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 Tazmanian:
what week dos lader day weekend fall on?



is it the 1st week of SEP or the last week of SEP?
Taz, it's easier to figure out if, like me and like Grothar, you are old enough to remember that school used not to start until AFTER Labor Day! And it ended BEFORE Memorial Day. Those were the days, my friend. This year, September 5.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The POAMA model has backtracked as it had moderate El Nino for August,September and October a few weeks ago.Now it is lingering thru the 0.8C line of Neutral/Weak El Nino thru those peak months of the Atlantic hurricane season.

Present forecast

img

Mid April forecast

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Quoting Patrap:
There is no "NWN",,only NNW, NW,or WNW
They don't teach that anymore it's not on the No Kid Left Behind testing curriculum.
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Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1918
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These plots aid in tracking the location, intensity, and evolution of the eastern Atlantic Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).
This product uses geosynchronous satellite imagery and therefore has the advantage of full coverage in space and frequent coverage in time. It uses cloud top temperatures as a proxy for surface convergence.
The top plot shows the latest infrared (IR) brightness temperatures from GOES Channel 4.
The bottom plot is a Hovmoller (time-latitude) diagram of the zonal mean brightness temperatures, newest time on the bottom. This allows you to track the evolution of the ITCZ(s).



Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1918
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:
Levi, do you think 92E will not develop at all? Or it still has a chance?


It has a decent chance to get classified as a TD or weak TS, but I don't see it getting too strong, as the upper-level pattern is not favorable.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
Quoting weatherh98:
I dont see circulation on the latest windsat pass, but, I do see >40kt winds on it.


Carribean wave*
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Quoting aquak9:


yep. My brain's so fried, I can't even add in to the mindlessness.
I've heard blueberry juice helps your memory and brain power........
Member Since: August 3, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 5689
I dont see circulation on the latest windsat pass, but, I do see >40kt winds on it.
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Levi, do you think 92E will not develop at all? Or it still has a chance?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MELBOURNE FL
510 PM EDT SAT JUN 18 2011

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MELBOURNE HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
EASTERN VOLUSIA COUNTY IN FLORIDA...
THIS INCLUDES THE CITIES OF...SOUTH DAYTONA...PORT ORANGE...PONCE
INLET...ORMOND BEACH...HOLLY HILL...DAYTONA BEACH...

* UNTIL 615 PM EDT.

* AT 506 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO NEAR DAYTONA
BEACH...MOVING SOUTHEAST AT 15 MPH.

* OTHER LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO
WILBUR BY THE SEA

THE IMMEDIATE DANGER OF A TORNADO IS HIGH. PEOPLE IN THE PATH OF THIS
DEVELOPING TORNADO ARE URGED TO QUICKLY PREPARE FOR ITS APPROACH.
THIS IS A DANGEROUS SITUATION! ACT NOW AS SECONDS CAN SAVE LIVES!
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Quoting Ylee:
Did someone say mindless idle banter? I know next to nothing about tropical systems, but I'm an expert at mindless idle banter!

Slow day at the blogs, ain't it? :)


yep. My brain's so fried, I can't even add in to the mindlessness.
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Quoting alfabob:

This is the week for development though due to MJO, so either things start getting more active throughout the evening and night or its going to be around 2-3 weeks until the tropics have another chance (looks relatively active for this time of year).


That is a pretty active picture for mid-June.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
THE GULF OF MEXICO...
A SURFACE RIDGE AXIS IS OVER THE GULF OF MEXICO ALONG 29N. 5-10
KT SOUTHERLY WINDS ARE OVER THE E GULF WHILE 10-15 KT SOUTHERLY
FLOW IS OVER THE W GULF DUE TO A SLIGHTLY TIGHTER SURFACE
GRADIENT. FAIR WEATHER IS OVER THE GULF EXCEPT OVER THE SE GULF.
A TROPICAL WAVE IS NOW IN THE YUCATAN CHANNEL PRODUCING
SCATTERED SHOWERS S OF 24N E OF 87W. IN THE UPPER LEVELS AN
UPPER LEVEL HIGH IS CENTERED OVER N MEXICO NEAR 25N100W. STRONG
SUBSIDENCE COVERS THE GULF EXCEPT OVER FLORIDA...CUBA...AND THE
YUCATAN PENINSULA. EXPECT...MORE THUNDERSTORMS OVER THE STRAITS
OF FLORIDA...CUBA...THE YUCATAN CHANNEL...AND THE YUCATAN
PENINSULA OVER THE NEXT 24 HOURS.
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1918
Quoting Tazmanian:
what week dos lader day weekend fall on?



is it the 1st week of SEP or the last week of SEP?
Labor Day in the USA falls on the first Monday of September.
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Only in that mindless idle banter can be published as if it were a real research paper.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
what week dos lader day weekend fall on?



is it the 1st week of SEP or the last week of SEP?


