Record floods on Mississippi River, Lake Champlain; 3rd EF-5 tornado verified

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:40 PM GMT on May 06, 2011

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The Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois continues to fall today, with a level of 59.3', 2.5' below the all-time peak of 61.8' set on Monday night. On Monday night, the Army Corps of Engineers was forced to intentionally destroy a levee at Birds Point on the west bank of the Mississippi, just downstream from Cairo, Illinois, in order to relieve pressure on the levees in Cairo and save that city from a billion-dollar levee breach. The destruction of the Birds Point levee also helped slow the rise of the Mississippi River just south of its confluence with the Ohio River, but the river is still rising slowly, and has now set all-time records at New Madrid, Missouri, Tiptonville, Tennessee, and Caruthersville, Missouri--a 70-mile stretch of river downstream from Cairo. Currently, the Mississippi is expected to reach its 2nd highest level on record at Memphis on May 10, cresting at 48.0'. The all-time record at Memphis occurred during the great flood of 1937, when the river hit 48.7'. Downstream from Memphis, flood waters pouring in from the Arkansas River, Yazoo River, and other tributaries are expected to swell the Mississippi high enough to beat the all-time record at Vicksburg, Mississippi by 1.3' on May 20, and smash the all-time record at Natchez, Mississippi by six feet on May 22, and by 3.2 feet at Red River Landing on May 23. Red River Landing is the site of the Old River Control Structure, the Army Corps' massive engineering structure that keeps the Mississippi River from carving a new path to the Gulf of Mexico. I'll have a detailed post talking about the Old River Control Structure next week. Its failure would be a serious blow to the U.S. economy, and the great Mississippi flood of 2011 will give the Old River Control Structure its most severe test ever. Also of concern is the forecast for the Mississippi to crest at 19.5 feet in New Orleans on May 24. The levees in New Orleans protect the city for a flood of 20.0 feet--that is not much breathing room. Fortunately, only 0.5 - 1.5 inches of rain are expected over the Missouri/Illinois region over the next five days, which should not raise flood heights significantly.

Good links to follow the flood:
Summary forecast of all crests on Lower Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
Wundermap for Cairo, IL with USGS River overlay turned on.
National Weather Service "May 2011 Mississippi River Flood" web page


Figure 1. Flooding of the farmland along the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway due to the intentional destruction of a levee along the west bank of the Mississippi River in Southeast Missouri is obvious in this pair of before and after photos. Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory.

Lake Champlain hits highest level since 1869; record flooding in Canada
The Governor of Vermont declared a state of emergency yesterday in Vermont due to flooding along Lake Champlain. Heavy rains over the past ten days, combined with snow melt have combined to push the lake ot three feet above flood stage, and the lake has now broken its previous record high, set in 1869. The flooding has caused numerous road closures but no evacuations in the U.S. The story is different in Quebec, Canada, where flood waters from Lake Champlain coursing down the Richelieu River have created a 150-year flood, forcing the evacuation of 1,000 people and the flooding of 3,000 homes and businesses in the Richelieu Valley, just south of Montreal. The lake level is expected to crest Saturday morning, then slowly fall. Lake Champlain is 120 miles long with nearly 600 miles of shoreline, making it the sixth largest natural lake in the U.S., trailing only the Great Lakes in size.


Figure 2. Five to eight inches of precipitation has fallen over much of the Lake Champlain watershed over the past two weeks. Image credit: NOAA/AHPS.

A third tornado from the April 27 Super Outbreak rated an EF-5
Yesterday, the Jackson, Mississippi office of the NWS upgraded the violent tornado that hit Neshoba, Kemper, Winston, and Noxubee Counties in the northeast part of the state to EF-5 status, with top winds of 205 mph. This tornado continued into Alabama and had a total path length of 92.3 miles. Three people died in the tornado, which was so powerful that it dug out the ground to a depth of two feet over an area 25 - 50 yards wide and several hundred yards long. This is the third tornado rated EF-5 from the April 27 outbreak; tornadoes that hit Smithville, MS and Hackleburg, AL also received EF-5 ratings.


Figure 3. EF-5 damage from the April 27, 2011 Neshoba tornado in Mississippi. The tornado was so powerful that it dug out the ground to a depth of two feet over an area 25 - 50 yards wide and several hundred yards long. Image credit: NWS.

Rare EF-2 tornado hits New Zealand
A tornado ripped through New Zealand's largest city, Auckland, on Tuesday, killing one person at a shopping mall and injuring at least fourteen others. The damage was rated EF-2, making the tornado one of the strongest in New Zealand's history. Below is some footage of the twister, showing why it is dangerous to be in a car during a tornado. (Note also the clockwise rotation of the tornado--this is the Southern Hemisphere, where storms rotate clockwise.)


