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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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
262. Ivansrvivr
7:51 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
CC, I don't think that's the low moving onshore. Looks more like the low is strengthening and the mid and upper level winds are carrying the Precip northeastward. If the Low was moving onshore, the warm front would be moving northward much faster. It is still hanging in the keys indicating the low is still fairly far out in the GOM
261. cchsweatherman
3:51 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
On radar, it appears that I should brace for several hours with steady moderate to heavy rainfall upcoming. This will be only the second time this entire year where I'll have rain lasting for more than 15 minutes at a time. Very excited right now.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
260. Ivansrvivr
7:49 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
I'm in the teeny hole in the rainfall in Palm Beach Co. The only spot in 100+ miles that's not getting poured on. That won't last though.
259. cchsweatherman
3:47 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
Appears like the surface low has just begun making it overland as I have noticed quite an eastward surge in precipitation on radar. Looks like the heavy rains have only just begun here in Cooper City. Anyone else notice this on radar? Something else to point out; on satellite imagery it seems like the convection continues to build back on itself out in the GOM as it continues to move eastward into Southern Florida. Not like it already hasn't happened, but someone could really get some flooding rains from training. Not looking very good now and it shows no signs of slowing down or weakening anytime soon.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
257. cchsweatherman
3:38 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
JFV, not much has happened thus far. That intense rainfall you guys have been receiving seems to be moving northward at a snail's pace causing some amazing training to occur. Once those rains reach here, which will take only about another 10 to 15 minutes, then I'll finally have some action to report. Stay safe JFV.
Remember, turn around-don't drown!!!
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
256. cchsweatherman
3:36 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
In the radar link provided by Adrian, it appears like a bow-echo has formed just north of Key West. If any severe weather does develop in South Florida from this system, it will be once the surface low moves onland and interacts with the warm front.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
254. hurricane23
3:32 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
Nothing severe but its coming down pretty good thats for sure.Moderate to Heavy Rainfall.

Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
253. franck
7:27 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
...much water. Good thing Florida very porous.
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252. cchsweatherman
3:26 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
Anyone there? Starting to look very ominous here. How you hanging in there JFV? Has the flooding started to get very bad?
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
251. TerraNova
7:27 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Look at all that moisture! More than 1.5 inches of rain expected in some parts of South Florida.
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
250. cchsweatherman
7:18 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Southeast Florida should prepare for some significant flooding as it appears the warm front has been moving much slower than anticipated. In addition, it appears the warm front and the GOM low will merge together later this evening and really enhance the rainfall and storms over the area. Surprisingly, still no rain here in Cooper City, although the skies have become terribly dark. Just heard the first rumble of thunder today while typing this. Radar imagery for South Florida is below.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
249. cchsweatherman
7:14 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Seems like the NWS has changed their tune quite a bit in terms of possible severe weather and how strong the cold front will be once it passes through South Florida.
NWS Miami Forecast Discussion
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
248. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
7:13 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
if and i say if it would dev warning would have litle time if any at all at this point hunker down wait it out things can change in a blink of an eye
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
246. TerraNova
7:06 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
JFV, there's a flood advisory out for your county.

Link
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
245. HurricaneGeek
7:06 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Hey guys. It had gotten very dark here is West Palm Beach, but no rain, at least at my neighborhood, to speak of.
Member Since: May 10, 2007 Posts: 110 Comments: 7039
243. Ivansrvivr
7:03 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
The NOGAPS and CMC are a bit late on this one.
242. Ivansrvivr
7:02 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
the convection on the western side of the low could be the formation of a cold front.
241. TerraNova
7:01 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
W456 - the UKMET initiates that storm 18 hours from now. It was the closest I could find since none of the other models have phase diagrams on the current system (NOGAPS and CMC initiate the low once it has emerged off of the east coast of Florida).
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
240. Ivansrvivr
7:00 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
The upper level overcast is overhead now. It doesn't have that "tropical" look to it. Looks more like a winter type system. Any tropical characteristics would likely be confined to the surface. If it were June or July, with calm upper level winds, It wouldn't take long for it to go tropical.
239. Cavin Rawlins
6:58 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
that low in the cyclone phase diagram is future cyclone. Is that same as the one as in the Gulf?
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
238. TerraNova
6:55 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
It looks cold core to me...in any case if this was late May or June then this would have a better, significant shot at tropical genesis (as ocean temperatures would be warmer and shear would be reduced).

