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 aquak9:


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

BEELL!!!!


You rang???
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
stop being funny beell


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

BEELL!!!!
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25910
chicklit- I always enjoyed the chord changes of Zero7. Good stuff.

Nea- I wish I dreamed like that video.

Doc did a blog, oh a coupla months back? saying the flooding was gonna be BAD. But it's not over yet...
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25910
stop being funny beell
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294. Jax82
Quoting aquak9:
pretty big fire in the Okeefenokee swamp, just north of the Fla/Ga border.

Yep, that's smoke you see on the radar.




You can see it, you can smell it, and it was a nice sunset with the smoke turning the sun and sky red! Windows are open, its gonna be a nice night :)
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hey y'all since you're posting utube here's mine: PolarisZero7
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U.S. to blow third hole in levee as floods worsen

The government prepared to blow up a third section of a Mississippi River levee on Wednesday to manage flooding, as a wall of water roared down the nation's largest river system, threatening towns and cities all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blew up a two-mile section of the Birds Point levee Monday night, inundating about 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland in a desperate attempt to ease flooding in towns in Illinois and Kentucky.

Water levels did recede but a second, smaller section was detonated Tuesday afternoon to allow water back into the river. The third and last blast was scheduled for Wednesday evening once explosive materials reached the site, Corps spokesman Jim Pogue said.

The Corps, which is responsible for the system of locks and dams along the Mississippi River, would then turn its attention to the growing threat further south.

The levee system in Mississippi is holding for now but it has never been tested like this before, officials said.

"Compared to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 this flood is going to be a lot nastier," said Marty Pope, senior hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Jackson.

Reuters Article...

You know, some of us wrote a few weeks ago of the massive flooding that was forecast, and were chastised roundly here by some saying the northern snows had been gone for weeks so the threat of any major flooding had long passed.

Just sayin'... ;-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13526
Quoting BarometerGirl:


So now that the farmland is flooded, expect it to be used as the the excuse for grain prices going up this summer, even though most or all of that wheat and corn likely goes overseas. If so, then we'll know there is corporate spin behind it.

Yes, I'm cynical, but I'm willing to make such a prediction just to see if it comes to pass in the spirit of gathering data and testing theories. I just hope I am wrong!

My take is that the farmland is not ConAgra, or it would never have been allowed. Unless they got a big kickback/subsidy/tax break for allowing it, and then the subcontractor farmers get completely left out of that game.
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.
Member Since: September 9, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 4687
Quoting scooster67:
(Memphis, TN) %u2013 Memphis in May International Festival organizers announced today that due to the historic flooding, the venue for the 2011 World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest will be moved.

Forced to leave Tom Lee Park due to the rising waters of the Mississippi River, organizers will relocate the event to Tiger Lane in the Memphis Fairgrounds. The dates of the event will remain the same, May 12 %u2013 14, 2011. All other aspects of the event, but the location, will be as scheduled.

Well, that won't be the same. I've been to MIM twice in the last five years; great event.

Heya, aqua. You like the funk, huh? Heart of Steel has been on my iPod for a while. It's a good one.

Speaking of songs that somehow seemed better before they were twisted and overexposed on a TV commercial, I kinda like this one. Or did: Link
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13526
(Memphis, TN) – Memphis in May International Festival organizers announced today that due to the historic flooding, the venue for the 2011 World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest will be moved.

Forced to leave Tom Lee Park due to the rising waters of the Mississippi River, organizers will relocate the event to Tiger Lane in the Memphis Fairgrounds. The dates of the event will remain the same, May 12 – 14, 2011. All other aspects of the event, but the location, will be as scheduled.
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Quoting Patrap:
We have Cargill here in Resverve,LA above the Bonnet Carre Spillway a few Miles,,I used to tie up and release Grain ,Big Grain Tankers ,some with 8 Holds.


Thats why the Deep port in NOLA and Above to Baton Rouge is so vitally Important for the Nations economy.

Steel,Fuels,Grain,Cars,aluminum,copper,all modes of economic production and trade leave via the Deep water Below Baton Rouge to points Globally.

And the flooding to the farmland is catastrophic and complete if it you or your community.


The Big Muddy may just set some new records,,pray tell to God the New Madrid dosent shake out a major during it.

Dat would be BAD Mojo.



madrid shaker is possible with all the water flowing that would be the icing on the cake i reckon
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(blushes)

oh Hi nea!
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25910
"Deep down inside..."

Link
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25910
Lord knows I don't wanna post a youtube song here, but man oh man...Galactic's Heart of Steel can make a dead man dance.

It's probably the hottest, sexiest swaying song I've ever heard. You just can't listen to it without wanting to get your groove on.

Enjoy it, Pat.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25910
Quoting Patrap:
.."I wished I lived in the Golden,Living it up on a Broadway stage"..

Great tune--but I prefer the pre-Heineken video a bit more. ;-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13526
Have the "Memphis in May" festivals been canceled? It is the best time of the year there this time of year.
Damn River!
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.."I wished I lived in the Golden Age,Living it up on a Broadway stage"..
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 128240
Quoting CanesfanatUT:


No doubt. It's the lifeblood - why the industry calls it just "the River". :)

Enjoy rd 2 of Jazz Fest for me!!


