Mississippi River flood of 2011 sets all-time flow record, but has crested

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:43 PM GMT on May 20, 2011

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The great Mississippi River flood of 2011 crested yesterday and today, and the volume of water being pushed toward the Gulf of Mexico is the largest ever recorded on the Mississippi, said Bob Anderson, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers for the Mississippi Valley Division. "It's never been this high; it's never had this much water," he said. "There's just a tremendous amount of strain on these levees." The Mississippi crested yesterday at Vicksburg, Mississippi, reaching 57.06'. This exceeded the previous all-time record of 56.2', set during the great flood of 1927. The river crested at Natchez, Mississippi early this morning, and is now falling. The flood height at Natchez was also the greatest on record--61.91', nearly three feet higher than the previous record height of 58', set in 1937. The opening of the Morganza Spillway on Saturday helped to reduce the flood heights from Vicksburg to New Orleans by 1 - 3 feet, greatly reducing the pressure on the levees and on the critical Old River Control Structure (which, as I discussed last Friday, is America's Achilles' heel, and must be protected.) According the National Weather Service, the Mississippi River is no longer rising anywhere along its length, and the great flood of 2011 has likely seen its peak. Rainfall over the next five days will not be enough to raise the Mississippi River water levels above the crests recorded yesterday and today. While it is great news that the flood has peaked, and the Old River Control Structure and all of the mainline levees on the Mississippi River have held, the fight is not over yet. Water levels will stay high for many weeks, and these structures will take a sustained pounding that could still cause failures. If another incredible heavy rain event like we experienced in mid-April occurs in June, the levee system and Old River Control Structure will threatened. Let's hope we don't have an early season Gulf of Mexico tropical storm that makes landfall over Louisiana. The latest 2-week forecast from the GFS model is not hinting at anything like this, fortunately. It's a good thing (for the sake of the levees) that Louisiana experienced severe drought over the winter and spring--had the water levels been high throughout winter and spring, like occurred in the run-up to the great 1927 flood, the levees would have been soggy and much more vulnerable to failure once the big flood crest hit.


Figure 1. The flow of the Mississippi River past the Old River Control Structure near Simmesport, Louisiana reached its all-time highest volume on record Thursday, when the flow rate hit 2.3 million cubic feet per second (cfs). The flow of Niagara Falls at normal water levels is 100,000 cfs, so the Mississippi's flow was 23 times that of Niagara Falls. Image credit: Army Corps of Engineers.

Recommended reading
My post on the Old River Control Structure, America's Achilles' heel: the Mississippi River Old River Control Structure, is well worth reading, if you haven't done so. I plan on making a follow-up post next week discussing the economic cost of the failure of this critical flood-control structure.

Our weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, has made a very interesting post on the greatest floods to affect each continent.


Figure 2. Track forecast for Tropical Storm Four.

First typhoon of 2011 coming?
In the Northwest Pacific, Tropical Storm Four has formed, and appears poised to become the first typhoon of 2011 by early next week. The storm is expected to head west-northwest or northwest towards the Philippines. While the GFS model predicts Tropical Storm Four will miss the Philippines and recurve northwards towards Japan late next week, it is too early to be confident of this forecast.

Have a great weekend everyone, and I'll be back Monday with a new post.

Jeff Masters

In Bound (minou)
Chances of over-topping Baton Rouge or Port Allen levees are slim to none. Problems with this volume continuing for 2 weeks or longer is the question of whether the levees will stand the test of pressure. Thank goodness we've been in a drought or else the levees would be mushy inside and out! The Hwy. 190 Bridge in the distance was closed the day before this photo due to a run-away barge that struck the base.
In Bound
High Water at Baton Rouge (cmrbg06)
High Water at Baton Rouge
High Water at Baton Rouge

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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
It's rainy and dark here in PR. And it doesn't seem to be getting better.

Sounds like someone needs to start pumping the ridge...
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Quoting sunlinepr:
Somewhere in there lies PR

lol
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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


I know you'll be getting these questions all year long, and I'm sorry to be one of the first. Where did you find those model graphics?


