Army Corps blows up levee to help fight unprecedented Mississippi River flood

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:47 PM GMT on May 03, 2011

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A brilliant string of explosions rippled across a two-mile length of the Mississippi River levee at Birds Point, Missouri at 10pm last night. As the levee disintegrated, a massive cascade of muddy brown water from the Father of Waters gushed into the crevasse, thundering with the flow of eight Niagara Falls. The waters quickly spread out over 133,000 acres of rich farmland, rushing southwards along the 35-mile long Birds Point-New Madrid Spillway. The levee that was destroyed--called a plug fuse levee--was designed to be destroyed in the event of a record flood. In a marathon 20-hour operation, 150 engineers from the Army Corps of Engineers packed 22 wells in the levee with explosives on Sunday and Monday. A raging thunderstorm with dangerous lightning halted the work for a time on Sunday night, as the engineers were pulled off the levee due to concerns about lightning. Final approval for the demolition occurred after a series of failed court challenges, brought by the Attorney General of Missouri, ended at the Supreme Court on Monday. Damage to the farmland and structures along the the Birds Point-New Madrid Spillway is estimated to cost $317 million due to the intentional breach of the levee. The fact that the Army Corps is intentionally causing 1/3 of billion dollars in damage is stark evidence of just how serious this flood is. The Birds Point levee has been demolished only once before, during the historic 1937 flood.


Figure 1. Still frame from an Army Corps of Engineers video of last night's demolition of the Birds Point levee on the Mississippi River.


Figure 2. The gauge on the Ohio River at Cairo was at record highs over the past few days, but the river level is now falling, thanks to the demolition of the Birds Point levee.

Unprecedented flooding on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers
Snow melt from this winter's record snow pack across the Upper Mississippi River has formed a pulse of flood waters that is moving downstream on the Mississippi. This pulse of flood waters passed St. Louis on Saturday, where the river is now falling. The snow melt pulse arrived on Monday at Thebes, Illinois, about 20 miles upstream from the Mississippi/Ohio River junction at Cairo. The Mississippi River crested yesterday at Thebes at 45.52', which beats 1993 as the 2nd highest Mississippi River flood of all-time at Thebes. This floodwater pulse is headed south to Cairo, Illinois, and will join with the record water flow coming out of the Ohio River to create the highest flood heights ever recorded on a long stretch of the Mississippi, according to the latest forecasts from the National Weather Service. Along a 400-mile stretch of the Mississippi, from Cairo to Natchez, Mississippi the Mississippi is expected to experience the highest flood heights since records began over a century ago at 5 of the 10 gauges on the river. Areas that are not protected by levees can expect extensive damage from the flooding, but the mainline levees on the Lower Mississippi are high enough so that the flood waters are predicted to stay at least 3 feet below the tops of the levees.

The Mississippi River at New Madrid, MO, about 40 miles downstream of the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, crested at 46.54' this morning, the 2nd highest flood in history. The river is now falling, thanks to the blowing of the Birds Point levee. Rains of up to ten inches over the past three days in the region have now ended, but this water will enter the river system over the next few days, increasing heights on the river once again. The Mississippi is predicted to rise to 50 feet late this week, two feet above the all-time record height of 48 feet. The NWS warns that at this height, "Large amounts of property damage can be expected. Evacuation of many homes and businesses becomes necessary." Previous record heights at this location:

(1) 48.00 ft on 02/03/1937
(2) 46+ ft on 05/03/2011
(2) 44.60 ft on 04/09/1913
(3) 43.60 ft on 04/04/1975
(4) 43.50 ft on 02/16/1950
(5) 42.94 ft on 03/17/1997


Figure 3. Radar-estimated rainfall near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers totaled 4 - 10 inches over a wide area during the past three days.


Figure 3. Flooding on the Mississippi in Missouri at the end of April. Image credit: USACE.

