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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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.

Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 13341
Quoting Grothar:
What do you guys think of this"




Link


What are you seeing, Gro?
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26465
694. beell
@671, KEEP,
Another cloud-free lake shadow downwind (N/NNW) of Lake O.
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 137 Comments: 15358
What do you guys think of this"




Link
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Now the mid-level steering looks more northwest, which is interesting. The models seem to want to hold the 500mb ridge strong over the western Gulf of Mexico for a few more days yet though, so we'll see how much latitude this really gains.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26465
Quoting Levi32:
Interesting to see the ECMWF starting to hint at things on the last two runs, though later in the timeline than the GFS.

just like i knew the high pressure will stay off the east coast and rotate the storms into the GOM. the 3 years of no landfalls coming to an end!
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in this image position one can see west northwest movement stronger west then nw also you can see any moisture tring to enter BOC/GOM getting zapped as it trys to do so
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52406
The steering here looks between true WNW and true NW, though some of the northerly component is likely due to the presence of the tropical wave in the low levels.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26465
both tw's are worth watching some yrs there are periods where there is nothing
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Quoting alfabob:

I don't know if we are looking at the same thing then, follow that "tail" starting in the SW Caribbean all the way to around 84W, 18N; inflow is converging away from any land. So if that happens to be the same entity from yesterday it must have moved NNW. (also noticed that upper level winds were beginning to calm down directly above this area)


There's a lot of mid-level debris at those coordinates. It is hard to see the surface flow, but off the coast of Belize it is out of the ESE, and east of the mid-level cloud field it is also out of the ESE, so there is no reason to believe that there is any significant directional convergence outside of the weak curvature associated with the tropical wave axis.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26465
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Levi, what do you make of the low the CMC and the NOGAPS are showing off the East Coast? I'm not convinced its tropical but they have been showing it for days and now its 60 hours out.


(12z NOGAPS 42 hrs)



Well every model has it attached to a front the whole time and the GFS says it's cold-core.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26465
Weather report from Louisville, Ky: 77 degrees, nice cool breeze, and some rain showers; windows open and enjoying this perfect Saturday!

I moved from Panama City Beach a year ago February during a snow and ice storm. Did not like that premonition, but the weather here has been absolutely beautiful spring, summer, fall and winter. I miss my home in Florida, and will move back next year. I am sorry for the heat and lack of rain that you Floridians and others are experiencing. Hopefully, I will bring the rain and cooler weather with me when I move back!
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weakening upper and mid level shear with an broad upper level circulation.



No Low level wind circulation yet.



Wind shear looks to be lowering some 30 to 40 knots look to be moving slowly NE, I'm fairly sure storms can form in 20 knots if conditions or right.


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681. srada
Hey Guys..

Can anyone tell me whats the difference between a 500 MB and a 850 MB model run?
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


NHC says its moving NW, that is where I got that from



Yep, They changed the direction around 12:30 from WNW to NW.
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Quoting Levi32:
Interesting to see the ECMWF starting to hint at things on the last two runs, though later in the timeline than the GFS.



Look at this nice 500mb anomalies in the BOC and Western Caribbean.

Photobucket
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Levi, what do you make of the low the CMC and the NOGAPS are showing off the East Coast? I'm not convinced its tropical but they have been showing it for days and now its 60 hours out.


(12z NOGAPS 42 hrs)

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There is no "NWN",,only NNW, NW,or WNW
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


NHC says its moving NW, that is where I got that from


Yeah I just read that. It's not supported by this:

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26465
Caribbean AOI - False Color RGB Loop
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Here's the very sharp upper trough on the far left side of this image. It is allowing clouds to develop in a hurry all up and down the east side of its axis.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26465
Quoting Levi32:
NW movement is an illusion due to thunderstorm development. One must be careful when looking at satellite imagery. Clouds will spread into the Gulf of Mexico under such divergence aloft, but the system as a whole is still following a WNW path.


NHC says its moving NW, that is where I got that from
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Quoting StAugustineFL:


Looking east. ECSB not doing anything here yet.

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52406
NW movement is an illusion due to thunderstorm development. One must be careful when looking at satellite imagery. Clouds will spread into the Gulf of Mexico under such divergence aloft, but the system as a whole is still following a WNW path.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26465


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Interesting to see the ECMWF starting to hint at things on the last two runs, though later in the timeline than the GFS.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26465
Quoting RitaEvac:
Dead/dying CrapeMyrtles, one in the foreground, ones in the back are brown, and the ones on the left are green because of watering.