Cyclone Phase Diagrams from the UKMET model show a deep, asymmetric cold core.
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
237. Cavin Rawlins
6:54 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
AMSU says neither warm core nor cold core.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
236. Ivansrvivr
6:53 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Lets just call it Sub-tropical.
234. Ivansrvivr
6:51 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Is it all that surprising that the low would have some tropical characteristics? SSTs are marginal. There is warm tropical air being drawn in to the system. It is likely tropical at the surface, but not up top. Upper level winds are too strong for it to fully develop as a tropical system. We need a good tropical downpour over the entire peninsula.
233. TerraNova
6:46 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Does this system have a warm core or cold core?
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
232. FLWeatherFreak91
6:45 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
The ares of low-level circ. is under 30 knt shear compared to 50 which lies to its east...I believe the low shows tropical characteristics although it's not going anywhere big...
Member Since: December 1, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 3634
231. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
6:42 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
lets just watch cchs
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
230. cchsweatherman
6:37 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
There is now new convection developing farther out into the GOM on the western quadrant of the surface low. Widespread rain and storms have now overspread all Miami-Dade county with some quite impressive rainfall totals starting to accumulate. Only a matter of time before all this rain moves into my area and really gives us a much-needed soaking. Here are the latest satellite images.



Taking a look at the satellite imagery, could we daresay that there looks to be some tropical development taking place? The QuikSCAT I posted earlier had indicated a closed surface circulation with some 30kt+ winds. You can also see convection has begun building on the western portion. Something just seems unusual regarding this system. Looks more tropical to me than extratropical.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
229. cchsweatherman
6:29 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
I'm back now.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
228. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
6:18 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
now we wait and see what it spins up to be
as it gets to the east
and the western sea
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
227. Ivansrvivr
6:17 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
I forgot the 2 that hit Pensacola in 95. But that too was steering.
226. Ivansrvivr
6:11 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
I recall several years (the last two being perfect examples) that were above normal in numbers but the steering prevented US landfalls, i suppose if you wanted to get technical about it there was something of a Florida landfall in 06 but steering pushed the majors away. Steering was what made 04 a nightmare for Florida and the late 90's so bad for the Carolinas. Steering also kept Florida from being hit through the 80s until 99.
225. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
6:05 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
entire west fla coast tampa s to keys fully engulfed with newest dev max dbz 59 collier south nice rains
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
224. hydrus
5:58 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
BAHA-HURRICANE-Amen to that.I am refering to that comment you made about 2004 Hurricane season.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22712
223. BahaHurican
5:57 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
I've gotta go also. Back this evening.

Hope it doesn't rain here . . .
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22736
222. BahaHurican
5:56 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
220. Ivansrvivr 1:35 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
Youre right about it taking one and that's why I find steering and tracks much more important than total number of named systems.


I think total number does matter, in that the more storms there are "out there", the greater chance there is that one will hit you. So I prioritize (steering =1, count = 2) rather than not paying attention to count. For example, 1992 was terrible for Florida, but 2004 was worse.

I'm just hoping we don't get a "worst case scenario", with repeat intense storms over the same general area the way we did in '04. That wasn't much fun.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22736
221. cchsweatherman
5:39 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
I will be back later. I'll be watching the radar.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
220. Ivansrvivr
5:35 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Youre right about it taking one and that's why I find steering and tracks much more important than total number of named systems.
218. hurricane23
5:27 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
214. FLWeatherFreak91 1:21 PM EDT on March 22, 2008
Hurricane... great site, but the link for the tampa/ruskin radar is wrong. It links to the tallahassee radar instead.

Link fixed sorry about that scroll down you can always use the tampa radar from dupage.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
217. cchsweatherman
5:27 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Watching radar loops, it appears that storms have begun to explode across South Florida and have now begun to fill in over the area. Prepare for some very heavy rainfall over several hours. This will be one nasty afternoon where you'll need to make indoor plans for all areas Tampa southward. FLWeatherFreak, that is not the warm front coming up into Tampa. The warm front can clearly be seen over the Florida Keys, moving norhtward into Southern Florida. You guys are just getting a moisture surge in correlation with the approaching warm front.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
216. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
5:25 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
dbz approaching 60 63 in se fla mainland w sw of miami
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
215. BahaHurican
5:22 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Re: 201

About the SSTs, I was saying that warmer waters generally mean storms which form have more fuel to become - and remain - major hurricanes, which makes landfall at those higher strengths possible. So far, temps haven't been anomalously warm across the bulk of the tropical ATL, so we may not have to worry about deep pools of warm water building up.

Unfortunately, as the past has proven numerous times, it only takes one strike to ruin a summer . . .
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22736
214. FLWeatherFreak91
5:21 PM GMT on March 22, 2008
Hurricane... great site, but the link for the tampa/ruskin radar is wrong. It links to the tallahassee radar instead.
Member Since: December 1, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 3634

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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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