The "Project Flood"
The levees on the Lower Mississippi River are meant to withstand a "Project Flood"--the type of flood the Army Corps of Engineers believes is the maximum flood that could occur on the river, equivalent to a 1-in-500 year flood. The Project Flood was conceived in the wake of the greatest natural disaster in American history, the great 1927 Mississippi River flood. Since the great 1927 flood, there has never been a Project Flood on the Lower Mississippi, downstream from the confluence with the Ohio River (there was a 500-year flood on the Upper Mississippi in 1993, though.) On Sunday, Major General Michael Walsh of the Army Corps of Engineers, President of the Mississippi Valley Commission, the organization entrusted to make flood control decisions on the Mississippi, stated: "The Project Flood is upon us. This is the flood that engineers envisioned following the 1927 flood. It is testing the system like never before."

At Cairo, the project flood is estimated at 2.36 million cubic feet per second (cfs). The current prediction for the flow rate at New Madrid, the Mississippi River gauge just downstream from Cairo, is 1.89 million cfs on May 7, so this flood is not expected to be a 1-in-500 year Project Flood. In theory, the levee system is designed to withstand this flood. But the Army Corps is in for the flood fight of its life, and it will be a long a difficult few weeks. Here's how Major General Michael Walsh of the Army Corps of Engineers described his decision yesterday to blow up the Birds Point levee:

"Everyone I have talked with--from boat operators, to labors, scientist and engineers, and truck drivers have all said the same thing--I never thought I would see the day that the river would reach these levels.

We have exceeded the record stage already at Cairo. We are on a course to break records at many points as the crest moves through the system. Sometimes people celebrate with "records"--but not this time. Making this decision is not easy or hard--it's simply grave-- because the decision leads to loss of property and livelihood--either in a floodway--or in an area that was not designed to flood. The state of Missouri has done a superb job of helping people escape the ravages of water in the floodway. But other places--not designed to flood have had no warning if their areas succumb to the pressures of this historic chocolate tide.

I spent last night on the river...lashed to an anchor barge in the current near the top of the floodway. The rains continued to pound the deck of the Motor Vessel. The cold winds moved us around--and the current and water levels kept increasing as the rain storms continue to grow over the Ar/Miss/Ohio/TN Watershed.

So, with the tool that has withstood many tests: the test of operation in 1937; decades of challenges that resulted in the 1986 Operation Plan; reviews and numerous unsuccessful court challenges--I have to use this tool. I have to activate this floodway to help capture a significant percentage of the flow.

I don't have to like it but we must use everything we have in our possession, in the system to prevent a more catastrophic event. So, today, I give the order to operate the Floodway."



Jeff Masters

Wappapello Spillway (KittenGotClaws)
Water going over the emergency spillway. A temp berm was built hoping to hold back the water but the extra rains we got pushed it over the edge.
Wappapello Spillway

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Quoting IKE:

"Pump the ridge"

"pattern change"

"the GOM is prime in 2011"

"have you seen those SST's?"

"where's JFV?"

"who is this stormW, you're talking about?"

"it's almost always quiet in June"

"IKE is a downcaster"

"It's heading straight for Florida!"(even though it's 3,500 miles away)




And when there is lull in tropical systems Florida will be doing this...

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399. IKE

Quoting RastaSteve:


I wonder if the ridge pumping comment swill come back.
"Pump the ridge"

"pattern change"

"the GOM is prime in 2011"

"have you seen those SST's?"

"where's JFV?"

"who is this stormW, you're talking about?"

"it's almost always quiet in June"

"IKE is a downcaster"

"It's heading straight for Florida!"(even though it's 3,500 miles away)


Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
The TUTT is forecast by the GFS to clear out of the Caribbean by 48hrs. Things should start to change quite drastically over the next 5 days. Below is the 120hr 200mb winds from the GFS. The US is in the upper left of the top image. Notice the sub tropical jet starting to lift North.

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"Certainty's a big word." The following things WILL happen during this year's blogging season:

1. StormW will return.
2. Taz will hunt down any and every JFV alias.
3. Destin Jeff will be banned at least 3 times.
4. The ridge will definitely be pumped!

