone on ignore that had posted a video. Then I could get on.
That might of been me,I accidently hit the link and posted a vid. Maybe that messed it all up! sorry.
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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


Thankfully seems like it broke up a bit before it got here.

So far in this system we've had:
Tornado Watch: 1
Severe Thunderstorm Warning: 2
Significant Weather Advisory: 1
Tornado Warning: 1

And we've still got tonight and tomorrow to go. Why were we only put under a slight risk of severe weather by the SPC? lol


Make that 3 severe thunderstorm warnings. Another one just went up. The warning also mentions the possibility of another tornado.
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Awesome graphics KOTR i've been using Plymouth's site frequently lately but couldn't figure out how to post the radar loops.

Things really look to be popping now with some new Tornado warnings in Central Alabama.


TORNADO WARNING
ALC057-075-093-270030-
/O.NEW.KBMX.TO.W.0026.110326T2348Z-110327T0030Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BIRMINGHAM AL
648 PM CDT SAT MAR 26 2011

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BIRMINGHAM HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
NORTHWESTERN FAYETTE COUNTY IN WEST CENTRAL ALABAMA...
NORTHERN LAMAR COUNTY IN WEST CENTRAL ALABAMA...
SOUTHERN MARION COUNTY IN NORTHWEST ALABAMA...

* UNTIL 730 PM CDT

* AT 644 PM CDT...TRAINED WEATHER SPOTTERS REPORTED A FUNNEL CLOUD
NEAR DETROIT...OR 10 MILES NORTH OF SULLIGENT. A TORNADO MAY
DEVELOP AT ANY TIME. DOPPLER RADAR SHOWED THIS DANGEROUS STORM
MOVING EAST AT 40 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
WINFIELD...CREWS...BEAVERTON...GUIN...GU-WIN...BRI LLIANT...GLEN
ALLEN...LAKE BUTTAHATCHEE...HENSON SPRINGS AND RANKIN FITE AIRPORT.

THIS INCLUDES...
US 78 EXIT NUMBERS 14 THROUGH 34...

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

TAKE COVER NOW. FOR YOUR PROTECTION MOVE TO AN INTERIOR ROOM ON THE
LOWEST FLOOR OF A STURDY BUILDING.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
it was overwash12 i had to remove him in order to post on blog he's post was the one that mess up the blog


Did the same here. Wonder how many else can't get on because of it.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25488
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it was overwash12 i had to remove him in order to post on blog he's post was the one that mess up the blog
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Cell north of Statesboro has the most rotation i've seen all day on radar and is 40,000 ft high. Sure to be some massive possibly 3in hailstones with another nasty cell trailing right behind it. SW Georgia looks to have some healthy looking rotating supercells also.
Link
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Quoting European58:


Just came in, no trouble.


Hey, Euro! Looks like we are finally going to get a little rain in Florida finally. It is very dry.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25488
Quoting Jedkins01:


Because its the deep south. We have had outbreaks in Florida that should have been a Moderate or High risk, but they never issue more than a slight risk. They only like issuing moderate or high in the plains lol.


The reason for this I believe is in the Southeast, severe weather is harder to forecast. At least in Florida it is anyway. There is usually better forecast confidence with severe weather anticipation further North.

Its just like forecasting rain chances, the system that will bring rain to Florida could potentially bring very high rainfall amounts. However, forecast confidence is low right now so they are keeping the forecast quite conservative.

That's just my spin on it.


Yeah I agree. And I think they made the right call, I was just joking a little. If you go like 20 miles south I don't think they've had anything at all. It's impossible for them to give out risks to such a local extent for now.
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Quoting Jedkins01:


maybe people all simultaneously left, cause I'm not having any trouble either.


I couldn't get in for about a 1/2 hour. Had to put someone on ignore that had posted a video. Then I could get on.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25488
Quoting Grothar:


Then where is everybody. I had to put someone on ignore and this came back. But no one else seems to be on.


maybe people all simultaneously left, cause I'm not having any trouble either.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7305
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


Thankfully seems like it broke up a bit before it got here.

So far in this system we've had:
Tornado Watch: 1
Severe Thunderstorm Warning: 2
Significant Weather Advisory: 1
Tornado Warning: 1

And we've still got tonight and tomorrow to go. Why were we only put under a slight risk of severe weather by the SPC? lol


Because its the deep south. We have had outbreaks in Florida that should have been a Moderate or High risk, but they never issue more than a slight risk. They only like issuing moderate or high in the plains lol.