Hope you get rain soon. Those are in bad shape. In the last couple of days one of my crapes has had a few leaves yellowing. Not quite sure what that's about.
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Quoting Bitmap7:


If a system develops in the gulf it will have to fight the dry air thats been festering there.


there looks to be a sufficient enough moisture field with this wave. That will help it fight off any dry air
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Quoting alfabob:

I was told it was headed west yesterday, but somehow it moved NW/NWN like I was predicting. Look for the current steering to switch more N in the future -> monsoon + weakness to the north.


It is not moving NW. It's moving WNW. Thunderstorms are firing along the entire axis of the tropical wave under a divergent upper-level environment as I predicted a few days ago, but the system is moving WNW. The entity from north of Panama is near the tip of Honduras/Nicaragua right now.
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watched 94 for a week nothing yet this system popped up out of nowhere and already looks decent
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Early July 2005,,Hurricane Cindy Track







Hurricane Cindy on July 5, 2005, at 1745 UTC


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Quoting Hurricanes101:


exactly, development is possible over the BOC and Western Gulf


If a system develops in the gulf it will have to fight the dry air thats been festering there.
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Dead/dying CrapeMyrtles, one in the foreground, ones in the back are brown, and the ones on the left are green because of watering.

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Check out the good convergence and divergence on the leeward islands tropical wave.

Shear is decreasing and an anticyclone seems to be trying to develop above it.



Low vort on the 850mb and 700mb though. None at 500mb and under.


strong trade winds becoming evident in the area to help feed convergence.




If its doing anything it will do it north of Costa Rica, where the flow in the lower levels seem to be piling up.
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Quoting Skyepony:
FL East Coast Seabreeze just fired up. I've got light rain & thunder.


Looking east. ECSB not doing anything here yet.

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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
calm down it is what it is and thats a wave nothing more nothing less at this time but with time as it drifts westward over yuc and into the southern BOC then maybe just maybe we get something there another wave enters stage right into eastern south eastern carb soon has some energy with it its ony day 18 there is still 163 more days to go


exactly, development is possible over the BOC and Western Gulf
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7233
Quoting alfabob:

I was told it was headed west yesterday, but somehow it moved NW/NWN like I was predicting. Look for the current steering to switch more N in the future -> monsoon + weakness to the north.


looks to me like the steering will stay NW for now
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7233
Quoting alfabob:

That is because CIMSS is smoking something; it switches off into some weird mode every once in a while where every single vorticity from the previous update weakens or strengths significantly. I can clearly see vorticity on RGB, whether its all mid-level or is stacked is the question (but CIMSS shows absolutely nothing in that area so it can't be correct). Development over 48 hours is very possible with that loop current and current conditions.
calm down it is what it is and thats a wave nothing more nothing less at this time but with time as it drifts westward over yuc and into the southern BOC then maybe just maybe we get something there another wave enters stage right into eastern south eastern carb soon has some energy with it its ony day 18 there is still 163 more days to go
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


its moving NW, which means it will likely hit a portion of the Yucatan and go towards the Western Gulf; not sure if the Loop current comes into play at all

and Im sorry but I do not see very much in the way of a circulation in the NW Caribbean and just because the CIMSS seems to disagree with you; does not mean it is smoking something. Also a note for you, the CIMSS strengthened the vorticity for both 92E and the low up in Canada; so your argument against the CIMSS is unfounded this time around.
The TW just nearing the Caribbean seems to be pretty healthy at this time. NW Caribbean DOES look pretty good on satellite but Grand Cayman is not getting any rain from it to speak of.
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Quoting alfabob:

That is because CIMSS is smoking something; it switches off into some weird mode every once in a while where every single vorticity from the previous update weakens or strengths significantly. I can clearly see vorticity on RGB, whether its all mid-level or is stacked is the question (but CIMSS shows absolutely nothing in that area so it can't be correct). Development over 48 hours is very possible with that loop current and current conditions.


its moving NW, which means it will likely hit a portion of the Yucatan and go towards the Western Gulf; not sure if the Loop current comes into play at all

and Im sorry but I do not see very much in the way of a circulation in the NW Caribbean and just because the CIMSS seems to disagree with you; does not mean it is smoking something. Also a note for you, the CIMSS strengthened the vorticity for both 92E and the low up in Canada since the last image; so your argument against the CIMSS is unfounded this time around.
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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.