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


It is a nice reference for the ultra geek!
yeah...you qualify
; -)
I'm digging the updated Avitar. :^)
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little for Texas

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Quoting BahaHurican:
Was just about to add that it seems we may actually get a fairly strong MJO pulse this time around.... forecasts for a TC of some kind may not be so far-fetched if we can get some moisture into the air... and out of it...
Tht's my thinking too. The MJO will be positive through July when it is not ideal for development and then it will become negative for the peak of the season and put a lid on development through much of Sept.
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TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
500 PM PDT SAT JUN 18 2011

FOR THE EASTERN NORTH PACIFIC...EAST OF 140 DEGREES WEST LONGITUDE..

SATELLITE DATA FROM EARLIER TODAY INDICATE THAT THE CENTER OF
CIRCULATION OF A LOW PRESSURE AREA CENTERED ABOUT 325 MILES
SOUTH-SOUTHEAST OF ACAPULCO MEXICO IS BECOMING BETTER DEFINED.
SHOWER AND THUNDERSTORM ACTIVITY IS A LITTLE BIT MORE CONCENTRATED
NEAR THE CENTER...AND ADDITIONAL ORGANIZATION COULD RESULT IN THE
FORMATION OF A TROPICAL DEPRESSION TONIGHT OR ON SUNDAY. THERE IS
A HIGH CHANCE...70 PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL
CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS AS IT MOVES WEST-NORTHWESTWARD
NEAR 10 MPH. INTERESTS ALONG THE SOUTHWESTERN COAST OF MEXICO
SHOULD MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF THIS LOW OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS.

ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.
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Quoting geepy86:
Wow, I wanted rain, but not a couple months worth in 20 mins.
Wow... some people never satisfied.... lol

Quoting pottery:

Enjoy it Baha!
Even if you do lose power....
A lot harder without the AC... between sweltering and mosquitos, not much choice... lol

On the position of the AB high and related forecasts for landfall...
1. I'm not so happy about using a mid-June position as a strong forecast for the height of the season. Since I started observing that high on a regular basis, I've seen the mean location retreat from the leading edge over us [Bahamas] as much as 10 deg. N and E of us. On top of that, a lot depends not just on location, but also on mean height. A softer high means easier ingress of eastward propogating frontal systems, meaning increased risk for East coast properties.

2. Even with an average location as is, individual storms can and do end up just about anywhere depending on the individual circumstances. September in particular seems to be a month where the vagaries of a passing front can make or break FL landfall-wise.

That being said, I certainly wouldn't want to see anything similar to what's there now still hanging about in ASO.... that would spell some very bad news for just about everybody from PR, through the Greater Antilles, The Bahamas/TCI, FL and into the GoM. Autumn weather would throw in the potential for a front to open up the SE US coast.

NOT a pretty thought.

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891. txjac
Wow Chicklit ...looks like Florida, or most of it, is getting their rain!
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LinkATLAST!
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Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1918
Rain..???? Lightening...???????? What are they???

103F here today and forecast to be 106F tomorrow! :-( And I have to move house tomorrow. :-( :-(

Been so long since it last rained it feels more like back home in the outback every day. Welcome to west texas........
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Quoting cchsweatherman:
What the disturbed weather over the NE Caribbean and Yucatan as well as the disturbed weather over the Leeward Islands shows us is that instability is rising over the Atlantic basin overall.
Was just about to add that it seems we may actually get a fairly strong MJO pulse this time around.... forecasts for a TC of some kind may not be so far-fetched if we can get some moisture into the air... and out of it...
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pottery, the records keep falling in 2011, see post 697.
Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14898
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:

latest sat image

5 minutes ago it started coming down REAL hard again...
By the BucketLoad right now.
No Flashers recently though.
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Quoting pottery:

You cant be Green with envy!
Green implies that it's been Raining LOL!

Hope you get some soon...

Just started coming down hard again....

latest sat image
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56059
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1918
Quoting BahaHurican:
Evening all. Seeing and hearing some fairly robust Tstorms building to our west.



Sure hope it rains. Sure hope the power doesn't go out...

lol

Enjoy it Baha!
Even if you do lose power....
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880. beell
Quoting Levi32:


Very nice! I'll have to look at this closer when I have the time.


It is a nice reference for the ultra geek!
yeah...you qualify
; -)
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 145 Comments: 16920
Quoting txjac:



You know some of you on here are making others green with envy ...lol

Wish I could send some excess to ya'll
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Evening all. Seeing and hearing some fairly robust Tstorms building to our west.



Sure hope it rains. Sure hope the power doesn't go out...

lol
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Quoting HurricaneDevo:
Second day in a row that we have had over two inches of rain in Orlando. Very active thunderstorm just went through.
Wow you have had what i have received all year in 2 days, good for you. That is a great rain.
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Quoting txjac:



You know some of you on here are making others green with envy ...lol

You cant be Green with envy!
Green implies that it's been Raining LOL!

Hope you get some soon...

Just started coming down hard again....
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56059
Quoting beell:
760. HarryMc 9:53 PM GMT on June 18, 2011

I've had this in the file for may years. May finally be of use to somebody.

