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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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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Interesting slide show on the effects of the tsunami on Japanese coastal areas. There is a slide on the bottom that controls portions seen of the before and of the after views.
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First thought is that it could cause negative tilting down the line.
Member Since: January 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 3259
Quoting KoritheMan:

What sort of research?


Current & forecast position. However, it will be interesting to see what effect the STJ has on this portrayed trough as they will be interacting with each other. Updated maps portray a very sharp & deep trough.
Member Since: January 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 3259

Quoting CyclonicVoyage:
Doing some research on the STJ
What sort of research?
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Quoting Skyepony:
Situation Update No. 2
On 05.05.2011 at 03:13 GMT+2

Members of a First Nation community near one of the largest oil spills in Alberta's history say fumes from the leaking crude are making them sick. A pipeline break northeast of Peace River, Alta., has leaked 28,000 barrels (nearly 4.5 million litres) of crude oil since Friday. Lubicon Cree residents of Little Buffalo, Alta., 30 kilometres from the spill site, say they've been experiencing nausea, burning eyes and headaches since the leak began. The community closed its school and ordered children to stay at home. "It has been four days since classes were suspended due to the noxious odours in the air," said Brian Alexander, principal of Little Buffalo School. "The children and staff at the school were disorientated, getting headaches and feeling sick to their stomachs. "We tried to send the children outside to get fresh air as it seemed worse in the school, but when we sent them out they were getting sick as well." The oil is now contained and about 100 workers are working to recover oil from sand and a nearby pond, said the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board. Neither the ERCB nor the owner of the pipeline, Plains Midstream Canada, has spoken directly with the band, said Chief Steve Nosky. "The ERCB is not being accountable to our community; they did not even show up to our community meeting to inform us of the unsettling situation we are dealing with," he said. more



We are really driving a nail into our world, so sad.
Member Since: January 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 3259
thanks for that KTM. Doing some research on the STJ and came across a possible problem in the near future.
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Maps just updated, trough is deeper.
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Quoting CyclonicVoyage:
That's a pretty significant trough portrayed on the GFS @ 144hrs. If true, I would expect another round of severe weather.


ZCZC SPCSWOD48 ALL
ACUS48 KWNS 040759
SPC AC 040759

DAY 4-8 CONVECTIVE OUTLOOK
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
0259 AM CDT WED MAY 04 2011

VALID 071200Z - 121200Z

...DISCUSSION...
MODELS DEPICT A WNWLY FLOW REGIME FROM THE PACIFIC NW INTO THE MID
ATLANTIC ON SAT/D4 WITH PERHAPS AN EMBEDDED DISTURBANCE MOVING
QUICKLY EWD SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THE NRN PLAINS INTO THE OH VALLEY. BY
THIS TIME...LOW LEVEL MOISTURE WILL HAVE BEGUN TO RETURN NWD FROM
THE SRN PLAINS INTO THE LOWER MO VALLEY. ELEVATED THUNDERSTORMS MAY
BE ONGOING SAT MORNING OVER PORTIONS OF IA/MO/IL/IND...SHIFTING EWD
AS A LOW LEVEL JET VEERS. SEVERITY OF THIS CONVECTION WILL DEPEND ON
THE STRENGTH OF ANY UPPER SUPPORT...BUT AS PREVIOUSLY ALLUDED
TO...PREDICTABILITY IS NOT HIGH AT THIS TIME.

BY SUN/D5...THERE IS STRONG EVIDENCE THAT A LARGE UPPER TROUGH WILL
BEGIN TO TAKE SHAPE ACROSS THE WRN STATES WITH AN 80+ KT MID LEVEL
JET DIGGING SWD ALONG THE W COAST. THE BOUQUET OF MREF SOLUTIONS AS
WELL AS DETERMINISTIC MODELS SHOW LITTLE AGREEMENT ON D5 WITH HOW
QUICKLY AND HOW FAR S THIS TROUGH WILL DEVELOP. THIS WILL HAVE AN
IMPACT ON THE PROBABILITY OF SEVERE CONVECTION OVER THE SRN/CNTRL
HIGH PLAINS NEAR THE DRYLINE WHERE CAPPING WILL BE A CONCERN...AND
ALSO WITH POSSIBLE NOCTURNAL CONVECTION FOCUSED OVER NEB/IA/MO/IL
OVERNIGHT WITH A SWLY LOW LEVEL JET. BOTH THESE AREAS HAVE
POTENTIAL...BUT NOT ENOUGH TO INTRODUCE ANY SEVERE AREAS WITH SUCH
UNCERTAINTY.

FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE PERIOD MON/D6 TO WED/D8...THERE WILL LIKELY
BE A SEVERE THREAT EACH DAY ALONG THE DRYLINE ACROSS THE CNTRL/SRN
PLAINS
...AND PERHAPS EXTENDING EWD FROM A SURFACE LOW/WARM FRONT
ACROSS THE MIDWESTERN REGION AS THE UPPER TROUGH...AND/OR PIECES OF
THE TROUGH EMERGE OVER THE REGION.

SEVERE AREAS BEGINNING SUN/MAY 8TH AND LASTING THROUGH ABOUT MAY
10TH ARE LIKELY FORTHCOMING FOR MUCH OF THE CNTRL U.S. AS THE EVENT
NEARS AND PREDICTABILITY INCREASES.
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341. Skyepony (Mod)
Situation Update No. 2
On 05.05.2011 at 03:13 GMT+2

Members of a First Nation community near one of the largest oil spills in Alberta's history say fumes from the leaking crude are making them sick. A pipeline break northeast of Peace River, Alta., has leaked 28,000 barrels (nearly 4.5 million litres) of crude oil since Friday. Lubicon Cree residents of Little Buffalo, Alta., 30 kilometres from the spill site, say they've been experiencing nausea, burning eyes and headaches since the leak began. The community closed its school and ordered children to stay at home. "It has been four days since classes were suspended due to the noxious odours in the air," said Brian Alexander, principal of Little Buffalo School. "The children and staff at the school were disorientated, getting headaches and feeling sick to their stomachs. "We tried to send the children outside to get fresh air as it seemed worse in the school, but when we sent them out they were getting sick as well." The oil is now contained and about 100 workers are working to recover oil from sand and a nearby pond, said the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board. Neither the ERCB nor the owner of the pipeline, Plains Midstream Canada, has spoken directly with the band, said Chief Steve Nosky. "The ERCB is not being accountable to our community; they did not even show up to our community meeting to inform us of the unsettling situation we are dealing with," he said. more
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That's a pretty significant trough portrayed on the GFS @ 144hrs. If true, I would expect another round of severe weather.
Member Since: January 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 3259
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Quoting WatchingThisOne:


Nothing is "almost a sure bet to go higher." Not on a weather blog, where discussion of the notion is not appropriate.

Thanks, WTO


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.
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not wishing a hurricane for the W PAC or any thing but i hop they have s better season this year then lasy year in the means of more name storms
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Quoting CyclonicVoyage:
Sub Tropical Jet Starting it's ascent.

It's nice news.Hurricane season is closer and closer!
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144hr GFS, right on Cue.

Member Since: January 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 3259
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Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
For what it's worth (a lot if you've got the money) grain futures are through the roof and almost a sure bet to go higher. The drought in the European grain belt (Ukraine and Russia) and the severe weather in the US preventing the harvest of the winter wheat crop are already affecting world food prices. No conspiracy there just supply and demand.


Nothing is "almost a sure bet to go higher." Not on a weather blog, where discussion of the notion is not appropriate.

Thanks, WTO
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Quoting Chicklit:
Hey aquak, don't get me started.
I have this album (Blood on the Tracks); one of my faves:
BucketsofRain


That song and that album have been favorites of mine since, well you know when the album came out :)

WTO
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The jet should provide some ample rains come Thursday night into Friday. Once the jet rises north of the peninsula our rainy season will start up.
Member Since: January 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 3259
This is the 4.5 day forecast from the GFS. One can see the polar jet in gray to the north and the sub tropical jet to the south in gray.

