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 HurricaneDean07:
Here is my Timeline for the next 10 days.
Day 1: TS BEATRIZ Heads toward Mexico(Becomes 65 Mph Storm during the time)

Day 2: TS BEATRIZ Becomes a Hurricane(Peaks at 80 Mph) and begins to weaken that night while brushing the mexican coast.
The Tropical wave that is over the Yucatan is now sitting in the Bay of Campeche.

Day 3: TS BEATRIZ is pushed westward leaving a piece behind, as it heads out to sea and dissipates. The Tropical Wave begins to pull the stray piece in.

Day 4: TD BEATRIZ is dead. Another tropical wave(currently in the Central Caribbean) comes into the low in the Bay of Campeche. MJO comes into the region.

Day 5: The low is noticed by the NHC, and is given a 10% Chance for formation(As wind shear drops)

Day 6: The Low is given a 20% throughout the day and in the last TWO of the day its given a 30% Chance.

Day 7: The low is tagged as Invest 95L, and stays at 30% all day.

Day 8: 95L moves slight North and becomes slightly better defined and by the end of the day 95L is marked at 50%.

Day 9: 95L starts to organize, stays at 50% until the end of the day, when its marked at 60%.

Day 10: 95L begins to go through Cyclonegenesis, and is marked at 80%, and at the 11 PM Advisory it forms into Tropical Depression One in the Southwestern Gulf.
I'll be anxiously awaiting your followup.
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Quoting CanesfanatUT:
What's going on everyone? We still thinking mischief could happen this week down in the Carib/BOC?

What's Levi's view now? (Haven't read his blog since about Wed.)


Levi thinks conditions are good for something to pop up in the Gulf in a few days as the rising air phase of the Madden-Julian Oscillation gets to Central America.

Based on my looking at the models I'm in agreement. Here is to hoping the MJO weakens that drought-causing ridge over the SW states, the GFS seems to weaken that ridge for only a few days, then builds it back up again, sadly. Those folks need a good soaker of TS.
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Huge fire NW of my house ( I live NW side of Houston, TX).
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Not only does the GFS support the formation of a storm in 10 days the NOGAPS Also is hinting at it.
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What's going on everyone? We still thinking mischief could happen this week down in the Carib/BOC?

What's Levi's view now? (Haven't read his blog since about Wed.)
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Here is my Timeline for the next 10 days.
Day 1: TS BEATRIZ Heads toward Mexico(Becomes 65 Mph Storm during the time)

Day 2: TS BEATRIZ Becomes a Hurricane(Peaks at 80 Mph) and begins to weaken that night while brushing the mexican coast.
The Tropical wave that is over the Yucatan is now sitting in the Bay of Campeche.

Day 3: TS BEATRIZ is pushed westward leaving a piece behind, as it heads out to sea and dissipates. The Tropical Wave begins to pull the stray piece in.

Day 4: TD BEATRIZ is dead. Another tropical wave(currently in the Central Caribbean) comes into the low in the Bay of Campeche. MJO comes into the region.

Day 5: The low is noticed by the NHC, and is given a 10% Chance for formation(As wind shear drops)

Day 6: The Low is given a 20% throughout the day and in the last TWO of the day its given a 30% Chance.

Day 7: The low is tagged as Invest 95L, and stays at 30% all day.

Day 8: 95L moves slight North and becomes slightly better defined and by the end of the day 95L is marked at 50%.

Day 9: 95L starts to organize, stays at 50% until the end of the day, when its marked at 60%.

Day 10: 95L begins to go through Cyclonegenesis, and is marked at 80%, and at the 11 PM Advisory it forms into Tropical Depression One in the Southwestern Gulf.
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Where would one find the most up-to-date info on wild fires in TX?
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NHC states there are NO threats at this time or any likely threats in the near future.
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1238. txjac
Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:
thats the nogaps model btw and it has a northeast bias on occasion


Thanks HHJoe
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interesting whether or not beatriz breaks away from the coast or not seems to be part of a trough spreading from her ene over florida
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Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:
but it looks like the odd model out
thats the nogaps model btw and it has a northeast bias on occasion
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Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:
im pulling for ya!
but it looks like the odd model out
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Quoting txjac:


I vote for the GFS ...would bring it right to Texas

the rain that is ...
im pulling for ya!
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


Remember that 94L was in the Caribbean for many days causing cooling of the waters.