Have a great day!
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Quoting ChillinInTheKeys:


Imagine how great it would be if the first storm wasn't named 'till say August 16th. You know...
... like "92".


uhm...NO. I would NOT like a repeat of 1992.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting aquak9:
oh, if we went till august with no named storms? this place'd be like one flew over the cuckoo's nest.


Imagine how great it would be if the first storm wasn't named 'till say August 16th. You know...
... like "92".
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The Chart! Bahahhahha
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oh, if we went till august with no named storms? this place'd be like one flew over the cuckoo's nest.
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Quoting CanesfanatUT:


Majority of those profits were not in the US, sir.

True. But it's also true that the companies that made the profits in question are: Chevron, ExxonMobil, Occidental, Koch, Marathon, ConocoPhillips, Anadarko, Hess, and so on.

I've never said, nor ever would, that the billions in tax subsidies given to these--the most profitable corporations in the most profitable industry the world has ever known--have more than an infinitesimal effect on prices at the pump. What I have said is that a country facing tough economic times shouldn't have difficulty deciding whether to a) subsidize those hugely profitable corporations or b) make sure senior citizens can afford at least minimal health care. The fact that it's even debated shows just how tightly is the grip Big Oil has on many (most?) politicians.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13800
'Scuse Me While I Whip This Out!

Quoting IKE:

LOL! I don't see a May Atlantic system anytime soon. Will it be a slow start to the season?

................................................. .............................................

The chart~


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388. IKE

Quoting aquak9:
Lord'a'Mercy, Ike's posting TheChart. Definitely a return to Classic Ike.

No named storms till mid-July.
lol.....could be August!


Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Complete Update





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Lord'a'Mercy, Ike's posting TheChart. Definitely a return to Classic Ike.

No named storms till mid-July.
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384. IKE

Quoting DestinJeff:


oh, i see shades of Classic Ike in that comment! Welcome home, Ike.
LOL! I don't see a May Atlantic system anytime soon. Will it be a slow start to the season?

................................................. .............................................

The chart~


Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
I'd start watching the area to the north east of panama for tropical development over the next 144hrs...
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Quoting RastaSteve:


LOL! Rita I think that over the next few weeks the rains should hopefully start kicking in for the Gulf Coast areas from TX to FL.


Not for TX
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Quoting RastaSteve:


China


Unsure - they just list this (billions):

Earnings (U.S. GAAP)
Upstream
United States
1,279
Non-U.S.
7,396
Downstream
United States
694
Non-U.S.
405
Chemical
United States
669
Non-U.S.
847
Corporate and financing
(640)
Net income attributable to ExxonMobil
10,650
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Looks as if the Blog has been sucked into a black hole. No energy escaping. 30+ minutes between posts.
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Quoting IKE:
I noticed the price of a barrel down $2.30 today or at $106.94 a barrel.


WTI getting hammered - down 3.94 $/bbl (so 105.35 on the front month)
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Quoting Neapolitan:

At first glance, such numbers are disturbing. But then you read that the major oil companies made $30 billion in profit the first three months of this year--nearly a quarter of a million dollars a minute--and you start to feel better again. And knowing that those same incredibly profitable companies get billions more in annual tax subsidies makes it even sweeter... :-\

GasPriceWatch.com says Chicago has the nation's highest-price gas this morning at $4.69 a gallon. Nice...


Majority of those profits were not in the US, sir.
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Weather in 4-D.

There is a space-time vortex around Earth.

NASA Announces Results of Epic Space-Time experiment.

Link
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that's why I don't watch mainstream media, Ike. It tries to herd people's thoughts like cattle, and is often successful in guiding folks thought processes.
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snippets from msnbc.com:

Arkansas closed a 15-mile stretch of westbound lanes of one of the busiest road arteries in the nation, Interstate 40, due to flooding, according to the state's transportation department. More than 31,000 vehicles travel daily through the section of road closed, said Glenn Bolick, a spokesman for the Arkansas Transportation Department.

In Hickman, Ky., Morrison Williamson said he was confident the floodwall about 10 feet from the hardware store he manages will save it, even though two rivulets of the swollen Mississippi River sprout from reinforcing timbers on the structure like water from a garden hose.