Member Since: January 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 3259
Sub Tropical Jet Starting it's ascent.
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Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:

Link
happens all the time in the summer here in sarasota,except approcaching from the east,4 out of 5 times thats exactly what happens ,i even have a name for.it,I call it the"sarasota split"...
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326. beell
Quoting eddy12:
red river of the north has nothing to do with the mississippi your reading must be and i'm guessing here from down by the red river of the south


Yup.
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324. beell
First forecast is from April 28th. Using Red River Landing as representative of this part of the river. Second line is from this evening's forecast.

Flood Stage, Current Stage, and Crest and Crest Date in bold. A 5.5'change here.
Buncha folks sat up and took notice.

RED RIVER LNDG 48 48.1 0.4 48.8 49.2 50.1 51.2 52.3 60.0 05/21A
RED RIVER LNDG 48 53.3 0.9 54.4 55.5 56.7 57.9 59.0 65.5 5/23A
LMRFC
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
madrid shaker is possible with all the water flowing that would be the icing on the cake i reckon


So hypothetically, if the New Madrid fault just decided to do a big slip/erupt under a flooded plain, or under the riverbed while this flood is happening, would it cause a wave(s)? It's a reverse fault, but not sure if that would cause enough thrust at all, or would any water above just go down into the cracks that are already occuring along that fault? It would make a good movie in any case.
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Quoting Chicklit:
Hey aquak, don't get me started.
I have this album (Blood on the Tracks); one of my faves:
BucketsofRain

Thanks very much.
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320. beell
Quoting eddy12:
Neap I did not know all the flooding down south was because of the snow pack up north I thought it was mainly because of the foot plus rains but what do I or anybody else know.


The river was well into a significant spring rise already. Snowmelt played a big part in that. No doubt.

What changed was the 10-20" rains over the Arkansas and Ohio River Valleys over the past few weeks.

Forecasted/modeled crests took a substantial 2-3 foot rise early this week for the lower part of the Mississippi in response.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:

XX/AOI/XE
thanks
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Quoting BarometerGirl:
Link

I'm still trying to figure out how to embed a video..here's hoping.


Every Youtube video has some buttons underneath them. (Like / Add to / Share)

Click on Share / Click on Embed

The embeded code will appear... with some checkmark boxes

Before copying it --click and checkmark (Use old embed code - This blog accepts only old embed code) and select the size you want to embed... I usually use the 480x390

Select the size by clicking on it; that will update the embed code

Finally, select the embeded code, copy and paste it directly to the blog

Hope this helps...
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Link

I'm still trying to figure out how to embed a video..here's hoping.
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Quoting Patrap:


Thannx,I Wish,,have r shoulder arthroscopy at East Jefferson in the am..

Boo Hizz

Galactic plays tomorrow too.


Ah man - best of luck, sir. Heal up quick and let the good times roll.
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Thanks beell, you're a sweetheart.

g'nite friends, go in peace.
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Quoting Gearsts:

XX/AOI/XE
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Quoting Chicklit:
hey y'all since you're posting utube here's mine: PolarisZero7


Special music at least for me... Trip hop
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Quoting beell:


All I see is a big heartbreak of a ridge building over Texas...

oh no....

g'night wunderbuds.
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310. beell
Quoting sunlinepr:


All I see is a big heartbreak of a ridge building over Texas...

Happy Mother's Day, aqua. And to all the other Mothers.
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glad you fixed the link, chik, I was waiting.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 178 Comments: 26675
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Quoting twincomanche:

Just go ahead and bet on the grain futures. Many hearts have been broken on the sure thing.
No fear don't have $$. Just saying. Here I thought I was the pinko-lefty-socialist and you were the defender of the capitalist way!
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Hey aquak, don't get me started.
I have this album (Blood on the Tracks); one of my faves:
BucketsofRain
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11424
that's a pretty amazing cover, there, chik.
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One good turn deserves another.ShelterfromtheStormLink

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hi squawk! errr... I was just, err, getting over much needed laughter attack....granny smith and all....
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Quoting aquak9:


SNORK!! SQUAWK!!! ERRKKKGGHHH!!! CHOKING ON FOOD!!

BEELL!!!!


You rang???
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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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