Spring flooding hits Midwest; Southeast drought eases

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:04 PM GMT on March 20, 2008

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This year's annual spring flooding season is upon us, and it's been a worse flood year than usual across much of the Midwestern U.S. At least 13 people have been killed due to the flooding this week, with another three persons missing. A slow moving storm system brought rains in excess of ten inches to the region (Figure 1). These rains, combined with melting from unusually heavy snows this winter, have led to the floods.


Figure 1. Heavy rains exceeding 10 inches have fallen in some portions of the Midwest over the past week. Image credit: NOAA.

According to NOAA, 224 cities are experiencing flooding today, with major flooding reported in 13 cities in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Illinois. As snow continues to melt and runoff from the recent rains continues to increase the flooding, an additional 13 cities are expected to observe major flooding in the next 48 hours. Fortunately, no heavy rain is expected in the next three days, so a long duration flooding event is not likely.


Figure 2. The NOAA flood outlook calls for significant river flooding across much of the Midwest through Monday. Image credit: NOAA.

Flooding outlook for this Spring
According to NOAA, Above-normal flood potential is expected this Spring in much of the Mississippi River basin, the Ohio River basin, the lower Missouri River basin, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, most of New York, all of New England, and portions of the West, including Colorado and Idaho. Snow depths up to a foot above usual in upstate New York and much of New England could cause flooding in the Connecticut River Valley; locations in the mountains of Colorado and Idaho have 150 to 200 percent of average water contained in the snow pack, leading to a higher than normal flood potential there; and Wisconsin and northern Illinois have had heavy snows this winter that could cause continued flooding concerns this Spring.

Southeast drought continues to improve
On the plus side, the area of the Southeast U.S. covered by the severest form of drought--exceptional drought--has shrunk to a small spot over southern Tennessee/northern Alabama, and Georgia is free of exceptional drought for the first time since July. The drought is expected to continue to improve between now and June over the Southeast U.S.

Jeff Masters

Batesville's west side is flooded. (pb4ugo)
Hundreds of residents ere evacuated earlier today. As the water continues to rise, hundreds more may have to leave their homes.
Batesville's west side is flooded.
Flooding Strikes NE Arkansas & SE Missouri (ArkaTechHog77)
Severe flooding hits the area. My stepfather took a friend up and snapped these shots. Photos taken around HWY 53 area around Qulin and Poplar Bluff. Others taken in Clay County, Arkansas.
Flooding Strikes NE Arkansas & SE Missouri
Kroger 3 (Hawg8)
Local flooding
Kroger 3

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314. nash28
9:32 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Looks like the rain will continue through the evening in the Bay area.
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313. Ivansrvivr
9:29 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
The rain falling now is stabilizing the atmosphere so severe wx would seem less likely. this is a much more vigorous low than was predicted so I wouldn't rule it out.
312. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
9:05 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
cold front developing out gom assc. with surface low
threat of severe along cold front
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54479
311. Ivansrvivr
9:27 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
There is a good area of rain over the kissimmee valley and the southern area of rain has reached Lake O. The Low is not moving quickly. This is just the kind of rain we need. Moderate to almost heavy and steady.
310. cchsweatherman
5:23 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
Still experiencing a steady moderate rainfall here in Cooper City. This is very good news. Much more to come from out in the GOM.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
309. Ivansrvivr
9:17 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
It's quite noisy here now.
307. Ivansrvivr
9:05 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Low is not onshore yet. It will rain like this possibly all night.
305. Ivansrvivr
8:34 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
The Mississippi river will not be quick to receed either. Not in that part of the country.
304. Patrap
3:31 PM CDT on March 22, 2008
Spillway to the Left into Lake Pontchartrain..
Miss. River is the water right of the Spillway Structure. Link

Corps of Engineers -- The Bonnet Carre' Spillway
The Bonnet Carre' Spillway is a vital element of the comprehensive plan for flood control in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128749
303. Ivansrvivr
8:29 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Correct. Throw in some seabreeze action which adds lift. You won't see tornadoes much or large hail, but we get rains like what have fallen in the midwest fairly often.
302. TerraNova
4:28 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
Terra, look at the sat of the GOM. There is more convection firing to the west of what you see on radar.

Ya I know...but that's not what I was talking about.
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301. Patrap
3:28 PM CDT on March 22, 2008
Looks like a Spring as in 97 maybe Skyepony.
They may have to Open the Bonnett Carre Spillway above US if the trend continues.



High river puts city on alert
Thursday March 20, 2008, 9:06 PM
Story: Link

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128749
300. Ivansrvivr
8:27 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Having seen what storm surge does on the Gulf coast, it is very saddening seeing flood damage. I'd take wind over surge/flood anyday.
299. TerraNova
4:26 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
Thanks Ivansrvivr, I'm not as familiar with FL storms as I am with supercell activity farther north. It must be the tropical moisture and today the warm air advection from the south is strong; correct?
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297. Skyepony (Mod)
8:20 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Up until the TX last year I can't really remember much flooding like this. We're talking 20 ' above flood stage in some places.


