Historic flooding hits Iowa

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:07 PM GMT on June 13, 2008

Truly extraordinary flooding has hit the Cedar River in the town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Rainfall amounts in excess of 12 inches have fallen in the past ten days over the Cedar River watershed, which extends to the northwest of Cedar Rapids into southern Minnesota. The rains that fell during the weekend of June 7-8 were fueled in part by moisture from Tropical Storm Alma/Arthur, which affected Central America May 29 - June 2. The Cedar River is expected to crest today at 31.8 feet, which is an amazing 19.8 feet above the flood stage of 12 feet. During the historic 1993 flood, the worst in recent history, the river hit only 19.27 feet, 7 feet above flood stage. Nine rivers in Iowa are at all-time record flood levels, and Iowa Governor Chet Culver has declared 83 of the state's 99 counties state disaster areas. Additional heavy rainfall is not expected over the Cedar River watershed over the next two days, so today should mark the peak of this year's historic flooding.

Figure 1. Total rainfall for the period June 2 - June 12, 2008, as estimated by NASA's TRMM satellite. An additional three inches fell over portions of eastern Iowa in the 24 hours since this image was created.

New way to track river flooding on wunderground
Wunderground has added a way to track local river forecast levels and assess flood risk at www.wunderground.com/wundermap/rivers. Using data from the USGS (the U.S. Geological Survey), the product plots river data and forecasts on top of our interactive "WunderMap". Users can scroll across the country and zoom in and out to view in-depth observations from all major rivers in the U.S. Alternatively, one can click an option to view only the rivers with current flood alerts. Each river observation is color coordinated to reflect its dry/wet percentile and users can click on each observation point to view data and graphs that display Flow Rate, Percentile, Current Stage, Forecast Stage and Flood Stage. Flood Alert symbols will appear on every river icon whenever a river is in danger of flooding.

The WunderMap™ also allows one to choose from a variety of layers including current conditions, animated radar, severe weather and tornado warnings, live webcam images and animated infrared or visible satellite imagery showing cloud coverage. WunderMap™ is available as a link on every U.S. forecast page, just under the small radar image.

Tornado outbreak update
The tornado that stuck the Little Sioux Scout Ranch Boy Scout camp in western Iowa Wednesday night, killing 4 and injuring 48, was rated an EF-3 on the Enhanced Fujita scale. The tornado that hit Manhattan, Kansas the same day, causing major damage at Kansas State University, has been rated an EF-4. This is the tenth violent (EF-4 or EF-5) tornado this year, the most number of violent tornadoes since 13 were observed in 1999.

The Storm Prediction Center is calling for a "Slight" risk of severe weather across the Midwest today, from Michigan to Oklahoma. We can expect a few more tornadoes today in the affected region, although the primary severe weather threat will be damaging thunderstorm winds and large hail. The "Slight" risk of severe weather continues Saturday and Sunday across a large portion of the Midwest.

It's quiet in the tropics. There is some disorganized thunderstorm activity in the southern Gulf of Mexico associated with a surface trough of low pressure, but this activity is not likely to develop. None of the models are forecasting tropical storm formation in the next seven days.

Jeff Masters

Sandbagging (Bubbly)
Great volunteer work on sandbagging in Coralville
Flooding in Coralville (Bubbly)
Roads closed and houses evacuated; today multiplied both of these with floodwaters still rising and more rain coming.
Flooding in Coralville
Mammatus Clouds at Sunset (RCPlains)
Mammatus Clouds at Sunset

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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230. Weather456
11:51 AM AST on June 14, 2008
228. Drakoen 11:49 AM AST on June 14, 2008 Hide this comment.
I think we should watch this African easterly wave as the GFS 12z run shows some high levels of 850mb vorticity maximum developing along the wave axis possibly even a surface low forming.

also, favorable shear and humidity and SSTs
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229. eye
3:50 PM GMT on June 14, 2008
too early to look off Africa, if it was late July or after yeah.
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228. Drakoen
3:48 PM GMT on June 14, 2008
I think we should watch this African easterly wave as the GFS 12z run shows some high levels of 850mb vorticity maximum developing along the wave axis possibly even a surface low forming.
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227. guygee
3:38 PM GMT on June 14, 2008
223. HIEXPRESS 3:27 PM GMT on June 14, 2008

Hey HIEXPRESS! In my case I was facing a south window here in Satellite Beach. Still, you are right, it didn't shake the house like it usually does.

