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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Quoting aquak9:
isn't bonne carre only approved for fifty percent open?
That map that someone posted showed Bonne Carre at a proposed 100% and Morganza at 50%.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22725
293. Skyepony (Mod)
National Flood Outlook...doom.
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your math is good, Maw-maw. But, but...I still can't imagine all of this. The projected inundation, the hope that all the levees are up for this job?
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 177 Comments: 26630
Question: I've heard that many records have been or are about to be broken on the Mississippi concerning river height. Wouldn't the levees on the Mississippi make the river height a little larger in some spots, especially where they've built new levees? i hear about something like this on the Red River with new levees for Morehead.
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290. beell
Quoting aquak9:
isn't bonne carre only approved for fifty percent open?


I don't recall hearing about a limit on BC, aqua. Early on, maybe-but not lately.

Estimated (by me-not official) flow just below Baton Rouge Added: AT CREST is 1,554,800 cfs.

That is above PDF-just barely.

Flows farther downriver from Baton Rouge but above BC:
Donaldsonville: 1,848,000 cfs
Reserve: 1,619,000 cfs
Maximum for Bonnet Carre is 250,000 cfs.

PDF below BC is 1,250,000 cfs.

Subtract the 250,000 from Donaldsonville or Reserve and you will still be above 1,250,000 cfs.

There could be a piece of this I am missing somewhere but it is my guess that all of the Bonnet Carre capacity and a good bit of Morganza will have to be used to bring the flow to an "acceptable" level. That is to say; below PDF.
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 145 Comments: 16920
Mississippi River innundation during the Great 1927 Floods:

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isn't bonne carre only approved for fifty percent open?
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 177 Comments: 26630
287. beell
Quoting emcf30:

If they dont open up, what would the crest be in N.O I wounder


19.5' on a 20' levee. That includes full use of Bonnet Carre.
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 145 Comments: 16920
Quoting beell:
IMO, they have to. No way they (USACE) will allow flows down the Mississippi that are at/above the maximum volume it was desigined to handle-The Project Design Flood (PDF).

Projected flow and crests exceed the PDF below Red River Landing if Morganza is not used.

If they dont open up, what would the crest be in N.O I wounder
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1957
Quoting bappit:

The article you link to says:

a response is expected from the Mississippi River Commission within the next 48 hours, on whether or not to open the Morganza Spillway.

Yep, the Army Corps is not the final say, its all on the MRC. We will have to wait and see but the offical request has been made
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1957
284. beell
IMO, they have to. No way they (USACE) will allow flows down the Mississippi that are at/above the maximum volume it was desigined to handle-The Project Design Flood (PDF).

Projected flow exceeds or is very close to the PDF below Red River Landing if Morganza is not used.
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 145 Comments: 16920
Quoting hydrus:
Fay on the other hand....


15" from Faye in my neck of the woods. 5" would be nice right about now. Texas can have/use the 15" amounts.
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Quoting emcf30:
Army Corps of Engineers requests opening of Morganza SpillwayLink

The article you link to says:

a response is expected from the Mississippi River Commission within the next 48 hours, on whether or not to open the Morganza Spillway.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Evening all. Not posting too much tonight... lots of interesting reading here. Plus I have some other work to do....

Interesting stuff on the Morganza.... Did Pat post that interesting article on the COE that talks in detail about the Old River Control structure?
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22725
Army Corps of Engineers requests opening of Morganza Spillway
Posted on May 7, 2011 at 5:57 PM

Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News

ARABI, La.-- Robert "Slim" Broadhad spent part of his weekend watching the Mississippi River creep up higher and higher along the levee in St. Bernard Parish. He grew up just three blocks from the river, and spent more than 40 years working on the waterway.

"I worked on it all my life and it's unpredictable," he said. "I'm scared. I ain't going to lie to you. I've got my whole family here."

The high and historic river levels are now causing the Army Corps of Engineers to open the Bonnet Carre spillway upriver from New Orleans.