The algorithms are FORTRAN but they read easy. Many of the variables will yield to using nothing more than paper, pencil and a scientific calculator. Integration required for geopotential height may be a little ambitious for the geopotential thickness of more than one level without some computational help. But hey, some people like crossword puzzles!

Used to have many of these functions MS Excel and after that, Visual Basic-but that was a couple of computers ago. If you have MS Office you got VB.

Geopotential height is the last function given.
(and it requires the dewpoint to calculate the mixing ratio...)

Have fun!



Very nice! I'll have to look at this closer when I have the time.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
873. txjac
Quoting pottery:
Big Lightening just to my North for the past hour or so. See post 843 from Sunlinerp.
Not raining on me at the moment, but we accumulated 7/8 of an inch today so far.
Going to be a Good Sleep night around here!



You know some of you on here are making others green with envy ...lol
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Big Lightening just to my North for the past hour or so. See post 843 from Sunlinerp.
Not raining on me at the moment, but we accumulated 7/8 of an inch today so far.
Going to be a Good Sleep night around here!
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Member Since: October 9, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8436
870. beell
760. HarryMc 9:53 PM GMT on June 18, 2011

I've had this in the file for may years. May finally be of use to somebody.

The algorithms are FORTRAN but they read easy. Many of the variables will yield to using nothing more than paper, pencil and a scientific calculator. Integration required for geopotential height may be a little ambitious for the geopotential thickness of more than one level without some computational help. But hey, some people like crossword puzzles!

Used to have many of these functions in MS Excel and after that, Visual Basic-but that was a couple of computers ago. If you have MS Office you got VB.

Geopotential height is the last function given.
(and it requires the dewpoint to calculate the mixing ratio...)

Have fun!

Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 145 Comments: 16920
Quoting geepy86:
Wow, I wanted rain, but not a couple months worth in 20 mins.
most if not all just run away need a extended period to be any good but it is better then nothing
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56059
Quoting troy1993:
So Levi32 if you had to make a guess to say where most of the hurricane activity will occur this year would Texas be a good bet currently?


I dislike pinpointing specific states, as each one can be hit in any year. I will say that the gulf is at above-normal risk overall. A more neutral summer as opposed to a La Nina one could also mean a weaker ridge over the southern U.S., resulting in storms coming up into the gulf further east than last year, when Mexico and to some extent Texas had all the action.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
this will be a west coast of FL year
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T-WAVE enters se carb. dead zone that will kobash dev till at least 76 77 w
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56059
Sure is just exited to the beach over us.
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*Click the image to make it larger*
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Second day in a row that we have had over two inches of rain in Orlando. Very active thunderstorm just went through.
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Wow, I wanted rain, but not a couple months worth in 20 mins.
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INV92E T.C.F.A and T-WAV just coming over yuctan



inv 92 and t-wave moving in tandem
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56059
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
yes i also see an above active troll season this season
shaping up to be a good one too but as always they will be surpress
because of an active hammer season pounding away at the forever different screen names
trying to get around bans with very limited success most if not all trolls will be limited in there behaviour and impact on the blog this hurricane/troll season
Yes this should be an interesting season in all respects.But bloggers should also beware of The Pied Pipper or The Arm & Hammer Man.
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Quoting cchsweatherman:
What the disturbed weather over the NE Caribbean and Yucatan as well as the disturbed weather over the Leeward Islands shows us is that instability is rising over the Atlantic basin overall.
things simmering along its only day 18 once we get to day 55 of the season thats the last week of july then systems should have no problem spinning up
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56059
So Levi32 if you had to make a guess to say where most of the hurricane activity will occur this year would Texas be a good bet currently?
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What the disturbed weather over the NE Caribbean and Yucatan as well as the disturbed weather over the Leeward Islands shows us is that instability is rising over the Atlantic basin overall.
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Quoting seasonbust2011:
yes troy thats true the bermuda azores high is a lot more south then it was last year but it hasnt set up shop yet...we have a few more weeks before that happens...i would tend to think just by going by the conditions in the atmosphere right now that the threat would shift more to the mexican lower texas coast this year...the east coast would have very little activity as for as a major hurricane....
yes i also see an above active troll season this season
shaping up to be a good one too but as always they will be surpress
because of an active hammer season pounding away at the forever different screen names
trying to get around bans with very limited success most if not all trolls will be limited in there behaviour and impact on the blog this hurricane/troll season
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56059
Quoting Grothar:



Noticed that, too. But there should be plenty of moisture and heat there in place. I am looking from the 25 or after.


Sounds about right.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
Quoting caneswatch:


It was horrid. We had a storm to the north, but that's where it stayed.

And what new job LOL?


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.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
Quoting CosmicEvents:
In the world of golf, there's a good karma story going on as 22-yo Rory McIlroy is deciminating the rest of the world's golfers in the US OPEN. He's ahead by a historic margin, shooting a historic score.
.
.
.
In the last couple of weeks, while his competitors were honing there skills back at the country club and lunching at the grill room, or off doing what Tiger Woods did, this golfer instead went down to Haiti to help the victims of the earthquake. An unorthodox preparation, but it's paying off, cosmically.
Yes, the boy has a big heart. Hopefully this win will not ruin him like it did Woods.
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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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