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 AussieStorm:
Fox News take on the next 5 days weather....


Have seen others that show Saturday temp as 666
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I'm more worried about all of that debris lying around. It wouldn't take much of a storm to move that stuff around.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 2348
Quoting Chicklit:


I don't know what our agencies are doing.
Evidently the LA Bucket Brigade wants to know, too.
And so does the Institute for Southern Studies.
If this water is flooding farmland and going into the estuaries where we will harvest seafood and also end up in the Gulf, it is best to secure all areas now that contain hazardous chemicals to prevent leakage.
This is the easier way to handle the problem. The question is, is there the will to do this?
When the horses are out of the barn it becomes a much riskier, more expensive problem.
Secure the fences and/or remove the toxic substances that are most volunerable.
This is common sense.


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


Levi, nice video yesterday on your outlook.


Thanks.
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Quoting Grothar:


The cone is pretty big. Looks like the Phillipines may be in the line first. Hard to say if it turns more North-west towards Japan.



Lets hope for japans sake it don't, But if it got bigger it could still push alot of water their way?
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Good morning everyone. Just back from a much needed three days off. I didn't realize that "the Rapture" called for gifts and food. Is there a tree involved too? :)
Member Since: March 28, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1532
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!
Member Since: September 10, 2010 Posts: 3 Comments: 409
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Quoting Chicklit:


I don't know what our agencies are doing.
Evidently the LA Bucket Brigade wants to know, too.
And so does the Institute for Southern Studies.
If this water is flooding farmland and going into the estuaries where we will harvest seafood and also end up in the Gulf, it is best to secure all areas now that contain hazardous chemicals to prevent leakage.
This is the easier way to handle the problem. The question is, is there the will to do this?
When the horses are out of the barn it becomes a much riskier, more expensive problem.
Secure the fences and/or remove the toxic substances that are most volunerable.
This is common sense.
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.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Quoting blsealevel:


Now I see why the pres.of the nuclear power plant resigned "If all else fails bail"


The cone is pretty big. Looks like the Phillipines may be in the line first. Hard to say if it turns more North-west towards Japan.

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Quoting aquak9:
not to be disrespectul to doc, but even though it might've crested in some areas, folks in the lower half of LA still have plenty to worry about.


Hi Aquak, I think it's a case of wanting to report some good news.
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11328
#34
Good morning TK,
Yeah TK, still a ways to go before we declare this flood threat over...
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Quoting Chicklit:


I don't know what our agencies are doing.
Evidently the LA Bucket Brigade wants to know, too.
And so does the Institute for Southern Studies.
If this water is flooding farmland and going into the estuaries where we will harvest seafood and also end up in the Gulf, it is best to secure all areas now that contain hazardous chemicals to prevent leakage.
This is the easier way to handle the problem. The question is, is there the will to do this?
When the horses are out of the barn it becomes a much riskier, more expensive problem.
Secure the fences and/or remove the toxic substances that are most volunerable.
This is common sense.


Agree 100%
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Quoting Grothar:


atmo, just curious. If that much cold water is flowing into the Gulf, would there be cooling of the Gulf waters
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.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
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Quoting atmoaggie:
None of the global counterparts to NHC (and Air Force Hurricane Hunters) regularly fly into TCs.
In fact, JTWC doesn't usually offer a minimum central pressure for systems unless they pass near/over a barometer on the surface. No solid way to estimate central pressure without any in situ obs.


atmo, just curious. If that much cold water is flowing into the Gulf, would there be cooling of the Gulf waters
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not to be disrespectul to doc, but even though it might've crested in some areas, folks in the lower half of LA still have plenty to worry about.
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Quoting Grothar:


Now I see why the pres.of the nuclear power plant resigned "If all else fails bail"
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Quoting blsealevel:


The "It can't happen to me" way of thinking. (IMO)


I don't know what our agencies are doing.
Evidently the LA Bucket Brigade wants to know, too.
And so does the Institute for Southern Studies.
If this water is flooding farmland and going into the estuaries where we will harvest seafood and also end up in the Gulf, it is best to secure all areas now that contain hazardous chemicals to prevent leakage.
This is the easier way to handle the problem. The question is, is there the will to do this?
When the horses are out of the barn it becomes a much riskier, more expensive problem.
Secure the fences and/or remove the toxic substances that are most volunerable.
This is common sense.