"There is no doubt that the National Weather Service has predicted that this is going to be a long crest," said Col. Ed Fleming of the Army Corps of Engineers, who is overseeing the Bonnet Carre spillway opening on Monday.

The river is expected to crest in New Orleans at 19.5 feet-- two feet and half feet above flood stage. That crest is based on the opening of the Bonnet Carre, but it may not be enough to lower the river level and the flow of the river. Now, the Corps has formerly requested the opening of the Morganza spillway, just north of Baton Rouge.
Article
Link
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1957
Quoting KoritheMan:

Barry hardly produced drought-busting rains:


Fay on the other hand....
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Quoting CanesfanatUT:
Any news if a formal request to open Morganza has been made? I thought that started the clock to open it.


I live relatively close to Morganza, and I haven't heard any actual confirmation yet.
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Quoting CanesfanatUT:
Any news if a formal request to open Morganza has been made? I thought that started the clock to open it.


nothing in the news yet- I too am watching and waiting
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 177 Comments: 26630
276. JRRP
Link
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Any news if a formal request to open Morganza has been made? I thought that started the clock to open it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:


Louisiana flood inundation map if the Morganza Spillway were to be opened:
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1957

Quoting hurricaneben:
. I would like something like TS Barry (2007), if u remember that one.
Barry hardly produced drought-busting rains:


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Quoting hydrus:
Fay pissed off a lot of people
Including me. That was one of the toughest storms I've ever forecast. Damn loopty loops. :(
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Quoting eddy12:
i suck


Umm
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Complete Update





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Quoting hurricaneben:


Yeah the only thing is that when Fay hit there was no significant drought or anything at least not like this one...if it gets any worse, a Fay-like storm may not be so bad. But yeah I guess it overstayed its visit here in Florida resulting in terrible flooding.
Your right Ben...U goys needa droughtbuster sure.
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Quoting hydrus:
Good afternoon Keep. Where is that?

afternoon hydrus



IMAGE LOCATION IS 51N/16W NE ATLANIC BASIN

XX/XX/XL
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 55984
Quoting hydrus:
lmao...There are a lot of folks that would not agree with the term"nice" when referencing Fay. Fay is the only storm to make landfall 4 separate times in Florida. Fay pissed off a lot of people to say the least.Formed August 15, 2008
Dissipated August 27, 2008
Highest
winds
1-minute sustained:
70 mph (110 km/h)
Lowest pressure 986 mbar (hPa; 29.12 inHg)
Fatalities 13 direct, 23 indirect
Damage $560 million (2008 USD)
$571.2 million (2011 USD)
Areas
affected Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, Bahamas, South Eastern US


Yeah the only thing is that when Fay hit there was no significant drought or anything at least not like this one...if it gets any worse, a Fay-like storm may not be so bad. But yeah I guess it overstayed its visit here in Florida resulting in terrible flooding.
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 55984
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 55984
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
XX/XX/L
Good afternoon Keep. Where is that?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Fay pounded Hispaniola with rain..
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XX/XX/L
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 55984
Quoting hurricaneben:


Ya...the heaviest rains dissipated just before land...but something like Fay (2008) would be nice, that sure soaked the state.
lmao...There are a lot of folks that would not agree with the term"nice" when referencing Fay. Fay is the only storm to make landfall 4 separate times in Florida. Fay pissed off a lot of people to say the least.Formed August 15, 2008
Dissipated August 27, 2008
Highest
winds
1-minute sustained:
70 mph (110 km/h)
Lowest pressure 986 mbar (hPa; 29.12 inHg)
Fatalities 13 direct, 23 indirect
Damage $560 million (2008 USD)
$571.2 million (2011 USD)
Areas
affected Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, Bahamas, South Eastern US
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting aquak9:
I like Derbeh Kitteh - number 9
Uh-oh.....you posted the word number...Now i have to roll anutha.......the things i do for England....huge and massive pfffffft...:) :) :) :)
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Quoting hydrus:
Barry was a dry as far as tropical storms go. Florida needs something a bit (wetter) than Barry..It is worth mentioning that Barry was a weakening depression when it made landfall near Tampa.