Figure 4. Footage of the May 3, 2011 New Zealand tornado that passed through the Auckland suburb of Albany.

I'll have a new post Monday.

Jeff Masters

Flood 2011 Metropolis, IL (MikeShivers)
Market St looking south towards casino. Contrary to what the media makes you think, blowing the levee greatly helped in keeping the waters lower here. It wasn't just about Cairo, it helped a lot of communities. Flood stage is about 39 ft here, currently it is at about 61.5 feet it could have been closer to 65.
Flood 2011 Metropolis, IL
Flood 2011 Metropolis, IL (MikeShivers)
view from atop the casino barge looking north up Ferry St
Flood 2011 Metropolis, IL
Champlain in his Lake (Pedaltwister)
Isle La Motte, VT. St. Anne's Shrine Hey Hetzenwaelder these are more pictures of Lake Champlain at flood stage.
Champlain in his Lake

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44. Skyepony (Mod)
I've been watching the buoys, no sign of a tsunami.

Launch control thinks the cumulus cloud may clear by 6:45pm GMT.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 174 Comments: 38167
Quoting emcf30:


New video of the Smithville Tornado taken by workers at the Wilkens Locks and Dam

That thing was a monster! True wedge tornado... Gives me chills to think that it was easily 3/4 to a mile wide, if not more...
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Quoting BahaHurican:
I take the Azores, but I'm not sure if an earthquake in the PR trench would seriously impact the Bahamas.

True. The axis of the trench doesn't communicate a tsunami towards the Bahamas well. I was thinking more along the lines of the entire east coast, all the way up to Newfoundland.
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New video of the Smithville Tornado taken by workers at the Wilkens Locks and Dam
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1937
Quoting jeffs713:

The ridge pops off several times per year, and rarely up to a 6. No tsunami threat. The big tsunami threats are from the Azores (volcanic eruptions and undersea landslides), and the PR Trench.
I take the Azores, but I'm not sure if an earthquake in the PR trench would seriously impact the Bahamas.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22322
Quoting Skyepony:


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) in Mississippi deployed the National Weather Service's (NWS) first operational Wave Glider on April 13, 2011 to monitor real-time atmospheric conditions in the Gulf of Mexico. The Wave Glider is unique because it can convert surface wave energy into a forward thrust, which can be remotely controlled to keep the station at critical marine locations. A weather station has been built into the Wave Glider - thus the entire system can generally mimic a large 3-meter moored buoy without the need for expensive ship time, mooring line and servicing/refurbishing.

more here. The next one will have tsunami detector too.

THAT is awesome. With hurricanes, the more data they can get, the better. I have a feeling these are also less expensive to manufacture, so they can likely be used "on-the-fly", and positioned quickly in the face of oncoming storms. It would be like having ship reports, without the ship.
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38. Skyepony (Mod)
Holding 10min for weather..
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 174 Comments: 38167
37. Skyepony (Mod)
Atlas launch in less than 10 mins...
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 174 Comments: 38167
waiting for some rain!!! jun-jul


like this
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Quoting dfwWxDude:
Link

See this interesting article in the New Orleans newspaper site about river level concerns.

They have yet to decide to open the Morganza spillway, only the second time since its creation, which is not factored in the that 19.5 foot level, I think.


You are correct.
FORECAST ASSUME OPERATION OF BONNET CARRE, BUT NOT MORGANZA LMRFC

Thanks for the link!
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34. Skyepony (Mod)
Will be interesting to see how those Wave Gliders fair in a 'cane.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 174 Comments: 38167
33. Skyepony (Mod)


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) in Mississippi deployed the National Weather Service's (NWS) first operational Wave Glider on April 13, 2011 to monitor real-time atmospheric conditions in the Gulf of Mexico. The Wave Glider is unique because it can convert surface wave energy into a forward thrust, which can be remotely controlled to keep the station at critical marine locations. A weather station has been built into the Wave Glider - thus the entire system can generally mimic a large 3-meter moored buoy without the need for expensive ship time, mooring line and servicing/refurbishing.

more here. The next one will have tsunami detector too.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 174 Comments: 38167


Notice the 0.2 in the southern east pacific.
but still, that is sth
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Philippines Atmospheric Geophysical Astrological Service and Administration
Tropical Cyclone bulletin #1
TROPICAL DEPRESSION BEBENG
11:00 PM PhST May 6 2011
====================================

The Low Pressure Area east of Visayas has intensified into a tropical depression and was named "BEBENG".