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

Boo Hizz

Galactic plays tomorrow too.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 128240
Quoting Patrap:
We have Cargill here in Resverve,LA above the Bonnet Carre Spillway a few Miles,,I used to tie up and release Grain ,Big Grain Tankers ,some with 8 Holds.


Thats why the Deep port in NOLA and Above to Baton Rouge is so vitally Important for the Nations economy.

Steel,Fuels,Grain,Cars,aluminum,copper,all modes of economic production and trade leave via the Deep water Below Baton Rouge to points Globally.

And the flooding to the farmland is catastrophic and complete if it you or your community.


The Big Muddy may just set some new records,,pray tell to God the New Madrid dosent shake out a major during it.

Dat would be BAD Mojo.





No doubt. It's the lifeblood - why the industry calls it just "the River". :)

Enjoy rd 2 of Jazz Fest for me!!
Member Since: September 3, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 527
Quoting beell:
RIVER FORECAST...LOWER OHIO/MISSISSIPPI RIVER...
LOWER MISSISSIPPI RIVER FORECAST CENTER
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SLIDELL LA
423PM CDT Wed May 4 2011

BATON ROUGE 35 35.9 1.0 36.9 37.9 39.0 40.1 41.1 47.5 5/23P

Flood stage, current stage, crest and crest date in bold.
LMRFC

There is a "Previous Versions" at upper right of the linked page if you're tracking day to day changes.


I have been tracking it for a while now - figured it could get interesting but this has surprised me. Thanks to Dr Masters and everyone on here.
Member Since: September 3, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 527
We have Cargill here in Resverve,LA above the Bonnet Carre Spillway a few Miles,,I used to tie up and release Grain ,Big Grain Tankers ,some with 8 Holds.


Thats why the Deep port in NOLA and Above to Baton Rouge is so vitally Important for the Nations economy.

Steel,Fuels,Grain,Cars,aluminum,copper,all modes of economic production and trade leave via the Deep water Below Baton Rouge to points Globally.

And the flooding to the farmland is catastrophic and complete if it you or your community.


The Big Muddy may just set some new records,,pray tell to God the New Madrid dosent shake out a major during it.

Dat would be BAD Mojo.



Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 128240
Quoting WoodyFL:
quiet here. Wheres everybody? Looking for some river info. anything to be watching for?


Going to be a HUGE deal for any plant north of NORCO, LA here in a week and a half or so (Carre spillway will protect NORCO and NO and Chalmette/Mereaux). Our docks will probably be under water near the crest date of the 23rd. So big impact on refining and chemicals.
Member Since: September 3, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 527
Quoting WaterWitch11:
“Feelings about this are all over the place.

“The truth is, Cairo could have been evacuated and flooded and it wouldn’t have caused the economic devastation that has been caused by flooding the farmland.


Link


So now that the farmland is flooded, expect it to be used as the the excuse for grain prices going up this summer, even though most or all of that wheat and corn likely goes overseas. If so, then we'll know there is corporate spin behind it.

Yes, I'm cynical, but I'm willing to make such a prediction just to see if it comes to pass in the spirit of gathering data and testing theories. I just hope I am wrong!

My take is that the farmland is not ConAgra, or it would never have been allowed. Unless they got a big kickback/subsidy/tax break for allowing it, and then the subcontractor farmers get completely left out of that game.
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ESL by LSU HURRICANES Picture Gallery



Hurricane Ivan, September 2004, GOES Water Vapor
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 128240
Hottest place on the planet today ... Matam, Senegal - inland due east of the Cape Verde islands. 115 degrees, < 30% humidity.

Matam is in the Sahal, a semi-arid strip of land between tropical Africa to the south and the Sahara desert to the north. The Sahal has an effect on hurricane development, I believe by providing heat for convection on the northern side of lows traversing west in the ITCZ. Please correct if I am in error.

Anyways, it's heating up :)

WTO
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quiet here. Wheres everybody? Looking for some river info. anything to be watching for?
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272. beell
RIVER FORECAST...LOWER OHIO/MISSISSIPPI RIVER...
LOWER MISSISSIPPI RIVER FORECAST CENTER
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SLIDELL LA
423PM CDT Wed May 4 2011

BATON ROUGE 35 35.9 1.0 36.9 37.9 39.0 40.1 41.1 47.5 5/23P

Flood stage, current stage, crest and crest date in bold.
LMRFC

There is a "Previous Versions" at upper right of the linked page if you're tracking day to day changes.
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 142 Comments: 16591
Quoting aquak9:
? About the most civil day, here, ever.

I think it was the force of the fifth we've been passing around....


It's because it's Star Wars Day - Use the fourth aqua, use the forth
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Hey everyone - awaiting today's fcst for the River's level in BR/Red River/Donaldsonville.
Member Since: September 3, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 527
haha, brilliant, Caicos.