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11:37 AM EDT on June 14, 2008
The WU interface appears to include more water level measurement sites than does the NWS AHPS map, At least in my area. I dont see a link to the hydrograph data for Lake Jessup or the Southeast end of Lake Monroe near Osteen on this map.
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225. guygee
3:27 PM GMT on June 14, 2008
221. Mjolnir 3:20 PM GMT on June 14, 2008
Discovery is on the ground.

Oops, the sonic booms preceded the landing by three minutes from my location. LOL, when I want to watch a launch, but forget to watch the clock, by the time I hear the rumbling and shaking of the liftoff the boosters have already flamed out.

Gotta go cut some grass and tame the wild weeds today, they are taking over, lol. Especially the crazy invasive "air potatoes".
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11:23 AM EDT on June 14, 2008
216. guygee 11:12 AM EDT
"Boom, Boom"

We got very little of the sonic booms with that Southerly landing track. Try opening one window but leaving the curtains in front of it next time & see what happens. The pressure change with each boom will be quite evident.
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222. TampaSpin
11:19 AM EDT on June 14, 2008
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220. sporteguy03
3:17 PM GMT on June 14, 2008
Roadtrip to NHC.
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219. Drakoen
3:16 PM GMT on June 14, 2008
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218. Drakoen
3:14 PM GMT on June 14, 2008
Wave of the coast of Africa is producing some pretty high winds at the surface.
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217. Tazmanian
8:09 AM PDT on June 14, 2008
when could we see some favorable winds out there all so where is the strong to vary strong MJO that we where all talking about a few weeks a go???
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216. guygee
3:01 PM GMT on June 14, 2008
Boom! Boom!
The Shuttle has landed.
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11:03 AM EDT on June 14, 2008
214. hurricane23
10:58 AM EDT on June 14, 2008
Good morning!

Took another tour if the NHC yesterday and ive begun to upload some picks to my picture section if you can please drop in and rate them. Thanks Adrian
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213. Weather456
10:29 AM AST on June 14, 2008
Tropical Update
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212. TampaSpin
10:26 AM EDT on June 14, 2008

Shuttle tracking LINK Link
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211. presslord
10:17 AM EDT on June 14, 2008
Discovery has initiated her de-orbit burn....
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210. Patrap
9:06 AM CDT on June 14, 2008
June 14th is U.S Flag Day.

Fly the Colors for America.

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209. atmoaggie
1:54 PM GMT on June 14, 2008
Hi folks.

Just dropping in for a moment.

Wow, I see it is special event day on the blog. Me, too. Grandparent's 50th anniversary party.
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208. guygee
1:49 PM GMT on June 14, 2008
Geospatial One-Stop Portal
From "USGS National Geospatial Programs Office:
A Plan for Action" - 2005 (pdf) (doc)

"In February 2005, after a highly competitive procurement process, a $2 million+ contract was awarded to Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) to develop a second generation of the Geodata.gov portal...It will support the merger of the map viewers of Geospatial One-Stop and The National Map and will manage a broad array of knowledge resources from Federal, State, local, and private sources."

"The USGS provides the foundation of the tapestry through The National Map by ensuring complete and consistent coverage for eight basic data themes. The USGS will develop and manage centralized databases for these eight themes (see table below), which will allow all the data to be viewed and accessed over any selected space. A user asking for data in Utah, for example, would get the same content, format, and model as a user asking for data in Cook County, Illinois, or for a watershed that
crosses several States."

The National Map "Blanket"

Theme Resolution (or Accuracy)
Elevation 1/3 arc second or finer
Orthoimagery 1 meter or finer
Land Cover 30 meters or finer
Geographic Names
Hydrography Better than or equal to 1:24,000 scale
Transportation Better than or equal to 1:24,000 scale
Boundaries (civil) Better than or equal to 1:24,000 scale
Boundaries (State and Federal lands) Better than or equal to 1:24,000 scale
Structures* Better than or equal to 1:24,000 scale variable
* Structures will not be "complete." These data will be loaded as they become available from partners.
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207. Weather456
9:36 AM AST on June 14, 2008
Impressive wave

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206. BahaHurican
8:54 AM EDT on June 14, 2008
I'm out too. I've got a funeral to attend - retired colleague . . . hope it doesn't rain this afternoon.

Have a good one all.
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205. rainraingoaway
12:30 PM GMT on June 14, 2008
Morning all!

Still looking for a little rain on my horizon.
Still blob watching, too. Will look forward to more updates today....but for now off to a 2 hour dress rehearsal for 5 yr old's dance recital tonight. Adorable but eternal!!!
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204. BahaHurican
7:36 AM EDT on June 14, 2008
Morning everyone. I'm looking at the hygdrology info for Iowa rivers (thanks to SkyPony), and it looks like the Iowa River is expected to crest at around 35 feet in at least one place. It's already near 33 in several cities. The Cedar River has crested in several areas, but there still seems to be massive flooding ahead for the Iowa, which it joins, and the Des Moines, which runs south and east of it.