At 10:00 PM PhST, Tropical Depression Bebeng located at 11.7°N 127.9°E or 250 km east of Borongan, Eastern Samar has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots. The depression is reported as moving west northwest at 7 knots.

Storm Signal #1
==============

Luzon Region
------------
1.Camarines Sur
2.Albay
3.Catanduanes
4.Sorsogon
5.Masbate
6.Ticao Islands
7.Burias Islands

Visayas Region
------------
1.Leyte
2.Samar Provinces
3.Biliran Island

Additional Information
========================
Residents living in low lying and mountainous areas under signal #1 are alerted against possible flash floods and landslides.

The public and the disaster coordinating councils concerned are advised to take appropriate actions and watch for the next bulletin to be issued at 5 AM tomorrow.
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Quoting aquak9:
Also of concern is the forecast for the Mississippi to crest at 19.5 feet in New Orleans on May 24. The levees in New Orleans protect the city for a flood of 20.0 feet--that is not much breathing room.

Six inches of breathing room to be exact. I hope they are prepared for a six-inch uh-oh.

And this is just the forecast. If there's a 5% margin of error??...or maybe they've already taken that into account.


They're going to open the Bonnet Carre Spillway on Monday, which will dump a lot of river water across a narrow stretch of land north of New Orleans into Lake Pontchartrain, thus easing the flood.
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Quoting PolishHurrMaster:

You mean TD3?


Yes.
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Quoting Levi32:
Very heavy rainfall is moving into the central Philippines associated with a slow-moving monsoonal depression.




You mean TD3?
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Quoting JRRP:



That's been showing up on several runs now, including the parallel GFS. What's fishy about that is how the 200mb level looks directly above the surface low. There is upper divergence beneath the jet, but there's 50-60 knots of shear over it. This looks like one of the GFS's favorite errors in long-range tropical development, but we'll see. The Caribbean should be watched during the last 10 days of May.

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A magnitude 7.3 Mw earthquake on October 11, 1918, in the Mona Passage, west of Puerto Rico, was caused by displacement along four segments of a normal fault, oriented N-S in the Mona Canyon. The earthquake generated a tsunami with runup heights reaching 6 meters, causing extensive damage along the western and northern coasts of Puerto Rico. The earthquake and tsunami caused $29 million damage, 116 people were killed and 100 were reported missing. Map and caption by NOAA.
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1937
25. Skyepony (Mod)
ESPI is now -1.30..nearly guaranteeing we'll see some El Niño conditions develop, maybe as early as sometime in June. No confidence if it would last long enough to be an official El Niño event at this point. With the atmospheric lag the season would be feeling more neutral conditions, like 2004. Though expecting the El Niño to be stronger so the tail end of the season would have more fish storms.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 174 Comments: 38167
24. JRRP

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Very heavy rainfall is moving into the central Philippines associated with a slow-moving monsoonal depression.



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Quoting BahaHurican:
Hmmm.... transAtlantic ridge, I'd guess. I suppose an earthquake out there would have a greater chance of causing a tsunami that would hit the Bahamas than one in say, the Puerto Rico Trench...

The ridge pops off several times per year, and rarely up to a 6. No tsunami threat. The big tsunami threats are from the Azores (volcanic eruptions and undersea landslides), and the PR Trench.
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Hmmm.... transAtlantic ridge, I'd guess. I suppose an earthquake out there would have a greater chance of causing a tsunami that would hit the Bahamas than one in say, the Puerto Rico Trench...

Yup, right there on the mid-Atlantic ridge.
Link
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Quoting SeALWx:
5.2 quake out in the Atlantic.

Link
Hmmm.... transAtlantic ridge, I'd guess. I suppose an earthquake out there would have a greater chance of causing a tsunami that would hit the Bahamas than one in say, the Puerto Rico Trench...
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22322
5.2 quake out in the Atlantic.

Link
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Afternoon all, and thanks 2 Dr. Masters for the update, especially the info about Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River flooding. As I said last night, I find it amazing to think of this river flooding. There must be a lot of extra water [I guess from snowmelt?] in the watershed to have this impact.

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22322
Quoting Levi32:
And look where the three major global models have the MJO within 2 weeks. Phases 7 and 8 could support early-season mischief in the Caribbean.






The MJO chart shows high troll activity within 2 weeks...
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Quoting Levi32:
And look where the three major global models have the MJO within 2 weeks. Phases 7 and 8 could support early-season mischief in the Caribbean.