The reason for this I believe is in the Southeast, severe weather is harder to forecast. At least in Florida it is anyway. There is usually better forecast confidence with severe weather anticipation further North.

Its just like forecasting rain chances, the system that will bring rain to Florida could potentially bring very high rainfall amounts. However, forecast confidence is low right now so they are keeping the forecast quite conservative.

That's just my spin on it.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7305
Quoting Grothar:
is any body having trouble getting on the blog?


Just came in, no trouble.
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Quoting Tazmanian:



nop


Then where is everybody. I had to put someone on ignore and this came back. But no one else seems to be on.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25488
Quoting IceCoast:
A nice Radar loop(click Link) of the storms going through the Macon area including the two cells with tornado warning south of the area. Heads up to you folks in Macon again by the way as another strong storm is off to your west.
Link


Thankfully seems like it broke up a bit before it got here.

So far in this system we've had:
Tornado Watch: 1
Severe Thunderstorm Warning: 2
Significant Weather Advisory: 1
Tornado Warning: 1

And we've still got tonight and tomorrow to go. Why were we only put under a slight risk of severe weather by the SPC? lol
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Y1 and Z8 are extremely powerful thunderstorms on the Warner Robins radar in Central Georgia. Watch out.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7305
Quoting Grothar:
is any body having trouble getting on the blog?



nop
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is any body having trouble getting on the blog?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25488
Information from Greenpeace radiation sampling team in Japan Link
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A nice Radar loop(click Link) of the storms going through the Macon area including the two cells with tornado warning south of the area. Heads up to you folks in Macon again by the way as another strong storm is off to your west.
Link
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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:
Apparently the cherry blossom festival is deserted now, most artists will go back tomorrow fearing the worst has happened to their stuff. Hopefully not much damage has been done.

That cell going through Macon looked mighty impressive on radar, and still does! I'm watching the isolated cell southeast of Birmingham now moving eastbound with the tornado warning on it. It's all by its lonesome which is worrying. The one south of Macon is looking good to and it wouldn't surprise me if they warned that as well.
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Quoting 897,
I don't think this is going to get better, in fact we are I am sure getting a big smokescreen of the facts here,
Yesterday they said that the 3 workers taken to hospital had been walking about in water that was ''10,000'' times the level of radioactivity that is measured ''inside a reactor vessel'', they had them covered in a plastic sheet and wearing what looked like paint sprayers suits, they, 'the stricken,' were wearing what appeared to be slippers from what could be seen below the blue plastic, some of the others were only wearing black work boots.
My question has to be ''WHO is supposed to be in charge of this, which might become the worlds most serious nuclear disaster ever'' and it should warrant by present, ''global standards,'' being put in the hands of something like NATO who might just have a bit of an idea of how to possibly deal with it!!
A lot of the ''experts'' over in Europe are very concerned about this and are saying so publicly, some of them look worried when interviewed.
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Apparently the cherry blossom festival is deserted now, most artists will go back tomorrow fearing the worst has happened to their stuff. Hopefully not much damage has been done.
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Holy crap that was bad. RTLSNK, you all right? You already know but I'm in Macon too. My mom is an artist displaying at the Cherry Blossom festival. They got golf ball size hail and according to my mom's words it was like rats fleeing a sinking ship. The tornado warnings were ear-deafening and everyone grabbed as much of their stuff they could and ran as fast as they could to their cars in the midst of high winds, hail, and the fear of a tornado invoked by the warning, all though it didn't actually touch down.

Here a little west it was crazy too, we got marble sized hail.
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Quoting cat5hurricane:
4 straight days now these radiation levels have gradually gone down in each of the adjacent prefectures to Fukushima Diaachi power plant in Japan. Of course, weather conditions have been variable over the past couple days and that these reading in the air do not account for what has been observed in the water. Thus, radioactive materials in water surrounding the plant may still be exceptionally above average.


This information is interesting as it would on the surface indicate that things are getting better,

I've just seen on the Spanish TVE 9pm news, that reported radiation levels in some areas are 4,000 times higher than normal, whatever normal is in the cases they are measuring, added to this there are big worries about sea water radiation levels.

The news reported that the evacuation zone has been extended to 30 Kms, or about 20 miles, also they showed a video of quite a lot of what appears to be 'smoke' coming out of 3 of the reactor buildings.

I have to add that I have no links to post on any of this but things don't look good and the drop in radiation may be due to offshore winds.

The ''experts'' on the news were university professors and they were 'gravely concerned' about the consequences of the possible melted reactor core materials.

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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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