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296. Ivansrvivr
8:25 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Terra, look at the sat of the GOM. There is more convection firing to the west of what you see on radar.
295. TerraNova
4:23 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
Storm total on the left, base reflectivity on the right.

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294. Patrap
3:22 PM CDT on March 22, 2008
The Missouri Event continues...and is very bad still as Skyepony pointed out.
Forecasts for Missouri — Return to U.S. Severe Weather
Current Severe Weather Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128749
293. Ivansrvivr
8:20 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Terra, that is the norm here. Those storms used up the heat that they were feeding on and are now weakening. It is possible for more to re-fire once the old ones die off.
292. HurricaneGeek
4:19 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
yeah, so it won't flood. After the 1928 hurricane, they built that dam.
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291. Ivansrvivr
8:17 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Patrap showed perfectly why the lake is so low. All the rain fell on the East Coast last summer and very little went inland (most unusual) We got poured on everyday over here but none made it to the kissimmee valley or Lake O. This is the only place in the world where it can rain everyday but youre still in a drought.
290. Skyepony (Mod)
8:07 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
That's alot of moderate to major flooding


VALLEY PARK, Mo. (AP) — Residents in this community along the Meramec River are crossing their fingers that the town's new earthen levee, built to withstand a 100-year flood, will pass its first big test.

The surging Meramec was expected to crest at a record 40 feet on Saturday — 24 feet above flood stage.

Flood-weary residents in Missouri, Arkansas and Ohio fought to save their homes Friday after heavy rainstorms pushed swollen rivers out of their banks, and a fresh snowstorm blew through parts of the Upper Midwest, canceling flights and some Good Friday services.

In southern Missouri, several breached levees released floodwaters that forced authorities to evacuate towns west of Cape Girardeau. At least 200 homes and 13 businesses have been evacuated in Cape Girardeau County, said emergency management director Dick Knaup.

At least 70 Missouri counties have reported flooding this week.

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289. TerraNova
4:16 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
The storms north of Key West have been weakening. Max dBZ has dropped from 57 to 52 in the last few images. The coverage of the lighter rain; however, has expanded considerably.

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288. Ivansrvivr
8:15 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
A hurricane isn't going to do much for the lake. Remember the SFLWMD will drain the canal system that the lake feeds before a tropical system. What we need is a good rainy season with lots of afternoon thunderstorms.
287. Patrap
3:15 PM CDT on March 22, 2008
HERE ARE SOME YEARLY RAINFALL TOTALS...NORMALS...AND DEPARTURES FROM
NORMAL ACROSS SOUTH FLORIDA FOR 2007 INTO 2008 AND THE 14 MONTH PERIOD
COVERING FROM JANUARY 1, 2007 TO MARCH 19, 2008.
NOAA Hydro Link Link

AIRPORTS 14 MONTH : 14 MONTH : DRY : DRY TOTALS DEPARTURES
TOTALS DEPARTURES SEASON SEASON
07-08 TOTAL 07-08 DEP.

MIAMI INTERNATIONAL : 71.29 : 7.49 : 8.90 : -2.18
FORT LAUDERDALE INTERNATIONAL : 69.44 : -3.67 : 16.25 : 1.73
PALM BEACH INTERNATIONAL : 75.46 : 5.33 : 14.54 : -2.63
NAPLES MUNICIPAL AIRPORT : 37.73 : -19.73 : 3.67 : -5.37

SECONDARY OBSERVATION SITES

IMMOKALEE : 46.45 : -9.74 : 4.98 : -3.58
DEVILS GARDEN : 40.24 : -10.91 : 6.67 : -3.19
CLEWISTON : 40.71 : -9.97 : 9.13 : -1.80
BELLE GLADE : 53.52 : -9.08 : 7.14 : -0.49
MOORE HAVEN LOCK : 34.98 : -18.56 : 9.51 : -1.56
FLAMINGO RANGER STATION : 48.35 : -6.69 : 6.73 : -3.04
MIAMI BEACH : 73.07 : 13.64 : 12.06 : 0.36

AS A RESULT...GLADES COUNTY REMAINS IN AN EXTREME DROUGHT CONDITION
(D3). THE WESTERN AND NORTHERN AREAS OF COLLIER COUNTY...ALONG WITH
THE LAKE OKEECHOBEE AREA REMAIN IN A SEVERE DROUGHT STATUS
(D2)...WHILE THE REST OF COLLIER COUNTY REMAINS IN A MODERATE
DROUGHT STATUS (D1). MAINLAND MONROE COUNTY AND WESTERN MIAMI-DADE
COUNTY HAVE BEEN PUT INTO A MODERATE DROUGHT STATUS (D1)...WHILE
THE REST OF THE INTERIOR AREAS AND METRO MIAMI-DADE COUNTY REMAIN
IN AN ABNORMALLY DRY STATUS (D0). THE METRO AREAS OF PALM BEACH AND
BROWARD COUNTIES WERE NOT IN A DROUGHT STATUS.

