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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12z GFS run for a BOC system was the strongest yet, 1000 mb.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24016
Quoting NRAamy:
Dashboard Cowman, FrogMan, and Funky Monkey.... we're getting quite a zoo on here....

:)



Don't forget the Hello Kitty mobile...
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CLOUDINESS AND THUNDERSTORMS ASSOCIATED WITH A BROAD AREA OF LOW
PRESSURE ARE CENTERED SEVERAL HUNDRED MILES SOUTH OF THE GULF OF
TEHUANTEPEC. THIS ACTIVITY HAS BECOME A LITTLE MORE CONCENTRATED
DURING THE PAST SEVERAL HOURS AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS APPEAR
TO BE FAVORABLE FOR FURTHER DEVELOPMENT. THERE IS A MEDIUM CHANCE
...50 PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE OVER THE
NEXT 48 HOURS AS IT MOVES SLOWLY TOWARD THE WEST-NORTHWEST.
REGARDLESS OF ADDITIONAL DEVELOPMENT...SHOWERS WILL CONTINUE TO
AFFECT PORTIONS OF THE COAST OF SOUTHEASTERN MEXICO TODAY AND
TOMORROW.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24016
Quoting beell:
City of Houston gets almost all their water from Lake Conroe and Lake Houston.



Lake Houston Storage - Acre Feet
June 2010 - June 2011




Lake Conroe Storage - Acre Feet
March 2011 to date


Their is a project under construction right now to tie Lake Houston via a transfer canal to the Trinity river called the Luce Bayou Interbasin. This should be a major bonus for Houston, in the years to come as it relates to water availability.

Luce Bayou
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Quoting troy1993:
Oh all right guys this is poll: What do you guys think was the best Weather Channel Storm Alert music?
A. 2004
B. 2005
C. 2006-2007
D. 2008


2008
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24016
Oh all right guys this is poll: What do you guys think was the best Weather Channel Storm Alert music?
A. 2004
B. 2005
C. 2006-2007
D. 2008
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Ok, first post of the probably 25 that I will make all season long....

Lets see here....

Live on the upper Texas coast: Check

Lost our house in Ike: Check

Guts like to twsit up in a ball at thought of another storm: Check

Owe a second mortgage to SBA: Check

Always have to restrain self from yelling when someone "wants" a storm: Check

Under voluntary water rationing: Check

Praying for moisture from any source; including a minor cain: Check

Anyone ever notice how the GFS always dangles a carrot six days plus out at the "promise" of rain?

At this point the local meteorologists will grasp at any straw (model) showing rain no matter how far out, un-proven or un-reliable as the model may be. Note: not directed at the GFS, just a general observation

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Quoting NRAamy:
yeah, he who shall not be named seems to have a crush on me.....

;)
I am very sorry for you :(
Member Since: October 9, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8347
a tweet for any who might be interested

@theAGU
Am Geophysical Union
Call for guest posts: Geo/space/ocean scientists, want to write for Geospace or The Plainspoken Scientist? Send ideas to mjvinas@agu.org
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Quoting HurricaneH:
"On May 31, the Army Corps of Engineers was forced to open the the spillway gates on the massive Garrison Dam"

It's a real shame that our government can't be proactive rather than reactive. There was plenty of information available months ago that suggested a massive flood on the Missouri. Thus, it does not do any good to have information without the initiative or knowledge to use it.


It isn't as simple as you make it sound, even if it is easy just to blame someone. There are rules the Army Corps has to follow depending on the usage of the reservoir, and it is quite possible they requested a deviation to try and lower the pool elevations prior to the event. Unfortunately you cannot lower a reservoir's pool elevation to a negative number.

Sometimes there is just too much water and the runoff is more than the design. We don't design for the worst conceivable flood. You name a flood control measure/structure, and mother nature certainly can create a situation that exceeds it.
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Quoting Grothar:


Just surprised it could cover that much area. Learned something today. That's something that hasn't happened in a long time. Get to see atmo's post?