The new NCEP model site
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104. txjac
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
It's rainy and dark here in PR. And it doesn't seem to be getting better.



Are you trying to make me jealous? It's working! Send it my way please ...lol
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It's rainy and dark here in PR. And it doesn't seem to be getting better.
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Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9882
Somewhere in there lies PR

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100. txjac
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:

Levi,we dont need more rain.If some of this goes to the Cayman Islands,Florida and Texas,where they need it.

Link



Wow, that would be awesome if you could make it come my way here to Houston. Work on that would ya? lol
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Quoting atmoaggie:
Could you narrow that down to a particular island or islands? And what of the peak intensity?

LOL
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
SW Carib Aussiestorm, SW Carib is where I expect it to be and moving some where between N and WNW

What makes you think that??
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
SW Carib Aussiestorm, SW Carib is where I expect it to be and moving some where between N and WNW
Could you narrow that down to a particular island or islands? And what of the peak intensity?
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Stocking up for tomorrow... the big day!

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SW Carib Aussiestorm, SW Carib is where I expect it to be and moving some where between N and WNW
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Quoting Levi32:
The GFS ensembles have it very wet in the Caribbean by early June, with a net cyclonic circulation showing up in the surface wind field on the ensemble mean for the first time this year.






Levi,we dont need more rain.If some of this goes to the Cayman Islands,Florida and Texas,where they need it.

Link
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
I am expecting or first system or our first real proper inves nearly becoming TD by mid week next week to late next weekend very early week after next

Where?
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Quoting Levi32:
The GFS ensembles have it very wet in the Caribbean by early June, with a net cyclonic circulation showing up in the surface wind field on the ensemble mean for the first time this year.





More rain for PR? Yea thats great :(
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Quoting KeysieLife:

Thanks Grothar, glad to see you were able to get out of bed today! =)

All I know is my spellchecker doesn't like it...



LOL! Anytime Keys.
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I am sooo not feeling these gravity waves sitting over SE texas with an approaching front.
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I am expecting or first system or our first real proper inves nearly becoming TD by mid week next week to late next weekend very early week after next
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Have seen others that show Saturday temp as 666
well if it gets that hot it won't hurt for too long
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Quoting Levi32:
The GFS ensembles have it very wet in the Caribbean by early June, with a net cyclonic circulation showing up in the surface wind field on the ensemble mean for the first time this year.







I know you'll be getting these questions all year long, and I'm sorry to be one of the first. Where did you find those model graphics?
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Thanks Dr.....Let's hope and pray that a Typhoon does not head towards the already devastated areas in Japan down the road.
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Wow, Levi. Maybe that means rain for the Caymans, finally!
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The GFS ensembles have it very wet in the Caribbean by early June, with a net cyclonic circulation showing up in the surface wind field on the ensemble mean for the first time this year.





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Quoting aquak9:


here's a video about the honey badger. Oh I have been WAITING to repost this- Link


Cute!
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Quoting SQUAWK:


Sometimes the "do-gooders" ignore reality and exaggerate their position in order to be noticed.


There is plenty of reason to be skeptical.
We have seen after that fact that safety measures will not be taken unless there is someone demanding compliance. And when those with the responsibility to see there is compliance lack the will, then that's when we have disasters that are so much more expensive after the fact.
And I'm not talking about going after the little guy cleaning out his motor and letting the big polluters wreak large-scale disaster which has happened as well.
Look at the biggest risk, the biggest polluters, and assure that these areas are contained. This is the point.
Unfortunately, there is a history of a 'hands off' to the big polluters and a 'hands on' to the little guy which creates animosity and rightly so.
As we saw with the BP spill, the orders came from the top.
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Quoting aquak9:


here's a video about the honey badger. Oh I have been WAITING to repost this- Link


"It doesnt give a sh**" hahahaha
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Dr. Masters ~
"The latest 2-week forecast from the GFS model is not hinting at anything like this, fortunately. It's a good thing (for the sake of the levees) that Louisiana experienced severe drought over the winter and spring."