That's some pretty impressive upward motion in those forecasts. (For those that don't know, the further from the center the stronger the motion.)
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Quoting aquak9:
Also of concern is the forecast for the Mississippi to crest at 19.5 feet in New Orleans on May 24. The levees in New Orleans protect the city for a flood of 20.0 feet--that is not much breathing room.

Six inches of breathing room to be exact. I hope they are prepared for a six-inch uh-oh.

And this is just the forecast. If there's a 5% margin of error??...or maybe they've already taken that into account.



the tides are at their highest a couple days before this may 24th date. what if they get some rain? has that been added in too?
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Jeff I'm noticing some pine trees looking a little brown, the needles are dying on the tree, that's usually a bad sign. Plus some newly planted crape myrtles on the side of the road are drooping and just burning up in the sun all day.


There is an interesting blog about dying trees written by a woman in NJ. Take a look:
http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/
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And look where the three major global models have the MJO within 2 weeks. Phases 7 and 8 could support early-season mischief in the Caribbean.





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Quoting jeffs713:
High SOI = La Nina indicator.
Low SOI = El Nino Indicator.

The SOI was at crazy-absurd highs the last few weeks, so a rapidly falling SOI means the atmosphere is adjusting to the ocean. The ocean right now is signaling the end of La Nina (almost neutral now, actually), and the atmosphere has been lagging behind for the most part.


It will be interesting to watch the dailies over the coming days to see how negative it can get over the short-term (currently -10). The cool thing about neutral years is that we can watch for Kelvin waves to zip across the Pacific, which can give a good medium-range indicator of tropical activity in the Caribbean. The MJO is a great predictor tool in neutral seasons.
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Quoting jeffs713:
High SOI = La Nina indicator.
Low SOI = El Nino Indicator.

The SOI was at crazy-absurd highs the last few weeks, so a rapidly falling SOI means the atmosphere is adjusting to the ocean. The ocean right now is signaling the end of La Nina (almost neutral now, actually), and the atmosphere has been lagging behind for the most part.


This is expected - there was no way the SOI was going to remain that high with a neutral year.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24173
Quoting RitaEvac:
Jeff I'm noticing some pine trees looking a little brown, the needles are dying on the tree, that's usually a bad sign. Plus some newly planted crape myrtles on the side of the road are drooping and just burning up in the sun all day.
The pine trees are hard to judge, due to the bark beetle. If they change slowly over a week or two, its drought. if they go from alive to dead in a week or two... its beetles (which go hand-in-hand with drought)

As for crepe myrtles, I've noticed that too, but I think its more stress than them dying... they perk back up overnight (I drive up and down Jones Rd in NW Houston daily, and can see the difference between 7am-ish and 5pm-ish).
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Link

See this interesting article in the New Orleans newspaper site about river level concerns.

They have yet to decide to open the Morganza spillway, only the second time since its creation, which is not factored in the that 19.5 foot level, I think.
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Jeff I'm noticing some pine trees looking a little brown, the needles are dying on the tree, that's usually a bad sign. Plus some newly planted crape myrtles on the side of the road are drooping and just burning up in the sun all day.
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Quoting caribbeantracker01:


cud u just inform me off the exact significance of th soi faling rapidly
?
High SOI = La Nina indicator.
Low SOI = El Nino Indicator.

The SOI was at crazy-absurd highs the last few weeks, so a rapidly falling SOI means the atmosphere is adjusting to the ocean. The ocean right now is signaling the end of La Nina (almost neutral now, actually), and the atmosphere has been lagging behind for the most part.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:
I've had it, I'm praying for a tropical storm to rain for days over us, it'll just have to flood, it's outta control.

No kidding. In NW Houston, the drought is starting to show more, as the grass is starting to go dormant (right after coming out of the winter dormancy), and aside from trees, natural green is becoming hard to find outside of irrigated areas.
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Quoting 2010hurricane:
The SOI is dropping very rapidly.


cud u just inform me off the exact significance of th soi faling rapidly
?
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I've had it, I'm praying for a tropical storm to rain for days over us, it'll just have to flood, it's outta control.
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Also of concern is the forecast for the Mississippi to crest at 19.5 feet in New Orleans on May 24. The levees in New Orleans protect the city for a flood of 20.0 feet--that is not much breathing room.

Six inches of breathing room to be exact. I hope they are prepared for a six-inch uh-oh.

And this is just the forecast. If there's a 5% margin of error??...or maybe they've already taken that into account.
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thanks for update doc iam hoping with all the severe at the end of april is the worse we will see but then again iam sure mom nature got a plan
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The SOI is dropping very rapidly.
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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.