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 druseljic:
Wow, an incredible photo of lightning, an eclipse, and the planet of the goats...


Fantastic!
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Nice loop, Keeper. I noticed that nice flair up on the NW end of the Yucatan and when it felt the heat from Texas it evaporated! Go figure.
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54847
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Member Since: April 2, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2278
Quoting KoritheMan:


Lower tropospheric steering suggests that if it's going to do so, it has very little time; look at the fast easterly flow in which this system is embedded.

Yea there are a lot of ifs for the future of it, I was thinking it just needed enough strength to survive until shear drops and the high pressure to the NW moves E/NE. I can see some vorticity on RGB although it could be mid-level, ASCAT didn't pick anything up from about 3 hours ago.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Indeed. A lot of favorable atmospheric parameters for such a scenario are gradually coming together.

steady as she goes
all ahead full
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54847
Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


Thanks, Kori!

"Regardless of development and the eventual track of this system, it does appear that portions of drought-stricken Texas, from the Texas/Mexico border northward to Galveston may finally get some much needed rainfall"

I'll give you 1000 points for just mentioning that!


I hope for you guys I'm right. :)
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Quoting KoritheMan:
I just completed a late night blog entry on 92E and the potential Gulf system. Check it out if you want to.


Thanks, Kori!

"Regardless of development and the eventual track of this system, it does appear that portions of drought-stricken Texas, from the Texas/Mexico border northward to Galveston may finally get some much needed rainfall"

I'll give you 1000 points for just mentioning that!
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54847
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
hey levi ready for the next trackin session we get one in the GOM from the BOC in a bit


Indeed. A lot of favorable atmospheric parameters for such a scenario are gradually coming together.
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:


We have what they call "Yazoo clay" here and this makes for some bad foundation cracks in dry weather, so we have been using the soaker hoses this week...


Black gumbo here. When it gets dry it turns into concrete. When it gets wet it turns into a substance similar to warm tar. No one would build a slab on that stuff, if they had a choice. "Google" Houston slab repair and you will probably get a million hits!
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hey levi ready for the next trackin session we get one in the GOM from the BOC in a bit
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54847
Quoting TomTaylor:
Right

I was just wondering if there was something other than the upward vs downward motion as a result of a cooler epac tropical region, like maybe steering patterns or something


A cold PDO favors blocking over southern Canada that leads to more U.S. landfalls. That's one of the effects on steering.
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Quoting alfabob:

Shouldn't be too much longer until the tropical moisture starts to pour in. The weakening of the jet stream has been causing excessive moisture to the north of where it should be, kind of stuck in an extended period between winter and tropical activity for southern states.


Bob, it ain't winter and it ain't tropical where I am at. Trust me, it is semi desert where I am at, except it doesn't get cold at night either. I do think that you are correct and the weather patterns will return to more "normal" here soon. I think there are enough of us here that are ready to lasso our own rain and reign it in! I am ready to fire Rick Perry. He told us a month ago he was going to bring us some rain and he ain't back with it yet!
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These visuals look very promising :)
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ya been busy been quiet but not for long more
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54847
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54847
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


Hello Keeper, been missing you...you doing ok?
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54847
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54847
Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


I do not. I have a slab but, I also have a mobile home parked on it. Should my slab crack I just add another shim to the blocks!

I am THE IT department at my job and they have a large warehouse. I walked around the outside yesterday and in many areas the soil has pulled away from the slab at least an inch and several inches deep. The slab is very thick, raised and has lots of rebar in it so it has not yet cracked. Many of the employees have said the same thing is happening at their respective homes. I advised them to use soaker hoses and run them along the edge of the slab to get some moisture back in the soil around their slab. I have not heard any of them say that their slabs have cracked. I will imagine that the real cracking will not begin until the ground becomes saturated again. That will tell the story, I feel certain.


We have what they call "Yazoo clay" here and this makes for some bad foundation cracks in dry weather, so we have been using the soaker hoses this week...
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Quoting alfabob:
This is going to be right on the edge of the coastline, so it may still be able to develop; ball of convection still growing where a LLC is most likely trying to form (81.4W, 13.1N).