Yes, I saw it. Hypoxia is one of the major sources of fish kills here, with menhaden being the fish seemingly having the most numbers die.
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Quoting Guysgal:
Thought this was worth posting

Link


Nice.
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What the heck did all you guys see? Come on, you're not playing fair.
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Thought this was worth posting

Link
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yeah, he who shall not be named seems to have a crush on me.....

;)
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Quoting PcolaDan:


saw it :)


Me too. :)
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Quoting NRAamy:
;)


saw it :)
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Quoting PcolaDan:


Morn Gro. This is actually quite a problem all along the coast here. We have a couple of bays/bayous that have this same problem to a lesser degree. Rivers that start elsewhere eventually dump whatever is put in them into our waters. The Mississippi just does it to the Nth degree greater. It's an annual event on the Mississippi, just varies according to the amount of runoff. The amount of flooding just exacerbates the problem.


Just surprised it could cover that much area. Learned something today. That's something that hasn't happened in a long time. Get to see atmo's post?
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;)
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Garrison spill way "bone dry" (2005)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRg5kY2hL34&featur e=related
Link

contrast the above with this.........flowing

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imtx4T8UK9U
Link

I have driven across this many times, but never with water on both sides. Next weekend I get to see it wet on both sides.
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Quoting TxHurricanedude11:
wow 6-8 inches from now - 228 hrs out....


Fingers crossed!
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and to think a spotter actually filmed the tornado in its infant stage shows how much progress has been made in tornado reserch
Member Since: September 11, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 4567
703,770 acres from 3 fires currently burning in Az. That's incredible. Next few days are going to be rough on the fire lines with the current weather conditions and forecast.
Fire Information Report for Wallow Swac
Wildland Fire Incident
Report Date: 17-JUN-11
Burnt Area: 487,016 Acres (2% increase from yesterday)
Incident Team Type: IMT Type C
Team Leader: Jim Loach
Containment Status: 33% contained)
Expected Containment: Unknown
Fire Information Report for Horseshoe 2
Wildland Fire Incident
Report Date: 17-JUN-11
Burnt Area: 198,174 Acres (8% increase from yesterday)
Incident Team Type: IMT Type 1
Team Leader: Jim Thomas
Containment Status: 65% contained)
Expected Containment: 22-JUN-11
Burnt Area: 18,580 Acres (100% increase from yesterday)
Incident Team Type: IMT Type 1
Team Leader: Greg Poncin, IC
Containment Status: 15% contained)
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Quoting atmoaggie:
I am aware of it.
Is concerning and rather local (I do go 90 miles out and catch my own Yellowfin), but I am no formal marine biologist. You could say I worked my way into certain facets of the field.

You can monitor the "bloom" here. When it depletes nutrients and starts to die off, and decomposes in the water - hypoxia.

Oceanic chlorophyll (mg per cubic meter), multiple day satellite composite, updated daily:


Latency of pixels in the above:


(We only have one decent ocean color satellite and instrument now. Holes and older pixel areas due to clouds and/or pass and swath miss by polar-orbiting Aqua.)



Nice image there. Didn't know you were on. When I wrote "area" to Pcola and didn't mean your area of expertise, I simply meant LA. But I never realized that condition could become so large. I remember asking you in April if all that fresh, cool water would have any effect on tropical development. See atmo, I remember everything. Thanks for that image though. More people should know about this.
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post 55
WOW on the video. Was not even sure I could believe what I saw- I watched it 3 times.

That's way more water than my eyes could believe. Thank you for sharing that.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25910
Cajun, good point...

;)
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Quoting NRAamy:
Well, Cajun, there are fires everywhere...

hey, we've got some action in SoCal.... it's called June Gloom.... makes my hair look like I'm a basketball player from the 70's.....



Fires?? Ehhh, I don't know. Kinda out of my element, ya know?? Did you see Michael Jordan try to play baseball?? Or when Garth Brooks became Chris gaines?? Exactly... I don't know if stepping outside of my genre is the wisest choice, but thanks for the vote of confidence :-)
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Quoting atmoaggie:
JMO. I think the CoE managed the event very well, so far.


+
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I see the African ITF has backed down from its previous 10 day mean.

