Missouri River flood hits unprecedented flow rates

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:18 PM GMT on June 17, 2011

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The most expensive tornado/severe weather disaster in American history is the great May 21 - 26, 2011 storm that spawned the Joplin, Missouri EF-5 tornado. According to catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide, insured damages from that storm will amount to $4 - $7 billion, the greatest damages ever for a spring severe weather outbreak. However, the damages from the huge, slow-moving low pressure system that spawned the Joplin tornado have not yet been fully realized. The powerful storm pumped huge quantities of warm, moisture-laden air from the Gulf of Mexico northwestwards into Montana, where the moisture condensed into record-breaking heavy rain and snow. In portions of eastern Montana, the storm brought a year's worth of precipitation in a week, swelling the tributaries of the Missouri River to unprecedented heights. Billings, Montana recorded 9.54" of precipitation in May, its single wettest month on record, and not far from its annual average precipitation of 14.5". A great 100-year flood has arrived along the Missouri River and its tributaries from Montana to Nebraska. Record spring rains, combined with snow melt from record or near-record winter and spring snows, brought the Missouri River at Williston, North Dakota to 30' today (June 17), two feet above the record crest set in 1912. Tributaries to the Missouri, such as the North Platte River in Nebraska, are also flooding at all-time record heights. With warm summer temperatures and 2 - 5" of rainfall expected over much of the area during the coming week, snow melt and rain runoff will swell area rivers even further, creating an even more dangerous flood.

Flooding along the Missouri River has already broken two levees and closed two portions of I-29, a key trucking route that extends from Kansas City through Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota to the Canadian border. A 20-mile stretch between Council Bluffs and the Missouri Valley area is closed, as well as a 22-mile section in southwest Iowa and northwest Missouri, causing significant disruptions to the trucking industry.


Figure 1. Satellite image taken at 5:45pm CDT May 22, 2011, when the Joplin, Missouri tornado was occurring. The counter-clockwise flow of air around the spiraling low pressure system that caused the Joplin tornado drew large quantities of Gulf of Mexico air into Montana, creating record-breaking rains. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.



Figure 2. Levee breach along the Missouri River levee L-575 near Hamburg, Iowa, on June 14, 2011. The town of Hamburg is being protected by a new temporary levee. So far, only farmland has flooded. Image credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Army Corps cranks up water releases on Missouri River dams to double the previous record
Six flood control dams lie on the Missouri River between eastern Montana and Sioux City, Iowa; these dams were built between 1940 and 1964. As water from this spring's record precipitation have flowed into the Missouri River basin, the reservoirs behind these dams have risen to record levels. On May 31, the Army Corps of Engineers was forced to open the the spillway gates on the massive Garrison Dam, 50 miles northwest of Bismark, North Dakota. It was the first time since the dam was built in 1955 that the spillway gates were opened. (Remarkably, during 2007 and early 2008, Lake Sakakawea water levels behind Garrison Dam were the lowest since the dam was built--46 feet below the current level--thanks to a decade-long drought.) On June 3, as the record flood progressed downstream, the spillway gates on the Big Bend Dam opened for the first time since that dam was completed in 1964. This week, the Army Corps of Engineers increased water flowing through all six dams to more than double the previous highs set during the floods of 1975 and 1997. The flow rates are now a massive 150,000 cubic feet per second, 1.5 times greater than the typical flow of Niagara Falls. These extreme flow rates will need to be maintained into at least mid-August, and are expected to severely strain levees on the Missouri River as it flows through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas. According to a press conference put on by NWS and the Army Corps last week, the Missouri River flood control system is based on an 1881 estimate of the maximum amount of water an extreme flood season could generate--40 million acre-feet of water during the spring and summer flood season. However, this year's flood is expected to pump 42 - 43 million acre feet of water into the system, stressing it beyond its designed limits. In May alone, the Missouri River basin just upstream from Sioux City, Iowa, received 10.2 million acre feet of water, more than 25% above the previous May record of 7.2 million acre feet set in 1995. Additional levee failures along the Missouri are likely this summer, particularly if widespread heavy summer rains occur.


Figure 3. The Oahe Reservoir Stilling Basin north of Pierre, S.D., on June 5, 2011. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased the water releases from the Oahe Dam into the stilling basin to a record 147,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water release on June 8. The previous record was 59,000 cfs in 1997. Image credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/ Carlos J. Lazo

Four-day period of critical fire conditions expected in the Southwest
Powerful southwest winds of 20 - 30 mph, gusting to 40 mph will continue through Saturday in Eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, making progress containing the region's severe fires difficult. Even worse conditions are begin predicted for Sunday, when NOAA's Storm Prediction Center forecasts forecasts that wind gusts up to 50 mph will occur. With hot conditions and humidity values below 10%, these are likely to be among the worst fire conditions the region has seen this year.

