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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A man was sucked out of the hospital. This is just too much.
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looking at the Satelite looks the Cayman Islands should be getting rain, very deceiving, at least nothing where I am. :(
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1055. emcf30
Quoting AllyBama:


where is Pineville..guess I could look - duh!

Missouri. I believe that is one of the cells heading toward St. Louis
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The Wal-Mart at 15th and Rangeline is a bit over three miles from St. Johns Medical Center, and Joplin High School is between the two. Based on that rough line, the tornado appears to have bisected the city of 50,000 just south of its downtown, though across many residential neighborhoods and commercial areas.
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Quoting emcf30:
Thing just get worse
HAZMAT
05/22/11 19:15 (JOPLIN - ) AMMONIA LEAK AT WALMART- AREA CLOSED OFF- DAMAGED BY A TORNADO. [MAS163]
Can't imagine what type of ammonia storage would be at a walmart



More than likely ammonia would be used in the refrigeration of product
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Quoting tazzer06:
Wow Mike Bettis is all choked up!
He's a professional, but again only human, brings out the human side of such a tragedy!
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Quoting emcf30:
Pineville massive tornado on the ground with damage


where is Pineville..guess I could look - duh!
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Unconfirmed reports of a gas leak in Joplin. Crime scene tape being used to seal off the area.
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1049. emcf30
Thing just get worse
HAZMAT
05/22/11 19:15 (JOPLIN - ) AMMONIA LEAK AT WALMART- AREA CLOSED OFF- DAMAGED BY A TORNADO. [MAS163]
Can't imagine what type of ammonia storage would be at a walmart
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1048. alfabob
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aqua♥
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Quoting AllStar17:
The Weather Channel has Live Coverage in Joplin, MO right now. Just a horrible sight.
i saw it i was crying!! no more homes for everyone!!
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Updated 7:45 PM CST: Joplin High School has been severely damaged. The graduation was today, but was held at Missouri Southern.

Posted 7:40 PM CST: Tornadoes touch down in Joplin leaving a path of destruction throughout the city.

Power lines and phone lines are down. Communications are difficult.

Starting at 20th and Rangeline a tornado destroyed countless buildings throughout the area.

At the 15th and Rangeline Walmart ambulances lined the street as emergency rescue officials across the Four-States have responded to rescue hundreds of residents trapped inside the building.

St. John's hospital was also hit hard by the tornado. One resident living nearly 45-miles away from the hospital says his yard is now full of debris from the hospital-- medical supplies and x-rays.

Officials say the hospital is severely damaged. Chunks of the building were taken out and windows were blown out.

Eastbound and westbound I-44 is closed at mile marker 18 near Joplin due to overturned tractor trailers during severe weather.
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Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496
1043. aquak9
ally♥
welcome granpa

can't watch this
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Joplin looks like Tuscaloosa when it was hit last month. Simply tragic.



