Missouri River flood hits unprecedented flow rates

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:18 PM GMT on June 17, 2011

Share this Blog
8
+

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

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 247 - 197

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31Blog Index

Quoting Grothar:


Maybe by you? Have you seen the map lately? The Southeast and Northern Border are getting worse.


I said in the future :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting srada:
I dont know..I still think the east coast will get a storm before the GOM..Sunday, Monday and Tuesday look to be back to back storms on the latest GFS run which has been consistent for almost two weeks now..


Link
Agree. The East coast is way overdue. It has been about 10 years since they had a strong one.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I suspect the SW caribbean will probably be mentioned by NHC at 8pm.IMO the area is increasingly becoming more suspect
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
243. srada
I dont know..I still think the east coast will get a storm before the GOM..Sunday, Monday and Tuesday look to be back to back storms on the latest GFS run which has been consistent for almost two weeks now..


Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Ran across this short video of a microburst in Norman, Okalahoma, on Tuesday. It's not the greatest quality, but I think most will find it interesting from a meteorological perspective--and, if you have kids, you might even think it's entertaining. ;-)

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Maybe by you? Have you seen the map lately? The Southeast and Northern Border are getting worse.



thanks for saving me the trouble of going to get that map! LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The GOM remains HOSTILE to development due to the hot and dry air and high pressure capping most thunderstorm activity. There also appears to be an XFactor which could keep GOM activity on the quiet side. We still have the active months ahead and with the MJO as the Joker and the NAO as a wild card things could change.I predict this season to be a real enigma to forecasting.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
An MCS may develop near Chicago tonight, we could have another 93L on our hands :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
237. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Japan Meteorological Agency
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #6
TROPICAL DEPRESSION 05
6:00 AM JST June 18 2011
====================================

SUBJECT: Tropical Depression In Sea East Of The Philippines

At 21:00 PM UTC, Tropical Depression (1006 hPa) located at 13.3N 126.2E has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The depression is reported as moving northwest at 12 knots.

Dvorak Intensity:

Forecast and Intensity
=======================
24 HRS: 16.1N 124.7E - 35 knots (CAT 1/Tropical Storm)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting aquak9:
(whacks StAug upside head with dry dusty umbrella)


Don't worry Aqua. It's collapsing. If I get a tenth of an inch I'll be lucky
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
235. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
India Meteorological Department
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #9
DEEP DEPRESSION BOB02-2011
23:30 PM IST June 17 2011
===================================

SUBJECT: Deep Depression Overland Gangetic West Bengal

At 18:00 PM UTC, Deep Depression BOB02-2011 over Gangetic West Bengal remained practically stationary and lays centered near 23.0N 88.0E, close to southeast of Burdwan.

The system is likely to move west-northwestwards and weaken gradually.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The southwestern quarter of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec has been in ExceptionalDrought conditions. And whatever 92E does in the future, it appears to be dumping some moisture there now.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
(whacks StAug upside head with dry dusty umbrella)
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25732
232. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Philippines Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services And Administration
Tropical Cyclone Bulletin #5
TROPICAL DEPRESSION EGAY
5:00 AM PhST June 18 2011
=======================================

Tropical Depresssion "EGAY" continues to move northwestward and now threatens Bicol Region.

At 4:00 AM PhST, Tropical Depression Egay located at 12.7°N 126.6°E or 200 km east of Catarman, Northern Samar has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots. The depression is reported as moving northwest at 7 knots.

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

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

Luzon Region
-----------
1. Catanduanes
2. Sorsogon
3. Albay
4. Camarines Norte
5. Camarines Sur

Visayas Region
-----------
1. Samar Provinces

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

Residents in low lying areas and near mountain slopes 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 sections of Southern Luzon, of Visayas and 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 11 AM today and the hourly updates.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Jedkins01:


Overall, I can definitely see signs of the drought to improve in Florida, rainfall coverage and frequency is gradually increasing.


Waiting for round 2 of the day to move through. Been awhile since that happened.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NRAamy:
If you have any extra cash lying around it might be a good time to donate to Oxfam, The Hunger Project, or your own favorite charity.

or to invest in gold or silver coins for when the dollar is useless...or MRE's... stockpile that food, people...


Ha! I don't have to worry about the dollar becoming useless... I still owe far more dollars than I own. If the dollar (and the economy it's based around) goes away today I'd come out ahead. :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Jedkins01:


Overall, I can definitely see signs of the drought to improve in Florida, rainfall coverage and frequency is gradually increasing.


