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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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Levi32:


Perhaps, though I have a feeling it's not going to develop on its own, but will merge with whatever's going on in the southern Gulf of Mexico. That timeline is shifting farther ahead on the GFS as well, taking longer to get any low going in the BOC.



Noticed that, too. But there should be plenty of moisture and heat there in place. I am looking from the 25 or after.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
hi everyone
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Quoting troy1993:
Hey guys I just looked at the current steering current maps and if the Bermuda High remains in its current position for the remainder of hurricane season then we are in for a long ride along the Gulf Coast.
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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.
.
.
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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.
Member Since: August 3, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 5528
18z GFS has broad low pressure over the Gulf of Mexico and Yucatan Peninsula on Day 12, shifted farther ahead, interestingly more in line with the recent ECMWF runs.

Day 8:



Day 12:


Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26548
Quoting troy1993:
Hey guys I just looked at the current steering current maps and if the Bermuda High remains in its current position for the remainder of hurricane season then we are in for a long ride along the Gulf Coast.


With all due respect I would not mind a Tropical storm if it will bring in some rain, but I'n not wishing for a "Hurricane"....

Taco :o)
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Quoting Grothar:



Levi, still think we may be right about that wave moving into the Caribbean around the 24th? Conditions look to be a little favorable for a little action there. Getting to look better everyday.


Perhaps, though I have a feeling it's not going to develop on its own, but will merge with whatever's going on in the southern Gulf of Mexico. That timeline is shifting farther ahead on the GFS as well, taking longer to get any low going in the BOC.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26548
Quoting Grothar:


Hey, Canes. It is getting bad. Was it hot today or what? How is the new job by the way??


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

And what new job LOL?
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Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1918
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LOOK ..Ye Texans :)

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Quoting caneswatch:


Same here. It's now starting to take it's toll really fast here.


Hey, Canes. It is getting bad. Was it hot today or what? How is the new job by the way??
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
Quoting Levi32:


Well, NHC 18z surface map implied W or WNW.



Levi, still think we may be right about that wave moving into the Caribbean around the 24th? Conditions look to be a little favorable for a little action there. Getting to look better everyday.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
WTPN21 PHNC 181830
MSGID/GENADMIN/NAVMARFCSTCEN PEARL HARBOR HI/JTWC//
SUBJ/TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION ALERT//
RMKS/
1. FORMATION OF A SIGNIFICANT TROPICAL CYCLONE IS POSSIBLE WITHIN
120 NM EITHER SIDE OF A LINE FROM 12.7N 94.9W TO 14.2N 100.4W
WITHIN THE NEXT 12 TO 24 HOURS. AVAILABLE DATA DOES NOT JUSTIFY
ISSUANCE OF NUMBERED TROPICAL CYCLONE WARNINGS AT THIS TIME.
WINDS IN THE AREA ARE ESTIMATED TO BE 18 TO 23 KNOTS. METSAT IM-
AGERY AT 181200Z INDICATES THAT A CIRCULATION CENTER IS LOCATED
NEAR 12.8N 95.0W. THE SYSTEM IS MOVING NORTHWESTWARD AT 05
KNOTS.
2. REMARKS: AN AREA OF CONVECTION HAS PERSISTED NEAR 12.8N 95.0W,
APPROXIMATELY 200 NM SOUTH OF SALINA CRUZ, MEXICO. ANIMATED
MULTISPECTRAL SATELLITE IMAGERY DEPICTS A DEVELOPING, THOUGH STILL
SLIGHTLY ELONGATED, LOW LEVEL CIRCULATION CENTER (LLCC) WITH
ORGANIZING DEEP CONVECTION. AN 181449Z SSMIS 91 GHZ MICROWAVE IMAGE
SHOWS CONVECTIVE BANDING WRAPPING AROUND THE NORTHERN AND WESTERN
PERIPHERIES OF THE LLCC. UPPER LEVEL ANALYSIS INDICATES THE SYSTEM
IS LOCATED SOUTH OF THE SUBTROPICAL RIDGE AXIS IN AN AREA OF
FAVORABLE DIVERGENCE ALOFT AND WEAK TO MODERATE NORTHEASTERLY
VERTICAL WIND SHEAR. MAXIMUM SUSTAINED SURFACE WINDS ARE ESTIMATED
AT 18 TO 23 KNOTS. MINIMUM SEA LEVEL PRESSURES IS ESTIMATED TO BE
NEAR 1006 MB. BASED ON IMPROVING LOW LEVEL SIGNATURE AND UPPER LEVEL
SUPPORT, THE POTENTIAL FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF A SIGNIFICANT TROPICAL
CYCLONE WITHIN THE NEXT 24 HOURS IS HIGH.
3. THIS ALERT WILL BE REISSUED, UPGRADED TO WARNING OR CANCELLED BY
191830Z.//
NNNN

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Quoting alfabob:

6 hours ago it was here, I can see it on RGB.


ok so about 5% of the wave axis is over the Gulf

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Quoting Grothar:


That is fine with me. All I want is rain. I dont' care if a low pressure hits the Yucatan. I want heavy rain along the axis to hit Florida.