Williamson was in a nearly deserted downtown and while his secretary is too worried to work in the store, he's kept it open for customers who need flood-fighting supplies. He thinks the decision to break open a Missouri levee upstream has kept the river from topping the floodwall, and that has saved many communities 20 miles to the south in Tennessee.

"They say blowing up the levee saved Cairo (Ill.). Well, it did. But if this breaks, you're talking Dyersburg, Ridgely, Tiptonville, water all the way to Memphis," Williamson said.
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369. IKE

Quoting aquak9:
greetings, friends and fiends. (lifts steaming coffee cup, 365º)

Good read back here.

Ike- I think it's gonna be Tuscaloosa's story, it's gonna be all of Alabama's story. It's "A country boy can survive". My hope is that Alabama will become a new shining star of the south, rebuilding with good-hearted people.

Alabama's future (my vision)? So many people from all over the country are going to see what kinda people these "country boys" are, and decide to move businesses and industries in. Hard-working, honest people, never giving up on what they believe in.
Give the story another 10 days. It won't be mentioned much anymore. It isn't much now since Mr. Evil got what was coming to him. At least not on network news.

Memo to network news: Bin Laden is dead. Move on. They can drive any story into the ground.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
greetings, friends and fiends. (lifts steaming coffee cup, 365º)

Good read back here.

Ike- I think it's gonna be Tuscaloosa's story, it's gonna be all of Alabama's story. It's "A country boy can survive". My hope is that Alabama will become a new shining star of the south, rebuilding with good-hearted people.

Alabama's future (my vision)? So many people from all over the country are going to see what kinda people these "country boys" are, and decide to move businesses and industries in. Hard-working, honest people, never giving up on what they believe in.
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362. IKE
Tampa and Orlando show a 30% chance of rain tomorrow. Miami shows a 40% chance for Friday.

................................................. .................................................

From Mobile,AL. discussion......yawn......

LONG TERM [SUNDAY THROUGH THURSDAY]...A DRY WARM WEATHER WILL
PERSIST THROUGH THE REMAINDER OF THE FORECAST AS UPPER RIDGING
GRADUALLY REBUILDS ACROSS THE REGION...AND SURFACE HIGH PRESSURE
REMAINS SITUATED OVER THE NORTHEASTERN GULF OF MEXICO. SUNDAYS HIGHS
WILL BE A DEGREE OR TWO HIGHER THAN SATURDAY. AS THE UPPER RIDGE
STRENGTHENS NEXT WEEK...HIGH TEMPERATURES MONDAY THROUGH THURSDAY
WILL BE ABOUT 5 TO 8 DEGREES ABOVE NORMAL INLAND AREAS...REACHING 88
TO 92 DEGREES. THE IMMEDIATE COASTAL SECTIONS WILL SEE HIGHS JUST
SLIGHTLY ABOVE NORMAL...REACHING 83 TO 87 DEGREES. LOW TEMPERATURES
MAINLY IN THE 60S SUNDAY NIGHT WILL CLIMB BACK INTO THE MID 60S TO
LOWER 70S BY MID WEEK. /22
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Quoting RastaSteve:
Expect a wet day today across S FL and then C FL tomorrow with a chance for strong to maybe even severe storms with such cold air aloft. We will take the rain though as tomorrow is looking wet for C FL. Infact this could be the biggest rain we've had since 4/4/2011.

BTW, Rasta, great call on this!

I noticed you caught a little flack the other day when none of the local Mets were calling for this but you did...nice work man! =)
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359. IKE
I noticed the price of a barrel down $2.30 today or at $106.94 a barrel.

................................................. .................................................. ..

5 day QPF.....


Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Quoting IKE:
>From CNN....

Your monthly gas bill: $368
The average U.S. household spent nearly 9% of its total income on gas in April.