While the exceptional drought gripping Arizona is largely to blame for terrible fire conditions this year, unusually windy and dry weather has also been a significant factor. These windy and dry conditions have been caused, in part, by a stronger-than-average jet stream over the region. According to the National Weather Service in Phoenix, the period April-May 2011 was the 11th windiest and had the 6th lowest average relative humidity value on record in Phoenix. Combined, it was the 3rd windiest-driest April-May on record.

Our weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, has an interesting post on The Worst Wild Fires in World History. Arizona's Wallow Fire, at 750 square miles, has a long way to go before matching the largest fire in U.S. history, the great Peshtigo Fire of 1871. That fire burned 5,938 square miles of Wisconsin and Michigan.

Tallahassee hits 105°, their hottest day on record
On Wednesday June 15 at 307 PM EDT, the Tallahassee Regional Airport in Florida recorded a high temperature of 105 degrees. This temperature breaks the previous all time high temperature record for Tallahassee of 104 degrees, set most recently on June 20th 1933. The period of record for Tallahassee dates back to 1892.

The Atlantic is quiet
The Atlantic is quiet, with no tropical cyclones predicted over the next seven days by the reliable computer models. However, the GFS model predicts that moisture will begin increasing early next week in the western Gulf of Mexico, and a tropical disturbance could form next week in the Gulf, bringing much-needed rains to the coast of Texas. Droughts of the magnitude of the current Texas drought are hard to break, though, so I'd like to see more support from the models before believing in this forecast.

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

Jeff Masters

ABANDONED For Wetland Project in Flood (BEME)
Another old farmstead,within the wetlands 'project'..near Highway 2 [to Nebraska City,Nebraska]..Water's getting higher. [photo taken Wednesday afternoon]
ABANDONED For Wetland Project in Flood
Won't be Open Much Longer (Nikongranny)
Highway 2 east of Nebraska City will be closing very soon.
Won't be Open Much Longer
Trying to Keep Ahead (Nikongranny)
of the approaching water. Crews working frantically building this earth berm to keep the advancing Missouri River out of Hamburg.
Trying to Keep Ahead

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Quoting 1911maker:
Article talks about how the corp of engineers was not allowed to manage the pool levels for flood control which has led to/contributed to the flooding.

http://www.npr.org/2011/06/18/137266815/who-gets- flooded-a-by-the-book-decision

Link


politics at its best, wow usely they try to keep things like this out of the press.
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1918

KEEPEROFTHEGATE: moving in tandem

That's what Levi called for, competition for which system yields the most energy for its competitor per his last tropical tidbit.
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I hope this fellow is a nutter and is wrong.

http://plainsdaily.com/entry/possible-ft-peck-dam -failure-major-threat-to-missouri-flooding/
Link

http://www.scribd.com/doc/57465620/Bernard-Shanks -Flood-Risk-EditorialLink
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Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


I think you have to make an entry on your blog first.


That was it. Had to hit "create blog" and it worked. Thanks!

EDIT: That's funny, it reset my post count. Now I guess I'll get called a noob. :)
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Quoting 1911maker:
Article talks about how the corp of engineers was not allowed to manage the pool levels for flood control which has led to/contributed to the flooding.

http://www.npr.org/2011/06/18/137266815/who-gets- flooded-a-by-the-book-decision

Link


Why am I not surprised, politics! Glad I'm not the one having to tell people I' m about to unleash a torrent of water into their lives.
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Quoting PrivateIdaho:
Oh....yeah juvenile birds are often difficult to I.D. Coopers Hawks frequent my yard and feast on finches so I jumped to a conclusion.


No worries, that's the same conclusion I jumped to. :) Like I said, it took a lot of looking to finally find a photo of a juvenile. He'd lost that juvie plumage on his breast last time I saw him.
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Quoting Torgen:
Strange. Whenever I click "Ignore User" it takes me to my (blank) blog page, and when I return here the person isn't ignored. This has happened a couple times. No idea what I'm doing wrong.


I think you have to make an entry on your blog first.
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Quoting Torgen:


Juvenile Red-shouldered hawk. Took that photo May 2010. Thought he was a Cooper's at first too, but looked at a ton of photos. His shins were different, I think. I haven't seen him around since the drought got bad, it was fun watching him grow up.

Cat didn't care for him AT ALL. That post he's on in the photo held a bird feeder about 10ft from my window, so the cat could watch the birds while I work. Saw him land there one day when the cat was asleep, woke her up with "Look! Birdy birdy!" and pulled the shade up. Poor kitty almost soiled herself, slunk backwards off the file cabinet and hid in the hall! :)
Oh....yeah juvenile birds are often difficult to I.D. Coopers Hawks frequent my yard and feast on finches so I jumped to a conclusion.
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Quoting PrivateIdaho:
Nice pic!...looks like a Cooper's Hawk to me.


Juvenile Red-shouldered hawk. Took that photo May 2010. Thought he was a Cooper's at first too, but looked at a ton of photos. His shins were different, I think. I haven't seen him around since the drought got bad, it was fun watching him grow up.