Polar opposite of news from other sources... -- atmoaggie

That's really good news, Atmo. I think the article said "threatening" not "happening." The point is, vigilance is needed to secure all potential pollutants and stay watchful of that. The economic disaster if farmlands were polluted would be very hard to estimate.
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11328
Quoting emcf30:


Now that is funny.
Earthquakes will begin on May 21 on the Kiritimati Island (Christmas Island near Australia) at 6:00 pm CXT (11:00 am UTC)
Aussie you are going to be hit first with earthquakes please report live. LOL

ok
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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..

The NOAA Hurricane Hunter do fly into Typhoons, they fly from Guam. Last year they flew into Typhoon Megi and measured winds over 300km/h
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Quoting DocNDswamp:
Sweet... So glad to hear the pronouncement that the main stem MS River's Great Flood of 2011 has crested.

Meanwhile, those of us affected by the Atchafalaya River remain on high alert as water continues rising with our flood crest peaks still a week away.
I crossed over Atchafalaya basin on I-10 yesterday just before dark DocNDswamp. Whiskey Bay and the Atchafalaya are full to the brim. And I dont think the Morganza water had got there yet.
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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..
None of the global counterparts to NHC (and Air Force Hurricane Hunters) regularly fly into TCs.
In fact, JTWC doesn't usually offer a minimum central pressure for systems unless they pass near/over a barometer on the surface. No solid way to estimate central pressure without any in situ obs.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Quoting AussieStorm:

I don't know, it was sent to me.


Haha, thatd be great if they really did that on the air.
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


Is that real???

I don't know, it was sent to me.
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Quoting Chicklit:
Excerpt:

Now the Mississippi River flood waters being diverted from Louisiana's major cities by the opening of the Morganza Spillway flood control structure north of Baton Rouge threaten to unearth the benzene, xylene, arsenic and other deadly chemicals dumped there.

Polar opposite of news from other sources...

"Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality staff reported no obvious sources of pollution or oil sheens Monday during the first of many flights over the Atchafalaya River Basin amid Mississippi River flooding.
...
Before the spillway was opened, DEQ staff contacted owners of businesses in the Atchafalaya basin that maps show are at risk, said Sam Phillips, DEQ assistant secretary.

Phillips said DEQ staff talked to the business owners about the need to secure containers on their sites and about their preparation plans.

These businesses included everything from small gas stations to industrial facilities, Phillips said
.

In all, about 1,900 permit holders in the basin were contacted, he said.
...
[After Katrina] Crews with airboats had to search the marshes and waterways for fuel tanks, barrels of unknown liquids and even household bleach bottles and remove the material.
...
In addition, DEQ and EPA contractors worked to remove 218 containers, including refrigerant and propane, from an abandoned warehouse in the basin before flood waters arrived, Phillips said."
http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/latest/Flights-f ind-no-pollution-in-Atchafalaya.html
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Is there a such thing as the "Typhoon Hunters?" Just curious if they fly into the storm like we do here..
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 2348
Quoting AussieStorm:
Fox News take on the next 5 days weather....


Now that is funny.
Earthquakes will begin on May 21 on the Kiritimati Island (Christmas Island near Australia) at 6:00 pm CXT (11:00 am UTC)
Aussie you are going to be hit first with earthquakes please report live. LOL
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1933
Lawdy,,maybe send them a e-mail so they can correct it.

LoL
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I have to disagree with the 12z position of TS #4. Shortwave IR shows the surface circulation to be at least partially exposed on the NW side of the convection, closer to 9N, 139W, not 141W. An ASCAT pass around 12z supports this as well.



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Quoting USAprimeCreditPeggy:


Prepare for tomorrow.

From the CDC, so, it must be true.
brainssss....

(I'm SO happy I found that link yesterday.. its beyond awesome)
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Sweet... So glad to hear the pronouncement that the main stem MS River's Great Flood of 2011 has crested.