Same here. It's now starting to take it's toll really fast here.
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Hey guys I just looked at the current steering current maps and if the Bermuda High remains in its current position for the remainder of hurricane season then we are in for a long ride along the Gulf Coast.
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Quoting alfabob:
The wave is in the GOM, not the Caribbean; inflow isn't going to the wave..


The wave is over the Yucatan
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Quoting Hurricanes101:
the wave in the NW Caribbean is not moving NW, people are being fooled by the way the convection is developing along the wave axis. The axis itself is moving WNW.
....move it to Houston
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ALERT ATCF MIL 92X XXX 110618120000
2011061812
12.7 265.1
14.2 259.6
120
12.8 265.0
181830
1106181821
1
SUBJ/TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION ALERT//
WTPN21 PGTW 181830
RMKS/
1. FORMATION OF A SIGNIFICANT TROPICAL CYCLONE IS POSSIBLE WITHIN
120 NM EITHER SIDE OF A LINE FROM 12.7N 94.9W TO 14.2N 100.4W
WITHIN THE NEXT 12 TO 24 HOURS. AVAILABLE DATA DOES NOT JUSTIFY
ISSUANCE OF NUMBERED TROPICAL CYCLONE WARNINGS AT THIS TIME.
WINDS IN THE AREA ARE ESTIMATED TO BE 18 TO 23 KNOTS. METSAT IM-
AGERY AT 181200Z INDICATES THAT A CIRCULATION CENTER IS LOCATED
NEAR 12.8N 95.0W. THE SYSTEM IS MOVING NORTHWESTWARD AT 05
KNOTS.
2. REMARKS:
3. THIS ALERT WILL BE REISSUED, UPGRADED TO WARNING OR CANCELLED BY 191830Z.
//
9211061518 115N 912W 20
9211061600 115N 914W 20
9211061606 115N 918W 20
9211061612 115N 924W 20
9211061618 115N 924W 20
9211061700 117N 926W 20
9211061706 119N 929W 20
9211061712 120N 933W 20
9211061718 121N 937W 25
9211061800 122N 941W 25
9211061806 125N 946W 25
9211061812 128N 950W 25
NNNN

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Good News: We got 3/4" of rain. Bad News: No power for a while. Lightning hit a main feeder line.


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000
ABNT20 KNHC 182333
TWOAT

TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
800 PM EDT SAT JUN 18 2011

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER BEVEN


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Per stormkat trough moving north...to P-trap
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Quoting Hurricanes101:
the wave in the NW Caribbean is not moving NW, people are being fooled by the way the convection is developing along the wave axis. The axis itself is moving WNW.


That is fine with me. All I want is rain. I dont' care if a low pressure hits the Yucatan. I want heavy rain along the axis to hit Florida.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
@eruptionsblog
Erik K / Eruptions
Wow, since 5pm Charleston SC has filled with smoke from the northern Florida/southern Georgia fires.
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Well, whatever it was it felt good.....but it didn't last long enough.
Member Since: August 3, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 5528
the wave in the NW Caribbean is not moving NW, people are being fooled by the way the convection is developing along the wave axis. The axis itself is moving WNW.
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Quoting FrankZapper:
Stand outside and look up to the SE. They will be there soon!


All I see is ocean. Where do you think I am? :) Just clouds, it is really not today.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
Quoting weatherh98:


Hey grothar, what are the pressures in 92E????? I'm thinking that the wave is moving NNW.



Last reading I saw was a broad low pressure reading of about 1005, but it is expected to drop much more by tomorrow. Conditions not too favorable today.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1918
Quoting Grothar:


Where you at? Still not a drop here.
Stand outside and look up to the SE. They will be there soon!
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Quoting CosmicEvents:
I hope your phone has a/c.



LOL. No but the rain has cooled things down quite a bit, I'm gonna go check the lines as soon as it stops lightning.
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807. srada
Latest GFS run for the storm off the NC coast..we could sure use the rain..



CMC



Nogaps

Member Since: August 17, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 772
Quoting CosmicEvents:
There's an odd liquid substance falling from the skies here in SEFL. It's been going on now for 4 minutes....it's slowing down now and ending. Wonder what that was?


Where you at? Still not a drop here.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
Quoting CosmicEvents:
There's an odd liquid substance falling from the skies here in SEFL. It's been going on now for 4 minutes....it's slowing down now and ending. Wonder what that was?
Is there a flock of birds passing over?
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Quoting Levi32:


Well, NHC 18z surface map implied W or WNW.


The NHC, ha! You know I never listen to them. LOL

I just want some of that moisture to hit us. We still haven't had a drop.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
That leading edge is about to pass over here, if not a bit south. Looks to be falling apart :(
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Quoting charlottefl:
Just lost power here. Running off the cell phone.
I hope your phone has a/c.
Member Since: August 3, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 5528
TW by the Windwards is about the best looking that made it made that far west since the season started
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Quoting Grothar:
So has anybody decided. Is this moving WNW NW or N?


Link





Well, NHC 18z surface map implied W or WNW.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26548
Just lost power here. Running off the cell phone.
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797. srada
Severe thunderstorms in NC..I hope it holds together by the time it hits the coast as it is moving really fast..

Member Since: August 17, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 772

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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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