Cat didn't care for him AT ALL. That post he's on in the photo held a bird feeder about 10ft from my window, so the cat could watch the birds while I work. Saw him land there one day when the cat was asleep, woke her up with "Look! Birdy birdy!" and pulled the shade up. Poor kitty almost soiled herself, slunk backwards off the file cabinet and hid in the hall! :)
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Quoting Grothar:


I know, that's what I've been meaning to talk to you about. LOL (We couldn't even stay in the pool today) One hour and out.


LOL I've had no new job.

I didn't even try to go swimming today because I didn't have the chance too. Tomorrow, when i go to my aunt & uncle's I will.
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Article talks about how the corp of engineers was not allowed to manage the pool levels for flood control which has led to/contributed to the flooding.

http://www.npr.org/2011/06/18/137266815/who-gets- flooded-a-by-the-book-decision

Link
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Why Can't You Be Nicer To Me?

Link
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1918
Quoting PcolaDan:


Did you ever consider taking off the big hat? It may have helped. :|
Of course I took my hat off.....no kidding guys. Remember the old "Old Spice" ads. Grothar, you remember, you're old enough :P. I was dating 2 of the "crew" at the time, at the same time. Plus a penthouse pet. Amazing I made it this far.
Member Since: August 3, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 5612
Quoting Torgen:
Strange. Whenever I click "Ignore User" it takes me to my (blank) blog page, and when I return here the person isn't ignored. This has happened a couple times. No idea what I'm doing wrong.
Nice pic!...looks like a Cooper's Hawk to me.
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Strange. Whenever I click "Ignore User" it takes me to my (blank) blog page, and when I return here the person isn't ignored. This has happened a couple times. No idea what I'm doing wrong.
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Quoting PcolaDan:


So nice to have your 7 post expertise to show us how ignorant we all are.


He's mad 'cause the handle "imatroll" was taken.:^)
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Fairly obvious guys but when a guy pops in with a name like 'seasonbust2011' its fairly obvious he's a troll, no need to quote. Just throw 'em out with the rest of the trash in your ignore list.
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Quoting seasonbust2011:


So nice to have your 7 post expertise to show us how ignorant we all are.

edited: :)
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


the moisture seemed to go into 2 different directions, maybe the wave itself never did but the models said the storm would never get together; and it never did.

I think my underlying point was that some on here seem to think the models are garbage anytime they do not develop something that shows even the smallest bit of promise.


Yes, I agree. So far the models have been decent with development, which is always tricky this early in the season.
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Quoting CosmicEvents:
All true!
I dated a few models back in the day.


Did you ever consider taking off the big hat? It may have helped. :|
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Quoting CosmicEvents:
All true!
I dated a few models back in the day.


They showed Rory McIlroy's dad at the open and my kids asked me who that was....I said Big Mac-Ilroy.;^)
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Quoting CosmicEvents:
All true!
I dated a few models back in the day.


lmao
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7826
Quoting stormpetrol:
Models suck, throw them out the window, they just don't pan out the vast majority of the time imo!
All true!
I dated a few models back in the day.
Member Since: August 3, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 5612
Quoting Levi32:


94L never split.


the moisture seemed to go into 2 different directions, maybe the wave itself never did but the models said the storm would never get together; and it never did.

I think my underlying point was that some on here seem to think the models are garbage anytime they do not develop something that shows even the smallest bit of promise.
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7826
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54499
Quoting clwstmchasr:


I live in Oldsmar and the nests created by fish around the perimeters of the lakes are all now all exposed.


oh, that's too bad !!! I hope it rains soon !!!
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


I disagree with that, the models aren't perfect but they have been pretty good this year so far

in the end the models that said 94L would split were right.

Just because a model does not show development, does not mean it is wrong.


94L never split.
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well that is the 11th name of his i have POOFED a way
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Quoting stormpetrol:

Lmao, not at all, just a simple observation they're often more wrong than right


I disagree with that, the models aren't perfect but they have been pretty good this year so far

in the end the models that said 94L would split were right.

Just because a model does not show development, does not mean it is wrong.
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7826
Quoting txjac:
Wow Chicklit ...looks like Florida, or most of it, is getting their rain!

See that area of blue to the left along the north part of the GoM. THAT IS PART OF FLORIDA. ALMOST HALF THE STATE. (even if not in population)

Thank you. :)
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Quoting jasonweather11:
wow!! up to 70%




can you plzs stop spaming weather underground evere day with new names



you are a name spamer



POOF!
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904. beell
Quoting PrivateIdaho:
I'm digging the updated Avitar. :^)


Thanks! Time to pull out all the stops for Texas Rain!
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 143 Comments: 16734
Quoting Hurricanes101:


are you frustrated? seems like it

Lmao, not at all, just a simple observation they're often more wrong than right
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We need some rain at Carrollwood, Florida. The lakes are drying up !!!!!
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Quoting txjac:
Wow Chicklit ...looks like Florida, or most of it, is getting their rain!


At Last!
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Quoting stormpetrol:
Models suck, throw them out the window, they just don't pan out the vast majority of the time imo!


are you frustrated? seems like it
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7826
Models suck, throw them out the window, they just don't pan out the vast majority of the time imo!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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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.