HYDROLOGIC IMPACTS...

WELLS ACROSS THE WESTERN SECTIONS ARE AT THE LOWEST 10 PERCENT
LEVEL...WHILE THE INTERIOR SECTIONS WERE 10 TO 30 PERCENT BELOW
NORMAL. THE EAST COAST WELLS IN SOUTH FLORIDA WHERE NEAR NORMAL
LEVELS. UNDERGROUND RESERVOIRS ARE AT ADEQUATE LEVELS OVER THE
EASTERN AREAS OF SOUTH FLORIDA...WHILE THE WESTERN AREAS OF SOUTH
FLORIDA ARE BELOW NORMAL LEVELS. THE LEVEL OF LAKE OKEECHOBEE ROSE
ABOUT 2 TENTHS OF A FOOT TO AROUND 10.2 FEET DURING THE FIRST HALF
OF MARCH. THIS IS STILL ABOUT 4 FEET BELOW NORMAL FOR THIS TIME OF
THE YEAR.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128749
286. Ivansrvivr
8:12 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
The lake will also drop dramatically as we move into spring and temps heat up but the humidity is still low. Sun angle will also evap more water out of the lake as we move into spring so it needs every drop it can get.
285. HurricaneGeek
4:13 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
teardrops won't do. =)
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284. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
8:08 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
u need a hurricane to fill that lake in one shot
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54479
283. HurricaneGeek
4:07 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
Just like Ivansrvivr said; a half inch, but Lake O is significantly lower than just by half an inch. Infact it is currently at 10.17ft and average is 14.09ft . But again, 1/2 inch will be better then 0.
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282. Ivansrvivr
8:10 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
CC, this rain will soak in just fine.
281. Ivansrvivr
8:08 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
The lake while huge, but it has shrunk to less than 2/3rds it's normal size. When the level rises now, it goes out as much as up.
280. TerraNova
4:00 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
LOL I know I changed it right after I posted it. These lakes get me confused sometimes.
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279. Patrap
3:07 PM CDT on March 22, 2008
For Reference and Linkage;
Severe Weather Text Page
Note: This browser will refresh itself every 5 minutes. Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128749
278. HurricaneGeek
4:05 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
trunkmonkey- Lake O is a huge lake, any rain is better than no rain. But it will take more then a biblical amount event to fill it up in one rain event.
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277. Ivansrvivr
8:03 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
3-5 inches over Lake O and the Kissimmee valley to it's north will raise the lake half an inch
276. trunkmonkey
8:01 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
with the low lake levels at Lake Okeechobee, will this rain have an inpact of filling the lake back up?
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275. HurricaneGeek
4:01 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
trunkmonkey, I assume you meant "to do", that's ok :-)

... And to answer you, hopefully a lot.
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274. Ivansrvivr
7:57 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Very little I'm afraid. We average nearly 60 inches per year here. We depend on the summer rains. This is the "dry season" and from now thru June it may not rain another drop. Last summer, all the rains fell where it wouldn't drain into the lake. Anything helps, but what is 3-5 inches compared to the 40-60 that falls in the summer and fall. We're honestly very lucky we're getting this rain.
273. trunkmonkey
8:00 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
THANK YOU CCHSWEATHERMAN
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272. FLWeatherFreak91
4:00 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
trunkmonkey- If you could rephrase your question into some form of understandable English then someone will answer you lol. I have no idea what the hell that was supposed to mean
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271. cchsweatherman
3:59 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
TerraNova, Lake Okeechobee is in South-Central Florida. You're thinking about Lake Ponchitrain right now.
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270. Skyepony (Mod)
7:57 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
South FL rain totals so far.
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269. trunkmonkey
7:59 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
HUH?
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268. TerraNova
3:57 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
1.5 inches will hopefully bring much needed water to Lake Okeechobee. However; most of the heavy rain is currently to the south and west of Miami.
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267. cchsweatherman
3:56 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
I should have raked the yard yesterday so that the rain could penetrate fully into the ground. I have so many leaves on my yard that I don't know how much rain it will penetrate through the ground.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
266. trunkmonkey
7:55 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
I'M FROM INDIANA, WHAT WILL THIS RAIN TO TO EASE THE ISSUES AT Lake Okeechobee?
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264. cchsweatherman
3:55 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
You're right Ivansrvivr. Made a mistake there.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169

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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.