Iowans are going to need our continued support.
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203. Weather456
8:09 AM AST on June 14, 2008
We have a complex upper level pattern across the tropics this morning that is reponsible for inducing westerly flow across the Northern Caribbean. Southwesterly winds across the Caribbean basin proudced by an upper anticyclone at 15N/40W, while a series of upper level circulations at 30N-35N is producing westerly winds to their south. Vertical wind shear increase 10 knots from 40 kts to 50 kts in the Central Caribbean as a result.
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202. guygee
11:41 AM GMT on June 14, 2008
Re:189. atmoaggie 4:48 AM GMT on June 14, 2008

Good point atmoaggie. It would be especially interesting to know how often USGS actually recalculates their recurrence intervals, and what is the base period for the last recalculation.

It is worth remembering that 1 meter resolution satellite-derived digital elevation data only emerged into the realm of non-classified research around roughly 12-15 yrs ago, and even then over very restricted areas. Before that time unclassified hi-res data was confined to very small regions obtained by stereo photogrammetry from aircraft. Improvements in digital elevation models (DEMs) over the CONUS since that time have been tremendous, in terms of both resolution and accuracy.

My understanding of how the recurrence intervals are calculated is that they use past history of stream flows at certain reliable points and some fairly straightforward statistical methods to calculate the actual intervals, then calculate the corresponding floodplains using some sophisticated hydrological codes over the DEM and attributes, probably inside of a more general program such as a geographic information system (GIS) like ARC/INFO, or maybe in-house UI programs(?). Would love to know the details.
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201. Weather456
8:07 AM AST on June 14, 2008
00Z Model Runs - Most dropped the TRP ATL storm and now the NAM (Green) is predicting development on Monday 16 June. They is no model agreement with this feature yet but some consistency in the model run. Unfavorable winds are forecast to be over the area south of Western Cuba.


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200. Weather456
8:04 AM AST on June 14, 2008
196. StormW 7:44 AM AST on June 14, 2008

ohok...thanks for that SW...appreciate the clear-up. And yeah, the atmopshere is very volatile.
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199. GainesvilleGator
11:51 AM GMT on June 14, 2008
Ok, worst floods since 1993 in the Mississipi Valley. My question is this:

Will we just rebuild all of the structures back the way they were or will we do one of the following:

1. Allow a bigger buffer along the rivers.

2. Have buildings higher off the ground on stilts.

If we are going to have severe flooding problems every 15 years then I think it makes sense to try and avoid loss of property even if it means it will be a lot more expensive up front to do so.
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197. AWeatherLover
11:45 AM GMT on June 14, 2008
Good morning storm! And anyone else in here this morning. Hope we get some rain today. I am pretty sure I live within a microclimate because it seems to rain everywhere surrounding my house but never actually at my house. I'm still dry here in Brooksville, FL (the outskirts really)
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195. BahaHurican
7:20 AM EDT on June 14, 2008
147. MNTornado 7:56 PM EDT on June 13, 2008
. . . I have a feeling that this is going to end up being one of the most costly years in history because of all the flooding.

Not to mention the already active and destructive tornado season that's been seen. And we haven't started the serious part of the hurricane season yet.
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194. pearlandaggie
11:28 AM GMT on June 14, 2008
193. interestingly enough, the total paved area (parking lots and roads) is only 1.72% of the total land area in the country.

in 1998, the total cropland as a percentage of total land area was 19.1%.