I gotta say this 5 day outlook is enough to make many worry in Missouri espeically if this pattern never lets up.



6-10 Precip outlook.



It doesn't any better after as well. 8-14 day Precip outlook



Looks as if the Mississippi is going to have it's hands full over the next month or so!
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OK, so I'm late to the party. Nea, love the person-balloon idea! I'm filling mine with a hydrogen mix and attaching a 5 minute fuse, so I can light the fuse before release and go out with a flash-bang :)

Looks like the coke, Coke, and rum are covered... should I maybe bring the big pot (to cook with!:)) and the shrimp boil? We may have enough time to get to the fish market before The Big Hour.

Stock up on Rapture supplies- I think that air-sick bags and Dramamine would come in handy, and don't forget your camera! A healthy dose of skeptisicm wouldn't be amiss, either :)

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Quoting atmoaggie:
I'm telling you, that's exactly what our Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is trying to do. Unless that article I linked is all lies, sounds like they really are doing what you suggest.


Hi Atmo. Great news! I believe there are people wanting to be sure this is the case.
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Quoting muddertracker:

Thanks Aussie. I will check the archives for video.

Link
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Quoting USAprimeCreditPeggy:
Raccoons are not immortal.

What about badgers?


here's a video about the honey badger. Oh I have been WAITING to repost this- Link
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 178 Comments: 26648
Quoting AussieStorm:

Typhoon Megi blog by Dr Masters last year.

Thanks Aussie. I will check the archives for video.
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.."tomorrow's just da future, yesterday"..
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Quoting muddertracker:
Is there a such thing as the "Typhoon Hunters?" Just curious if they fly into the storm like we do here..

Typhoon Megi blog by Dr Masters last year.
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Quoting Grothar:


It depends on whether or not it is used as a transitive verb or an intransitive verb. If used as a transitive verb, it must take a direct object.

recurvature [r%u0113%u2032k%u0259r�v%u0259�ch%u0259r]
(meteorology)
With respect to the motion of severe tropical cyclones (hurricanes and typhoons), the change in direction from westward and poleward to eastward and poleward; such recurvature of the path frequently occurs as the storm moves into middle latitudes.

Thanks Grothar, glad to see you were able to get out of bed today! =)

All I know is my spellchecker doesn't like it...
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Quoting aquak9:
hi chik - could use some good news in any shape or form.

Its Friday!

Tomorrow is Saturday!

Raccoons are not immortal.

That help?
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Quoting atmoaggie:
Doubt it. On the shelf for a little while, but that will warm quickly. Off the shelf, the colder water will prolly just sink deep.

I don't expect it to be noticeable.


Thanks.
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:
As Levi said in his blog,it appears that the 2011 hurricane season on both the Atlantic and EPAC will be to slow starts as the models are not solid yet on tropical development.


Not necessarily. The definition of an "early start" isn't getting a storm before June 1st, and the models can have trouble picking out the earliest developments.
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Bah, self-removed possibly inciteful comment.
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Quoting Hurrykane:


Levi, nice video yesterday on your outlook.


I second that motion.
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Quoting KeysieLife:
I think we left this yearly statement out of the "this is what we'll hear all season" stuff!

"and recurve northwards"

Still wonder what this term actually means if it's not prefaced with "it will curve" ? LOL

No offense Dr. M, always appreciate the great info!


It depends on whether or not it is used as a transitive verb or an intransitive verb. If used as a transitive verb, it must take a direct object.

recurvature [r%u0113%u2032k%u0259rv%u0259ch%u0259r]
(meteorology)
With respect to the motion of severe tropical cyclones (hurricanes and typhoons), the change in direction from westward and poleward to eastward and poleward; such recurvature of the path frequently occurs as the storm moves into middle latitudes.
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hi chik - could use some good news in any shape or form.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 178 Comments: 26648
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9882
As Levi said in his blog,it appears that the 2011 hurricane season on both the Atlantic and EPAC will be to slow starts as the models are not solid yet on tropical development.
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Quoting AussieStorm:
Fox News take on the next 5 days weather....


Have seen others that show Saturday temp as 666
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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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