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Quoting NRAamy:
Well, Cajun, there are fires everywhere...

hey, we've got some action in SoCal.... it's called June Gloom.... makes my hair look like I'm a basketball player from the 70's.....


or

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the GFS is still consistent with developing storms off the SE east coast for next week..lets see if those lows turn into anything for those warm waters..

Link
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47. CajunTexan 4:22 PM GMT on June 17, 2011


Great job... and so very true
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Well, Cajun, there are fires everywhere...

hey, we've got some action in SoCal.... it's called June Gloom.... makes my hair look like I'm a basketball player from the 70's.....

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But seriously, how can I be asked to write a masterpiece based on the tropics with no tropical activity?? Did they tell Picasso "No brush"?? Did they tell Mozart "No instruments"? I think not.
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I'm in the Bismarck, ND area. Here's a 2 minute YouTube video taken by a local home owner of the river bank erosion. A tree on the bank, undermined by the fast flow, slips into the Missouri:
Link

Yesterday I saw a full grown cottonwood tree, leaves and roots intact, floating (quickly) downstream, displaced by the bank erosion somewhere upstream.

Another issue is high ground water levels. Homes in the flood plain are experiencing water seeping into basements. In some areas close to the river people are allowing their basements to flood to level the pressure so the walls don't cave in. Can't imagine what kind of damage to a foundation and home there could be from having a basement full of water for a couple of months!

Needless to say, let's hope all/most levees hold. It's going to be a long, long summer for many.
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Quoting NRAamy:
nice job, Cajun.....

:)


Thank you. I need some activity though, its my inspiration. Ahhh, shoot, listem to me, sounding like an annoying "artist" already :-)
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Quoting PcolaDan:


Can't answer that, but this is some of the effects on the GoM from the Mississippi river flooding.

Record 'Dead Zone' predicted in Gulf of Mexico


http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id= fixing-the-global-nitrogen-problem
Link

This article speaks to the Nitrogen bloom thing. IT also talks about the role NOx plays in climate change (green house gas).

will I get banned for using verboten words now? :)
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nice job, Cajun.....

:)
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The chaff is back off the coast of west fl.
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Quoting MrMixon:
The Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant issued a new non-emergency notice today. You can read it here.

"Operations identified a potential flooding issue in the Intake Structure 1007 ft. 6 in. level. The area of concern is a the hole in the floor at the 1007 ft. 6 in. level where the relief valve from FP-1A discharge pipe goes through the raw pump bay and discharges into the intake cell. There is one penetration of concern. Flooding through this penetration could have impacted the ability of the station's Raw Water (RW) pumps to perform their design accident mitigation functions.

Efforts are in progress to seal the penetration."


Photo from yesterday:


I'm sure they have everything under control...


Blair, NE is about 2 miles upstream of Ft Calhoun Station (FCS).

Gage "0" is 977.44'. Current river stage is 31.48'. A very rough guess at the elevation above msl at FCS would be 1008.92' msl

Current crest forecast (only out to seven days) is 32' or 1009.48' msl



Missouri River Hydrograph at Blair, NE
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 142 Comments: 16592
So here we are fifteen days into June,
It looked as if the season started out with a boom,
Two early invests created conversation,
That a busy season was the indication,
But as those systems met their demise,
The Wunderblog community said their goodbyes,
Models aren't predicting anything soon,
How will the blog survive with no doom and gloom,
Nothing to argue and fuss with each other about,
Constantly waiting on the newest model runs to come out,
Tropical activity is obviously something we crave,
Give us a storm, a depression, or even a feirce tropical wave,
But so what if the tropics offer nothing exciting,
Don't think for a second there will be no Wunderblog fighting,
For the doomcasters, downcasters, westcasters and trolls,
Even when all is quiet anything go's,
They'll find a way to do what they do best,
Get a rise out of of the experts and all the rest,
With their "seasons a bust" and "wheres Storm 'You know Who'",
They'll continue right along just doing what they do,
But don't fret my people and never give up,
Consider it practice for when the tropics heat up.

Have a good day folks :-)

Man, thats hard to do when there's not a lot to talk about in the tropics.
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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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