At first glance, such numbers are disturbing. But then you read that the major oil companies made $30 billion in profit the first three months of this year--nearly a quarter of a million dollars a minute--and you start to feel better again. And knowing that those same incredibly profitable companies get billions more in annual tax subsidies makes it even sweeter... :-\

GasPriceWatch.com says Chicago has the nation's highest-price gas this morning at $4.69 a gallon. Nice...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13800
357. IKE
Looking at the latest GFS and ECMWF runs....looks like the dry weather continues for the gulf coast for at least the next 7-10 days...maybe longer.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
356. IKE
By Monique Fields Monique Fields – Wed May  ;4, 4:40 pm ET

TUSCALOOSA, Ala (Reuters) – The list of missing people in storm-ravaged
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, has been reduced to 75 and the number of dead from the
storms remains steady at 40, Mayor Walt Maddox said on Wednesday.
One week after the April 27 storms that killed more than 230 people across
Alabama, Maddox said he is crafting a plan for rebuilding.
"I'm hopeful and prayerful as time goes by the story about Tuscaloosa is not
going to be the tornado," the mayor told reporters. "The story of Tuscaloosa
will be how we rebuilt the city."
Maddox said about 900 Alabama Power customers still do not have power within
the city, home to the University of Alabama, which canceled final exams and
postponed graduation ceremonies until August.
But public schools have reopened and traffic has been restored on major
streets and avenues.
In Tuscaloosa County, more than 126 miles of roads have been cleared of
debris and all county roads are open, Probate Judge W. Hardy McCollum said.
The city and county continue to receive help from law enforcement and fire
departments from across the state and Louisiana.
Eleven search and recovery teams from Louisiana canvassed the city on
Wednesday, using cadaver dogs to look for any remaining storm victims.
"They're going back through all the debris," said Heather McCollum, a city
spokeswoman. "We haven't quit searching since it happened."
Law enforcement officials also continue to clear names from the "persons of
concern" list.
Initially, more than 800 people were reported missing in the city, Heather
McCollum said. But the list included duplications and names of people who left
town after the storms.
Officials have been visiting shelters and making phone calls to account for
those on the list. Most people are found alive, but "we do realize that we will
likely find more fatalities," Heather McCollum said.
(Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Jerry Norton)

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
354. IKE
50.4 degrees outside my window.

................................................. ..........................................

From CNN....

Your monthly gas bill: $368
The average U.S. household spent nearly 9% of its total income on gas in April.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Quoting eddy12:
...the point i was trying to make is his post 292 claims that he made this prediction of major flooding down south from the snow pack is a falsehood at best and an outright lie at worst...if i am wrong i will be the first to admit it

From Dr. Masters above: "Snow melt from this winter's record snow pack across the Upper Mississippi River has formed a pulse of flood waters that is moving downstream on the Mississippi."

Still want to go with your "outright lie" comment? ;-)

Good morning, morning people. Another day of disastrous flooding...but at least the south will start to warm after the cold spell brought on by last week's tornado-producing blob o'cold.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13800
By TOMOKO A. HOSAKA,The Associated Press,

Japan disaster's other hidden danger: Asbestos

SENDAI, Japan — Inside the chunks of slate and wallboard smashed and scattered by Japan's tsunami hides a health risk that has been overshadowed by contamination from a leaking nuclear plant: the odorless and nearly invisible threat of asbestos.

Read more in this Link
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Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:


It was supposed to be a humorous response to the speculation that the flooding of the farmland would provide an "excuse" for higher grain prices not investment advice. Oh well if you have to explain it, it wasn't a good joke. k-tung (rimshot)guess i better stick to my day job.


my bad, sorry :)

WTO
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350. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Philippines Atmospheric Geophysical Astrological Service and Administration
Tropical Cyclone Outlook
====================================

At 10:00 AM PhST, the Low Pressure Area was estimated based on satellite and surface data at 280 km East of Surigao City 9.5°N, 128.2°E.

This disturbance is expected to bring scattered rain showers and thunderstorms in the Bicol Region, Visayas and Mindanao becoming widespread rains over the Bicol Region, Visayas and Northeastern Mindanao which may trigger flash floods and landslides.

Residents living in low lying areas, along river banks and near mountain slopes are advised to take all the necessary precautionary measures.
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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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