Maybe by you? Have you seen the map lately? The Southeast and Northern Border are getting worse.

Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369


Wind shear 5-20 kts. SW Caribbean



Decreasing.



Consolidating.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
mmmBye-bye now

(giggling)

later ya'll
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25732
ok folks, time to fire up the grill and get some chicken quarters cooking. Too dang hot to use the oven! See you all in a couple hours. Maybe there'll be weather besides a drought to talk about soon!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I hear ya about the well.... water is my main concern in prepping.... I think water will be the new gold....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:


Overall, I can definitely see signs of the drought to improve in Florida, rainfall coverage and frequency is gradually increasing.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NRAamy:
If you have any extra cash lying around it might be a good time to donate to Oxfam, The Hunger Project, or your own favorite charity.

or to invest in gold or silver coins for when the dollar is useless...or MRE's... stockpile that food, people...


Too bad the Twinky myth isn't true I had 1000 of those babies stockpiled for the rapture :P
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
@ P451: All I can say is wow!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The good thing is, despite talk of dry air and PWATs of 1.5 inches or less just 2 days ago, today they are near 2 inches and there is classic thunderstorm development in Central and South Florida.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NRAamy:
If you have any extra cash lying around it might be a good time to donate to Oxfam, The Hunger Project, or your own favorite charity.

or to invest in gold or silver coins for when the dollar is useless...or MRE's... stockpile that food, people...


Can't eat that Kruggerand. If you're rural, get a 150'+ well dug and learn intensive agriculture like the Square Foot gardening method. Too bad I'm in a deed-restricted subdivision, so no well here, but I do have a very large back yard. I can fit 15 or more 4'x 8' raised garden beds, which is more than enough room to raise enough veggies to barter with.

If I can only afford the water...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Aquak, take your trolling elsewhere.

oh, hi There! :)

Please call me Aqua! :)
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25732
We've got a cell trying to cause trouble out on the plains...

Watch out Kansas:



Member Since: Posts: Comments:
216. Skyepony (Mod)
If both blobs form 92E would help sling it north. 92E staying near stationary, even backing up a little has helped block all this in the Caribbean unlike what the models had which was 92E absorbing this or a battle of the blobs in the EPAC.
DATE/TIME LAT LON CLASSIFICATION STORM
17/1745 UTC 11.3N 92.6W TOO WEAK 92E
17/1315 UTC 11.1N 92.6W TOO WEAK 92E
17/0545 UTC 10.9N 93.9W TOO WEAK 92E
16/2345 UTC 11.5N 93.6W TOO WEAK 92E

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RobertBurnham:


Aquak, take your trolling elsewhere.
Why don't you grow up. If you allow yourself to you might learn something on here.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
If you have any extra cash lying around it might be a good time to donate to Oxfam, The Hunger Project, or your own favorite charity.

or to invest in gold or silver coins for when the dollar is useless...or MRE's... stockpile that food, people...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
211. j2008
Quoting Hurrykane:


I have to agree.

It should be interesting to see what it does.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Torgen:



As far as failing crops, don't forget Russia is seeing a possible second year that they lose 1/3 or more of their crops.


Well, let's just pile on then - here's an article from January 2011 Severe flooding in Australia could lead to an increase in the price of bread on supermarket shelves due to global shortages of wheat.

Prices for wheat are on the rise. Wheat is currently around $320 per metric ton, up from $157 per metric ton one year ago. The good news is that we're still well below the historical peak price of $440 set back in March 2008. The bad news is that rate of increase this year is roughly the same as it was in 2008.

Luckily, most of us can still find and afford all the wheat products we want here in the United States. Poorer countries are bound to be disproportionately affected by these rising wheat prices. If you have any extra cash lying around it might be a good time to donate to Oxfam, The Hunger Project, or your own favorite charity.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting aquak9:
srs biz eh?

uhm no, I don't work at a senior's business

(totally confused here)
Troll alert.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
srs biz eh?

uhm no, I don't work at a senior's business

(totally confused here)
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25732
Quoting aquak9:
my goodness!! what did I miss?


Trolling
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
hmmm...I can put a hurtin' on a box of cereal, too.

Someone WU-mailme and tell me what's going on-
I'm at work, kinda busy
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25732
my goodness!! what did I miss?
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25732
Hoping those cells to my west/southwest merge

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
198. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting Hurrykane:


Looks like a nice inverted "V" there Skye.


If it keep pulling together like it's trying, it could be an invest soon.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 247 - 197

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31Blog Index

Top of Page

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.