Now you're giving me ideas... The NHC could do something similar with Florida-casters when they refresh the adivsory page with the new track forecast too often. I wish I had my laptop with that awesome drawing tool...
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Hey CRS- good save. I tried to grab it from the quote, but I couldn't figure out the closure code.

Too cute.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25910

Link
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Quoting Patrap:
Here's one to ponder,,who expects a East Pac Storm to form First..since the Season there starts May 15,,or do you Expect the Atlantic Basin to spit one out before June 1?

Im gonna go with the Atlantic,,

I expect the WPAC to pop out it's 3rd TD in the next 24-48hrs. 93W is looking really good.



THE AREA OF CONVECTION PREVIOUSLY LOCATED NEAR 8.3N
131.3E, IS NOW LOCATED NEAR 9.4N 129.0E, APPROXIMATELY 180 NM EAST
OF MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES. ANIMATED INFRARED SATELLITE IMAGERY SHOWS
AN IMPROVED LOW LEVEL CIRCULATION CENTER (LLCC) ASSOCIATED WITH
INCREASED DEEP CONVECTION ALTHOUGH STILL UNORGANIZED. A 041116Z
SSMIS MICROWAVE IMAGE DEPICTS IMPROVED LOW LEVEL INFLOW AND A
040922Z WINDSAT PASS DEPICTS A WELL-DEFINED LLCC WITH 15 TO 20 KNOT
CENTRAL WINDS. ADDITIONALLY, A BUOY APPROXIMATELY 100 NM AWAY IS
REPORTING A 1005 MB SEA LEVEL PRESSURE AND FAVORABLE SEA SURFACE
TEMPERATURES OF 29 DEGREES CELSIUS. UPPER LEVEL ANALYSIS INDICATES
THE LLCC IS LOCATED BENEATH THE RIDGE AXIS IN AN AREA OF LOW
VERTICAL WIND SHEAR AND EXCELLENT UPPER LEVEL DIVERGENCE. MAXIMUM
SUSTAINED SURFACE WINDS ARE ESTIMATED AT 15 TO 20 KNOTS. MINIMUM SEA
LEVEL PRESSURE IS ESTIMATED TO BE NEAR 1005 MB. SEE REF A (WTPN21
PGTW 041400) FOR FURTHER DETAILS. THE POTENTIAL FOR THE DEVELOPMENT
OF A SIGNIFICANT TROPICAL CYCLONE WITHIN THE NEXT 24 HOURS IS
UPGRADED TO GOOD
.
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Quoting aspectre:

Discussions are underway to keep the 100tonne sightseeing catamaran Hamayuri, that landed on the roof of an inn after being swept inland 400metres, in place as a memorial of the GreatTohokuEarthquake disaster.

A refreshing change from Germany, which decided to pretend that "WWII never happened" after the Fall of the BerlinWall.


I don't what exactly is refreshing about that but I have to disagree on the statement regarding Germany and the memory of WWII.

Gedächtniskirche right in the centre of Berlin

Or all the memorial sites at former concentration camps, e.g. the one in Dachau which I visited when I was in Secondary School.

A guided tour of a former concentration camp is more or less mandatory for all students aged 15-17 in Germany and these excursions are partly funded by the ministry of education.
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Mississippi River levee breach floods 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland [Video]
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs


Flood fears spread south along the Mississippi
ADRIAN SAINZ, Associated Press, JIM SUHR,
Associated Press
Updated 06:46 p.m., Wednesday, May 4, 2011


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pretty big fire in the Okeefenokee swamp, just north of the Fla/Ga border.

Yep, that's smoke you see on the radar.


Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25910

This feature doesnt look so good on wv. I had a related question. How does the Atlantic upper level pattern look for may development? Looks like its conducive to subtropical development but what about tropical, west Caribbean?
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I thought it WAS abstra-

oh, never mind.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25910
Quoting xcool:



quite interesting looking at image...


at 216 hours, you might as well be looking at abstract art :)
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2011's well on track on becoming one of the most active tornado seasons ever..
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? About the most civil day, here, ever.

I think it was the force of the fifth we've been passing around....
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25910
Quoting atmoaggie:
? About the most civil day, here, ever.
I must have missed something...something that I would be better off missing anyway.
;-)


Atmo, you didn't miss anything. It's more of a lifetime achievement award. It's all good.
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“Feelings about this are all over the place.

“The truth is, Cairo could have been evacuated and flooded and it wouldn’t have caused the economic devastation that has been caused by flooding the farmland.


Link
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FWIW, I only learned what FWIW meant a few weeks ago.

Played with that acronym a VERY long time before I gave up and asked...
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25910
i'm not understanding why there is not more images of the aftermath of the levees being blown up.

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Quoting Patrap:


Im gonna have to take the 5th


i'll drink it
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Quoting lickitysplit:
good article on background to current midwestern flood: http://www.wildlandspermaculture.com/thewaterdidit /

Link that works. (You can't have any spaces in a URL)
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Quoting StAugustineFL:
FWIW, ignored my first handle today.
? About the most civil day, here, ever.
I must have missed something...something that I would be better off missing anyway.
;-)
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461

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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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