I believe it is Sept 5th this year
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Quoting Barefootontherocks:


Wow.Wow.Wow. The Feds gave NWS the radar. There will be a learning curve for mets before it's fully implemented, but still... Wow.

From the link:
The dual polarization system, which was installed inside the National Weather Service's radar tower about two weeks ago, now is up and running as part of a six-month test run across the United States. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway is the nation's first airport to receive the technology, with five more cities to follow: Norman, Okla.; Vance Air Force Base, Okla.; Wichita, Kan.; Pittsburgh, Pa., and Morehead City, N.C.

Its effectiveness will be reviewed in the months ahead before 131 dual polarization systems are deployed across the nation by mid-2013...


I know! I can't wait.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
726. srada
Quoting Barefootontherocks:

The same model run will show both 850 and 500. Levels is the difference. 850 closer to surface, 500 midlevel.

N by NW, just Mt. Rushmore. The Iowa cornfield scene was the best.
:)

Thank you!
Member Since: August 17, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 774
725. Ylee
Did someone say mindless idle banter? I know next to nothing about tropical systems, but I'm an expert at mindless idle banter!

Slow day at the blogs, ain't it? :)
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Quoting srada:
Hey Guys..

Can anyone tell me whats the difference between a 500 MB and a 850 MB model run?

The same model run will show both 850 and 500. Levels is the difference. 850 closer to surface, 500 midlevel.
...

N by NW, just Mt. Rushmore. The Iowa cornfield scene was the best.
:)
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Quoting WatchingThisOne:
This has probably been posted here already, but for others who haven't seen it ...

US National Solar Observatory
Is the Sunspot Cycle Going into Hybernation?

Be sure to read the added note, perhaps first. One of the authors stresses that they are NOT predicting a mini-ice age.

Sadly, more fodder for the global warming conflict.

Anyways, we may not see sunspot cycle #25 for some time, perhaps decades, if the authors are correct.

Interesting read.

WTO



interesting
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Not a very exciting day for sure.

Don't worry though, we're going to be seeing some action within the next 3 weeks more than likely.

I hear thunder outside.

BBL.
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Quoting CosmicEvents:
Idle banter Alert!


mindless idle banter
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Quoting PensacolaBuoy:
I'm sure someone must have posted this already, but in case you didn't see it...
Link
USA Today: Looming gap in weather satellites threatens forecasting


Doesn't sound like a looming gap to me. That's a delay of 18 months with a 24-month fuel buffer. It's not like the thing is going to fall apart on the last day of the 5th year. It would be nice to have a 2-year buffer rather than a 6-month buffer, but the US is in quite dire straights financially.
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Quoting Levi32:
By the way, have any of you seen this story about the new dual-polarized radar the NWS is implementing? Apparently they are starting in Phoenix.


Wow.Wow.Wow. The Feds gave NWS the radar. There will be a learning curve for mets before it's fully implemented, but still... Wow.

From the link:
The dual polarization system, which was installed inside the National Weather Service's radar tower about two weeks ago, now is up and running as part of a six-month test run across the United States. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway is the nation's first airport to receive the technology, with five more cities to follow: Norman, Okla.; Vance Air Force Base, Okla.; Wichita, Kan.; Pittsburgh, Pa., and Morehead City, N.C.

Its effectiveness will be reviewed in the months ahead before 131 dual polarization systems are deployed across the nation by mid-2013...
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Quoting Levi32:


It looks the nicest of any central Atlantic wave we've had so far. It may prove significant if it piles its energy into the west Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico later next week.
Thank you. Convection has been increasing with it all day and I know shear is not too high in that area.
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beell - great mod on your profile pic!!!
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I'm sure someone must have posted this already, but in case you didn't see it...
Link
USA Today: Looming gap in weather satellites threatens forecasting
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
This has probably been posted here already, but for others who haven't seen it ...

US National Solar Observatory
Is the Sunspot Cycle Going into Hybernation?

Be sure to read the added note, perhaps first. One of the authors stresses that they are NOT predicting a mini-ice age.

Sadly, more fodder for the global warming conflict.

Anyways, we may not see sunspot cycle #25 for some time, perhaps decades, if the authors are correct.