Ya...the heaviest rains dissipated just before land...but something like Fay (2008) would be nice, that sure soaked the state.
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I like Derbeh Kitteh - number 9
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 177 Comments: 26630
Quoting hurricaneben:
. I would like something like TS Barry (2007), if u remember that one.
Barry was a dry as far as tropical storms go. Florida needs something a bit (wetter) than Barry..It is worth mentioning that Barry was a weakening depression when it made landfall near Tampa.
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Quoting hydrus:
I know just how you feel. I have lived in South Florida for over 40 years and have seen the intense drought conditions. The 1988-89 drought was bad. The 02-03 drought was notable for sure.The worst was from 1970 into 1972. I think that is when Lake Okeechobee was at its lowest ever...I would have to look it up..
. I would like something like TS Barry (2007), if u remember that one.
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Quoting hurricaneben:
. Yeah but most of us in Florida would love a nice tropical storm or even weak cat 1 to kill the severe drought we have...as long as there's not too much damage.
I know just how you feel. I have lived in South Florida for over 40 years and have seen the intense drought conditions. The 1988-89 drought was bad. The 02-03 drought was notable for sure.The worst was from 1970 into 1972. I think that is when Lake Okeechobee was at its lowest ever...I would have to look it up..
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Quoting eddy12:
anybody have a derby pick have to make my wager soon
This is the field in post position order:

1 Archarcharch
2 Brilliant Speed
3 Twice the Appeal
4 Stay Thirsty
5 Decisive Moment
6 Comma to the Top
7 Pants On Fire
8 Dialed In
9 Derby Kitten
10 Twinspired
11 Master of Hounds
12 Santiva
13 Mucho Macho Man
14 Shackleford
15 Midnight Interlude
16 Animal Kingdom
17 Soldat
18 Uncle Mo
19 Nehro
20 Watch Me Go

Gotta add: we still have to get them to the starting gate. It is possible that one or more horses may be scratched before the race and won't start. But there won't be any additions to this list..
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Quoting Bitmap7:


..it does not mean that there can't be one system that doesn't break the norm...


I like how you left this gem out when quoting yourself.

I also didn't say you were 'insisting' on anything. My point is simply that any belief that consists of the FIRST African Easterly Wave of the season becoming a CV storm is some serious pie-in-the-sky dreaming. If you would like to present some extraordinary proof or reasoning for this extraordinary theory I'm all ears.

Member Since: June 14, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 2108
Quoting hydrus:
It is just my harmless opinion, but I do believe Mother Nature has more surprises as far as the tropics are concerned. I hope landfalling storms are weak and not killers.
. Yeah but most of us in Florida would love a nice tropical storm or even weak cat 1 to kill the severe drought we have...as long as there's not too much damage.
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Quoting seminolesfan:
You kids are taking this off on a combative tangent that I'm not taking part in.

I really miss the days when this blog was more about discussing ideas than the pissing contest that it has become.

Bitmap, it is my opinion that calling for a CV storm before the wavetrain has even put out ONE wave is not illustrative of you understanding the way things work in the tropics and if you insist on claiming the contrary there is no point in me wasting my time on any discussions.

I'm already regretting resuming posting this season...


Seminola if you observe you will realize that I have yet to respond to Polish's "Destroying" meaning I am not part taking in his "pissing contest" either, and if you read my last post you will realize that i am not insisting on anything contrary to what is the norm but toying with an idea.

Quoting Bitmap7:
Apologies anyways its the fault of the phrasing; it does read like I was implying Cape Verde storms are going to start rolling out before the official season starts. I don't think it will be a cape verde storm, its just a theory.

Member Since: May 4, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 429
Quoting seminolesfan:
It's cool hydro-I mean hydrus; Believe me, I've got no problem with tha mean green!

I was more speaking of the brutal destroyer and JFVmap7.
It is just my harmless opinion, but I do believe Mother Nature has more surprises as far as the tropics are concerned. I hope landfalling storms are weak and not killers.
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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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