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193. ShenValleyFlyFish
6:07 AM EDT on June 14, 2008
One factor that is not address in historical based data is the changes in land usage over time. We have paved over or otherwise altered enough of the land surface that rivers nation wide are becoming much more "flashy".
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192. trunkmonkey
9:40 AM GMT on June 14, 2008
I live just 20 miles from the flooded areas in Indina, and our flooding issues are, the soil is saturatted, and the rivers and creeks can't handle large amounts of water, thus causing the overflow, of such bodies of water. If this were an annual event there would be measures to contain the water, but at what cost? some of our towns and cities that were flooded, have never flooded in this manner, so how do you have a good flood plan, with this in mind?
ya all be safe out there!
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191. PasturePool
8:03 AM GMT on June 14, 2008
hi all, eastern iowa here
I think part of the flooding problem started a few months ago with the well above average snowfall. Seemed like at least every 2-3 days it was snowing on us.
I can recall only a couple of times this year walking on the lawn and not hearing it squishing beneath my feet..and I'm up on a hill.
LOL its soaked and has nowhere to go!
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190. MNTornado
12:46 AM CDT on June 14, 2008
Regarding post 164 through 166, I don't know where the 500 year flood idea came from or how anyone can seriously make such a statement. We don't have and could not possible have any records to back up this statement as we haven't been in this land that long. Also when I checked the U.S.G.A and other records last night, I learned that we had little if any flood controls in the Midwest prior to 1965. This makes it very hard to compare and judge flooding from just 50 years ago to now, much less 500 years ago. I really don't think we have any way to make accurate comparisons of flood statistics to anything more than 20 or 30 years ago with what is happening now. The only reason that this years flooding can't be completely compared to 1993 is because in 1993 the flooding extended much further North. We lived in a small town called Jordan, MN which is 27 miles SW of Minneapolis. My wife worked in Eden Prairie at a McDonald's which is about 11 miles SW of Minneapolis. At that time the shortest distance to work for her was via US-169 to US-101 to Eden Prairie. Unfortunately we didn't have the 169 bypass bridge finished yet so we had to go through Shakopee to get her to work. When the 1993 flood occurred, there was no way to get to US-101 through Shakopee and since most of the land along the Minnesota and Mississippi River's was under water, the only way to get over these rivers was to drive SW to Bell Plaine and take the CR-25 bridge or E to Apple Valley and take the Cedar Avenue bridge. This would have meant a 57 mile drive one way or a 228 mile drive every day to get my wife to work on the shortest route. I-35 was also under water at that time. Changes have been made that have eliminated most of the problems we encountered in the Twin Cities after 1993 so flooding has not been as big a problem since then. I can not speak for Iowa as I do not know what if anything they have implemented since then. If however they have made the same improvements to control flooding as Minnesota, then this flooding would truly be far worse than anything experienced in 1993. And the reports are that all flood records have been broken in Iowa.

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189. atmoaggie
4:36 AM GMT on June 14, 2008
If floods are becoming more common and severe due to (say) increased sedimentation, the recurrance interval will change over time to reflect this.

Another Katrina lesson was that the land elevation benchmarks were not up to date. I know USGS can use satellites to gauge elevation, but not it's accuracy or coverage. Could be LIDAR? I am going to ask my uncle (USGS) about it.

Reasoning: If the elevation gradient of a watershed changes, it's ability to move water changes. Also if the surrounding land changes in elevation, even slightly, would cause areas to included/excluded from different flood scenarios. Rivers/streams naturally want to change course once sediment causes a reduced flow rate. Such path changes have happened throughout natural history. Numerous oxbow lakes dot the landscape surrounding major rivers. Those exist from sediment clogging the path and the river changing course. If we stop a river from changing course via levees, we affect the 100 year and 500 year flood area without extensive dredging.
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188. presslord
12:16 AM EDT on June 14, 2008
Strong Quake Shakes Northern Japan
Posted: 2008-06-13 22:56:07
Filed Under: Natural Disaster, World News
TOKYO (June 13) -- A powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake rocked a rural area of northern Japan on Saturday, killing at least two people, triggering landslides and reportedly knocking down a bridge. News reports said dozens of people were injured.
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11:46 PM EDT on June 13, 2008
180, 181 Skye, that was an attempt at humor, but it does look to be mid level too, now. GTG
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186. moonlightcowboy
10:44 PM CDT on June 13, 2008
183. WOW, Skye! That's unreal!
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185. guygee
3:44 AM GMT on June 14, 2008
179. Skyepony 3:29 AM GMT on June 14, 2008
You are welcome Skye.
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184. Skyepony (Mod)
3:43 AM GMT on June 14, 2008
Imagine what changing all those occurance numbers will do to insurance.
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183. Skyepony (Mod)
3:43 AM GMT on June 14, 2008
guygee~ Thanks for all the links..

Look how far this goes above record.. Next town south of Cedar Rapids.
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182. guygee
3:31 AM GMT on June 14, 2008
179. Skyepony 3:29 AM GMT on June 14, 2008

Skye - Since past history is used to calculate recurrance intervals for floods and storms, I would think that the floods of 1993 would already be considered in this years flood recurrance interval calculations. If floods are becoming more common and severe due to (say) increased sedimentation, the recurrance interval will change over time to reflect this.
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181. Skyepony (Mod)
3:34 AM GMT on June 14, 2008
Yes I believe it was refured to as an Upper Level Cyclone.
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11:18 PM EDT on June 13, 2008
At the 725mb level, it's 92L
Anyone ballooning over the BOC should take appropriate precautions.
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