Lower tropospheric steering suggests that if it's going to do so, it has very little time; look at the fast easterly flow in which this system is embedded.
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:


a-bob, Im watching and wishing....

Shouldn't be too much longer until the tropical moisture starts to pour in. The weakening of the jet stream has been causing excessive moisture to the north of where it should be, kind of stuck in an extended period between winter and tropical activity for southern states.
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:


Hey Rookie! are ya'll having foundation problems over there in Texas ?


I do not. I have a slab but, I also have a mobile home parked on it. Should my slab crack I just add another shim to the blocks!

I am THE IT department at my job and they have a large warehouse. I walked around the outside yesterday and in many areas the soil has pulled away from the slab at least an inch and several inches deep. The slab is very thick, raised and has lots of rebar in it so it has not yet cracked. Many of the employees have said the same thing is happening at their respective homes. I advised them to use soaker hoses and run them along the edge of the slab to get some moisture back in the soil around their slab. I have not heard any of them say that their slabs have cracked. I will imagine that the real cracking will not begin until the ground becomes saturated again. That will tell the story, I feel certain.
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Quoting alfabob:
This is going to be right on the edge of the coastline, so it may still be able to develop; ball of convection still growing where a LLC is most likely trying to form.


a-bob, Im watching and wishing....
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


Pecans! You have pecans?! Now I am jealous, Eyes. I have two pecan trees and they are suffering. Not only will I not get ANY pecans this year but, the tree is shedding limbs that still have green leaves on them. I'll get the chocolate, you get the pecans, and we will have something worth eating!


Actually, may not be a good season this year, we havent had the rain we need either...nothing like ya'll, but very dry....I freeze pints of pecans every year...they keep really well in the freezer.:) To expensive to buy !
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seems that we have purple on all three waves

http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/PS/TROP/TCFP/data/current /gexyrfpr.png
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This is going to be right on the edge of the coastline, so it may still be able to develop; ball of convection still growing where a LLC is most likely trying to form (81.4W, 13.1N).
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416. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Japan Meteorological Agency
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #8
TROPICAL DEPRESSION 05
12:00 PM JST June 18 2011
====================================

SUBJECT: Tropical Depression In Sea East Of The Philippines

At 3:00 AM UTC, Tropical Depression (1006 hPa) located at 13.8N 125.8E has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The depression is reported as moving north northwest at 15 knots.

Dvorak Intensity:

Forecast and Intensity
=======================
24 HRS: 16.6N 124.0E - 35 knots (CAT 1/Tropical Storm)
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415. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Philippines Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services And Administration
Tropical Cyclone Bulletin #6
TROPICAL DEPRESSION EGAY
11:00 AM PhST June 18 2011
=======================================

Tropical Depresssion "EGAY" has accelerated as it continues on its northwestward direction and threatens the eastern section of Luzon.

At 10:00 AM PhST, Tropical Depression Egay located at 13.6°N 125.7°E or 150 km east of Virac, Catanduanes has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots. The depression is reported as moving northwest at 10 knots.

Signal Warnings
=================

Signal Warning #1
-------------

Luzon Region
-----------
1. Catanduanes
2. Sorsogon
3. Albay
4. Camarines Norte
5. Camarines Sur
6. Polillo Island
7. Aurora
8. Cagayan
9. Isabela

Visayas Region
-----------
1. Northern Samar

Additional Information
======================

Public Storm Warning Signal elsewhere now lowered.

Residents in low lying and mountainous areas under signal # 1 are alerted against possible flash floods and landslides.

TD "EGAY" is expected to enhance the southwest monsoon and will bring rains over the western section of Southern Luzon, of Visayas and of Mindanao.

The public and the disaster coordinating councils concerned are advised to take appropriate actions and watch for the next bulletin to be issued at 5 p.m. today.
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414. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
India Meteorological Department
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #10
DEEP DEPRESSION BOB02-2011
5:30 AM IST June 18 2011
===================================

SUBJECT: Deep depression Over Gangetic West Bengal.