Meanwhile, those of us affected by the Atchafalaya River remain on high alert as water continues rising with our flood crest peaks still a week away.
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Quoting AussieStorm:
Fox News take on the next 5 days weather....


Is that real???
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Man I hope there is still a Blog on Monday.
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 1261
Quoting AussieStorm:
Fox News take on the next 5 days weather....
LOL
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Quoting USAprimeCreditPeggy:


Prepare for tomorrow.

From the CDC, so, it must be true.


I saw that this morning on CDC website was LMAO
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1933
Quoting Chicklit:
Excerpt:

Now the Mississippi River flood waters being diverted from Louisiana's major cities by the opening of the Morganza Spillway flood control structure north of Baton Rouge threaten to unearth the benzene, xylene, arsenic and other deadly chemicals dumped there.

The toxic threat facing Grand Bois is part of a much larger problem looming over Louisiana communities being flooded by the Mississippi's diversion: the release of oil, diesel, drilling mud and chemicals into residential areas and the Gulf of Mexico.

"I have been asking for spill prevention measures for the last two weeks and have gotten little to no information from industry or emergency response officials," says Anna Hrybyk of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB), a grassroots nonprofit that monitors industrial pollution. "People living in the flood zone need to be prepared for serious chemical contamination and cleanup."

Government data compiled by LABB estimates that the flood waters in Louisiana threaten 13,000 oil and gas wells; 3,600 petroleum extraction operations; 4,000 oil waste pits; four oil storage terminals; and the Alon Refinery in Krotz Springs, La. Those numbers could be even higher, as the data is several years old.

While the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality issued an emergency order [pdf] last week that addresses steps that should be taken by wastewater treatment systems and other potential pollution sources, it did not specifically address preparations by oil and chemical facilities and waste sites. LABB is sending a letter today to relevant agencies requesting plans for soil and water sampling and cleanup in the event of spills.

...These pits have been causing problems in other states. Regulators in North Dakota say oil companies may have ignored warnings to protect the structures from spring floods, resulting in some three dozen spills in recent weeks. Nineteen companies now face millions of dollars in fines as a result.

LinkInstituteforSouthernStudies


The "It can't happen to me" way of thinking. (IMO)
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Japan definitely could do without another "Chaba" right now. *prayers*
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 2348
Fox News take on the next 5 days weather....
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Excerpt:

Now the Mississippi River flood waters being diverted from Louisiana's major cities by the opening of the Morganza Spillway flood control structure north of Baton Rouge threaten to unearth the benzene, xylene, arsenic and other deadly chemicals dumped there.

The toxic threat facing Grand Bois is part of a much larger problem looming over Louisiana communities being flooded by the Mississippi's diversion: the release of oil, diesel, drilling mud and chemicals into residential areas and the Gulf of Mexico.

"I have been asking for spill prevention measures for the last two weeks and have gotten little to no information from industry or emergency response officials," says Anna Hrybyk of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB), a grassroots nonprofit that monitors industrial pollution. "People living in the flood zone need to be prepared for serious chemical contamination and cleanup."

Government data compiled by LABB estimates that the flood waters in Louisiana threaten 13,000 oil and gas wells; 3,600 petroleum extraction operations; 4,000 oil waste pits; four oil storage terminals; and the Alon Refinery in Krotz Springs, La. Those numbers could be even higher, as the data is several years old.

While the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality issued an emergency order [pdf] last week that addresses steps that should be taken by wastewater treatment systems and other potential pollution sources, it did not specifically address preparations by oil and chemical facilities and waste sites. LABB is sending a letter today to relevant agencies requesting plans for soil and water sampling and cleanup in the event of spills.

...These pits have been causing problems in other states. Regulators in North Dakota say oil companies may have ignored warnings to protect the structures from spring floods, resulting in some three dozen spills in recent weeks. Nineteen companies now face millions of dollars in fines as a result.

LinkInstituteforSouthernStudies
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11328
ohs the nut that posted some in from web2.wrigh plzs re move it or fix it
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wpac feel asleep last yr active this yr?
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It keeps saying I need a login each time I refresh...
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.
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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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