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.
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496
I fear the loss of life will be a large number.
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there is minimal help at this point.
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1038. aquak9
no
damnit
NO
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1037. emcf30
Pineville massive tornado on the ground with damage
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1036. emcf30
TRAUMA ALERT
05/22/11 19:00 (JOPLIN - ) JCSO ON SCENE CHILD POLE IMPALED INTO CHILDS LEG. [NHA023]
SEARCH & RESCUE
05/22/11 18:57 (JOPLIN - ) APARTMENT COMPLEX HEAVILY DAMAGED BY TORNADO- MULTIPLE INJURIES- POSS. PEOPLE TRAPPED. [MAS163]
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Joplin looks like a war zone with possibly major casualities
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1034. emcf30
Amazing amount of injuries from listening to the live feeds. Seems like they do not have enough medical
supplies and vehicles to transport them
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1033. emcf30
SPECIAL
05/22/11 18:52 (JOPLIN - ) JOPLIN CITY SERVICES RADIOS ARE DOWN DUE TO TORNADO ACTIVITY. [MAS163]
TECHNICAL RESCUE
05/22/11 18:52 (JOPLIN - ) JCSO REPORTS PEOPLE TRAPPED INSIDE WALGREENS- AFTER A TORNADO CAME THROUGH [NHA023]
TECHNICAL RESCUE
05/22/11 18:49 (JOPLIN - ) PEOPLE TRAPPED ON THE ROOF OF ST. JOHNS HAWTHORNE CENTER- REQ. FIRE DEPARTMENT. [MAS163]
SEARCH & RESCUE
05/22/11 18:27 (JOPLIN - ) JCSO RPTG MULTIPLE CARS FLIPPED OVER, MULTIPLE PEOPLE TRAPPED, SEARCH & RESCUE DETAIL REQUESTED. [ILL279]
SEARCH & RESCUE
05/22/11 18:24 (JOPLIN - ) NUMEROUS BUSINESS AND HOMES DESTORYED BY TORNADO, S&R IN PROGRESS. MANY REPORTS OF ENTRAPMENT. [MAR029]
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I hate to think about the interior of the hospital. It's a sturdy concrete building, so the exterior structure can appear fairly intact even while the inside is a mess. Here's hoping it was on the southern edge of the path and didn't get the worst winds...
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Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9874
1030. emcf30
Looks like Mike Bettes is having a breakdown.
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Has anyone else noticed the absence of life? Very few people walking around and I haven't noticed any animals..
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Wow Mike Bettis is all choked up!
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Mike Bettes in tears on TV from the damage.
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Bettis getting all choked up on live feed from Joplin.

Link

homes have disappeared.
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1025. beell
Quoting Neapolitan:

At least--though some of the cars and trees look like possible EF-5, no?


Yes.
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1024. Skyepony (Mod)
Crazy damage..
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Quoting AllyBama:
me too tazzer06..I am in Mobile
me too!
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me too tazzer06..I am in Mobile
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1021. Skyepony (Mod)
Joplin~ BETWEEN MILE MARKER 10 AND 12. TREES STIPED OF BARK. OVER 20 SEMITRUCKS AND CARS FLIPPED OFF I-44. ALL INTERSTATE SIGNS GONE AND DAMAGE. (SGF)
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Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9874
1019. Grothar
Still looks pretty active.

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Quoting AllyBama:
Sad as it is, it is good for people to see things first hand. Many people in AL are now believers of the true power of a tornado. Hopefully they will heed any future warnings.



I know I will pay attention the next time they say severe weather, and I am way south in Alabama from where the tornadoes went through
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Big Flare up from SA

Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9874
Debris still falling out of the sky from the Joplin supercell, per KY3. Also medical debris reported to be falling, paperwork, et
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They are now expecting an explosion at the hospital. Just a horrific sight right now.
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1014. emcf30
Does not sound good on the live audio stream
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I just heard they are expecting the hospital to explode in Joplin, MO.
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1012. emcf30
Quoting Neapolitan:

The hospital itself seems to be missing many windows and walls (though what Bettes keeps calling a fire is clearly venting steam).


Yea thats what I was thinking maybe a boiler room
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1011. emcf30
National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Griffin confirmed a Joplin has suffered “a direct hit” from a tornado that touched down in the center of town.

At least one tornado reportedly touched down near Rangeline Road and Interstate 44 — near mile markers 10 and 11.

“It went right through the center of town,” he said.

Griffin said the NWS will not immediately send anyone to assess the damage because a severe weather watch is in effect for the entire area, meaning the event is not yet over.

“It’s dangerous right now,” he said.

Griffin said early reports indicate “a major tornado” and “major damage” has been reported in the downtown area.

The St. John’s Hospital and at least one store, a Home Depot, reported significant damage.

LISTEN LIVE Link
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Quoting emcf30:


Very min EF4 from some of the steams I am seeing . St Johns Hospital area torn up bad.

The hospital itself seems to be missing many windows and walls (though what Bettes keeps calling a fire is clearly venting steam).
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Sad as it is, it is good for people to see things first hand. Many people in AL are now believers of the true power of a tornado. Hopefully they will heed any future warnings.
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saw a dead body on the weather channel...
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Quoting PcolaDan:


Think you need to learn some things about people before you say something, especially on your first post.


+100
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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.