It would not have cooled off the Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential that much.
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1229. txjac
Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:


I vote for the GFS ...would bring it right to Texas

the rain that is ...
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Quoting aquak9:
Could bring some sizable rainfall totals to mountainous areas of southwest Mexico.

WELL ISN'T THAT JUST SPECIAL FOR MEXICO


Don't shoot the messenger!
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential is well below what it was at this time last year for some reason. Excluding last year, the TCHP is highest since 2005.

2011
:



2010:



Remember that 94L was in the Caribbean for many days causing cooling of the waters.
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Quoting FloorManBroward:


Grothar I thought you were from the past not from the future
The G-man is timeless.
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The EPAC storm has an "eye" on the infrared
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Quoting weatherh98:


Hey, who knows... patrap, what were those maps on post 1214 looked interesting but couldn't decifer them.


The top is the depth of 26 °C and the bottom are Sea Surface Temperatures for 6/18/2011.
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1222. aquak9
Could bring some sizable rainfall totals to mountainous areas of southwest Mexico.

WELL ISN'T THAT JUST SPECIAL FOR MEXICO
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Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential is well below what it was at this time last year for some reason. Excluding last year, the TCHP is highest since 2005.

2011
:



2010:

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Quoting blsealevel:


Had to be atleast a water spout under that


Hey, who knows... patrap, what were those maps on post 1214 looked interesting but couldn't decifer them.
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Beatriz is impressively large. Could bring some sizable rainfall totals to mountainous areas of southwest Mexico.
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1217. Patrap
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Beatriz
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Quoting weatherh98:


Oh wow, looks cool, definitley not anything more than a wave though. Still interesting.


Had to be atleast a water spout under that
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1214. Patrap



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Quoting blsealevel:
Nice spin in that you can really see it good when its enlarged.



Oh wow, looks cool, definitley not anything more than a wave though. Still interesting.
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12z GFS, very long range at 240 hours.. system near the Yucatan on June 29th that moves up towards Texas.


The only other model that I have that goes out to that far is the ECMWF, which shows a weak low in the GOMEX by 216 hours. No other models show development within the next 10 days.
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Line of storm literally miles away. Lots of thunder, but it may just graze us. Not fair.
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Tropical Storm Beatriz is looking very organized at the present time, although it needs to pull the convection to its east and wrap it around itself a little better. It should become Hurricane Beatriz by tomorrow night, and it may make landfall on the Mexican coastline very briefly before the ridge to its north re-strengthens and forces it west-northwest/west.

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forgot to link it

Link
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1918
Nice spin in that you can really see it good when its enlarged.

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Quoting aquak9:


Longhen-stretchen SprühKondom- it covers the whole state.
I wouldn't touch that line with a 10 foot schtick.
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Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1918
Mid - Upper Winds



Lower Level Winds



Upper Divergence



Lower Convergence



850 mb Vorticity



200 mb Vorticity



Intresting to see what this does once it goes back over water in the BOC
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1203. Patrap
GOMEX RGB



WV

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Aqua... I have no idea what you just said, but it sounds dirty... Hopefully, you'll get some rain to get yourself clean again.
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Quoting FrankZapper:
Things are getting interesting. Watch the 25 parallel!


???
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Quoting weatherh98:
i cant remember what rain looks like
It is pure ,sparkling, refreshing, nourishing, fragrant, mood lifting, plant saving ,cooling substance from the sky. And it's free!
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Winds have shifted here and are now blowing out of the SW. I hope that some of those boomers start drifting our way now.

It's so disappointing to see it raining out west and all we get is the blown off cloud tops from the thunderstorms.

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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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