At 0:00 AM UTC, Deep Depression BOB02-2011 over Gangetic West Bengal moved westwards and lays centered over Gangetic West Bengal and adjoing area of Jharkhand near 23.0N 87.5E, about 5o kms southeast of Bankura..

The system would move west-northwestwards and weaken gradually.
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:


Cosmic, we southerners have to have a lot pecans added to our brownies.....I do love anything chocolate...especially fudgey brownies with pecans, and am gonna add the marshmellows to my next batch :)


Pecans! You have pecans?! Now I am jealous, Eyes. I have two pecan trees and they are suffering. Not only will I not get ANY pecans this year but, the tree is shedding limbs that still have green leaves on them. I'll get the chocolate, you get the pecans, and we will have something worth eating!
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:
Good night, Aqua. Sleep well.


Hey Rookie! are ya'll having foundation problems over there in Texas ?
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:
Kori, I go back and forth from the classic to the new...and back and forth from IE and Chrome. I always seem to end up on the classic ....just wishy-washey, I guess....lol...
Yeah, I actually thought there'd be a lot more people complaining about the stylesheet changes (classic/new). Like with most changes, eventually we adapt. :)
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Good night, aqua. Sleep well, ma'am.
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Kori, I go back and forth from the classic to the new...and back and forth from IE and Chrome. I always seem to end up on the classic ....just wishy-washey, I guess....lol...
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Good night, Aqua. Sleep well.
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Good nite Aqua, and rest well :)
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Eyes- everyone adds in, from the technical, to the humor. I love it all. I think I am very blessed to have a place like this to call home. :)

oh and I use classic at work, new at home.

Rookie- you are probably right in your assessment; it's gonna be a big mess if ya'll have much more than half an inch in one day.

Cosmic- always my pleasure to share.

Go in peace, ya'll. G'nitez.
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Quoting CosmicEvents:
Enjoy Aqua.
And thank you for the secret to the recipe.
I'll let you know when I bake a bunch.


Cosmic, we southerners have to have a lot pecans added to our brownies.....I do love anything chocolate...especially fudgey brownies with pecans, and am gonna add the marshmellows to my next batch :)
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Quoting aquak9:
Eyes- I have 2 jobs, one full time day shift, then another one in the evenings, 24-32 hours a week. Dayshift is a cancer center w/research, evenings is a huge hospital lab.

If I didn't have WU to keep me happy, I'd lose my mind, totally. It's the only thing that keeps me sane; that and the gardening.

:)



Lord, Aqua! Sleep must just be something you dream about!
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Enjoy Aqua.
And thank you for the secret to the recipe.
I'll let you know when I bake a bunch.
You too oceanbug, enjoy...wish you could send rain as well. Send some mini-marshmallows!
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Quoting aquak9:
Rookie- Houston floods real easy, doesn't it? Not gonna be if ya'll get a dousing.


Aqua, we have better drainage now since Allison and most areas don't flood as easily as they did then. What concerns me, after my little experiment, is that there will be a lot more runoff than usual with the first rains and we may see a few areas flood rather quickly. We shall have to wait and see. I just hope that we at least get a chance to see if this is true or if I am just thinking rain is something alien and should be avoided. The only reminder I have had of rain lately is in my shower.
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Yum!! Thanks, Cosmic. Wish I could send rain in exchange, but Grothar pointed out a while ago that envelopes tend to leak.
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Quoting aquak9:
Eyes- I have 2 jobs, one full time day shift, then another one in the evenings, 24-32 hours a week. Dayshift is a cancer center w/research, evenings is a huge hospital lab.

If I didn't have WU to keep me happy, I'd lose my mind, totally. It's the only thing that keeps me sane; that and the gardening.

:)


Well, bless you. I can certainly understand how the blog does help....and your humor is so appreciated by those like me, who must have a little blog humor.
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:
Anyone still on the "classic view" other than me?
I've grown accustomed to the new one.
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Cosmic- thank you- I love the edges.

I swirl the little marshmallow pieces in the very top, AFTER I pour the batter in the pan, just enough to cover the little marshmallow pieces with brownie batter. Don't overcook them.
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Anyone still on the "classic view" other than me?
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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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