Interesting read.

WTO
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Someone asked whats the difference between a 500 MB and a 850 MB model run? sorry my Quote button ant working for some resone but anyway

The 500 mb level is often refered to as the steering level as most weather systems and precipitation follow the winds at this level. The winds follow the height contours and generally run from 30 to 100 knots. The speeds can be roughly estimated from the 300 mb winds as roughly 2/3rds their magnitude. This level averages around 18,000 feet above sea level and is roughly half-way up through the weather producing part of the atmosphere called the troposphere.

The 850 mb chart details weather conditions at the 850 mb level or around 5000 feet above sea level.

well something along those lines the link can explain it better then I.

Link
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1918
By the way, have any of you seen this story about the new dual-polarized radar the NWS is implementing? Apparently they are starting in Phoenix.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
(snork) The Dakotas- check

It's pretty bad when I'm like BEGGING the NHC to use thier crayons, I oughtta send'm some...remember last year I went to every Walmart and Kmart in the Miami-Dade region and bought them all out.
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Quoting Grothar:



Come on press, it's the theme song to North by Northwest!!!! If Cary Grant could do it, so can you. Movie took place in the Dakota's by the way. LOL
Idle banter Alert!
Member Since: August 3, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 5689
Quoting Levi32:
18z analysis has the wave inland, WNW of its previous position:



Here is a closer view.

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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Levi, what do you think about the wave just to the east of the islands ?


It looks the nicest of any central Atlantic wave we've had so far. It may prove significant if it piles its energy into the west Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico later next week.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
what week dos lader day weekend fall on?



is it the 1st week of SEP or the last week of SEP?
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Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
Quoting Levi32:
18z analysis has the wave inland, WNW of its previous position:

Levi, what do you think about the wave just to the east of the islands ?
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107.2 in the shade, winds gusting to 35 mph. Temps seem to be going up in Texas every day due to drought get worse every day. Seeing temps in area around 110 which are approaching all time highs for area.
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18z analysis has the wave inland, WNW of its previous position:

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
Quoting presslord:


odd beat ..kinda hard to dance to...



Come on press, it's the theme song to North by Northwest!!!! If Cary Grant could do it, so can you. Movie took place in the Dakota's by the way. LOL
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27211
Check out the MJO moving to our part of the world now:

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
Quoting Grothar:
What do you guys think of this"




Link


odd beat ..kinda hard to dance to...
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Quoting alfabob:

Yea the SW quadrant is rather weak right now, but monsoon winds are still approaching which nudge that steering even more to the north. Other than that one quadrant though, the inflow is pretty consistent and is now being picked up on buoys.



Interesting wind direction spikes on the buoys. What you are saying may be possible if that becomes more consistent, but we should keep in mind that those random spikes could be individual thunderstorms as well.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26701
pottery, more rainfall total records are being broken not only in Puerto Rico, but in the U.S Virgin Islands. So far,2011 is the year of new records weatherwise in many categories,especially in the rainfall totals.

.CLIMATE...FOR THE CYRIL E. KING ARPT IN CHARLOTTE AMALIE ST.
THOMAS A TOTAL OF 18.13 INCHES OF RAIN HAS BEEN RECORDED SO FAR
THIS YEAR. THIS REPRESENTS THE SIXTH WETTEST START TO A YEAR ON
RECORD. THE AVG TEMP SO FAR THIS YEAR HAS BEEN 78.6 DEGS. THIS
REPRESENTS THE EIGHT COOLEST START TO A YEAR ON RECORD.

FOR THE HENRY ROHLSEN ARPT IN CHRISTIANSTED ST. CROIX...A TOTAL OF
6.16 INCHES OF RAIN HAS BEEN RECORDED SO FAR THIS MONTH. THIS
REPRESENTS THE WETTEST START TO THE MONTH OF JUNE ON RECORD AND
ALREADY RANKS AS THE FOURTH WETTEST ON RECORD. THE WETTEST JUNE ON
RECORD WAS IN 1987 WHEN 7.83 INCHES OF RAIN WERE MEASURED. IN
ADDITION...A TOTAL OF 18.23 INCHES OF RAIN HAS BEEN RECORDED SO
FAR THIS YEAR. THIS REPRESENTS THE SEVENTH WETTEST START TO A YEAR
ON RECORD. LIKE IN ST. CROIX...THE AVG TEMP SO FAR THIS YEAR HAS
BEEN 78.5 DEGS. THIS REPRESENTS THE SIXTH COOLEST START TO A YEAR
ON RECORD.

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About

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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