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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.

Reader Comments

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729. GeoffreyWPB
6:08 PM EDT on June 15, 2008
Happy Dad's Day To All! Our local TV mets are forcasting heavy rains for my area (West Palm Beach) pretty much for the entire week. Is this because of a change in the sea breeze pattern that will bring the storms from west to east or something else?
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728. rainraingoaway
3:53 PM CST on June 15, 2008
Evening all. Happy Father's Day to all the dads, and dads to be...

So the buzz is now about the wave off Africa. Does look impressive. Will stay tuned.

Maybe a silly question...but I guess here is the place to ask...

Where would one go to begin basic Meterology studies? I have checked the local Jr. Colleges and nothing is offered. Send some thoughts, maybe?

Oh, recital went beautifully and "the Princess" got to be at the ball, lol.
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727. sporteguy03
10:04 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
What are your thoughts on the wave?
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726. moonlightcowboy
4:53 PM CDT on June 15, 2008
724. Ugh! And, very pertinent points made, too. Thanks for the update of the situation.
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725. extreme236
9:45 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
You can see the COC on that visible satellite pic in middle of the image. Once DMAX hits that area could fill in a bit.
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724. kellnerp
5:42 PM EDT on June 15, 2008
Flooding - it isn't just in Iowa and it isn't just affecting Cedar Rapids. Here is an excerpt from my sisters attempt to return home this weekend in Wisconsin.

"I went up to visit my friends near Eau Claire this past week and came home yesterday. The drive that normally taks 4 hours took me nearly 6. I-94 was shut down at the Wisconsin Dells, so I had to detour around the Dells. Then Hwy 33 was shut down in Portage, so I had to find a way around that. I finally got onto Hwy. 60 and thought I had a straight shot home, until I came to Columbus, where Hwy. 60 was completely underwater. Once again, I had to find a way around. Thank God I recently purchased a TomTom GPS for my car...it really worked out great! So many flooded farm fields. Its going to be a long time before things dry out."

My cousin who live on I-80 (well next to it) between Iowa City and Des Moines says it is very strange to see no traffic. The Cedar River cut I-80 off and traffic on this major national artery was detoured north to US20.

Arguably this persistent rain has caused problems at least on the order of Katrina if you add up the states and people affected. Unlike Katrina this one will likely hit all of us with a double whammy, higher fuel prices and higher food prices because the corn crop will be down. If the fields don't dry out and nitrogen isn't added again the crop may be meager.

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5:36 PM EDT on June 15, 2008
Max says:
Get you own ice!

Sorrow and gratitude for those fathers who have lost sons or daughters, especially in war.
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722. WeatherfanPR
9:33 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
nice pictures Weather456, that's a developing tropical system without a doubt.
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721. weathermanwannabe
5:28 PM EDT on June 15, 2008
Just popping in to say Happy Father's Day and I see that things are quiet in the tropics right now (now back to the food and drink).......
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720. Weather456
5:17 PM AST on June 15, 2008
Wave near peak organization - 1520 UTC this morning...MODIS AQUA

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719. TerraNova
5:22 PM EDT on June 15, 2008
Night has fallen over this area...diurnal max should be occuring within the next several hours as energy collected by the surface/water is released into the atmosphere (this is how it works, correct?). It will be very interesting to see what this looks like come tomorrow. The way I see it, there are equal chances of it fizzling or regaining convection. It has a lot of dry air to deal with if it wants to move into the CATL...WV.

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718. SWFLgazer
9:16 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
Chicklet: Shame on you! You made me destroy my new computer by spewing carbonic acid...diet Coke...all over my screen. Maybe I can clean it up before it does permanent damage. Good luck Chicklet.
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717. extreme236
9:20 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
Oh now its July 23rd...the most recent SK model output showed July 2nd.
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714. Weather456
5:02 PM AST on June 15, 2008
MODIS Aqua captures EATL Wave

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713. extreme236
9:13 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
Stromcaps shear isn't too high and there isn't too much dust. Open your eyes.
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710. weatherfromFlorida
8:38 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
707. I think they might declare it an Invest, then again, its June 15th, not September 10th. The season started 14 days ago, but we already had a storm. Id say it might turn into something, I wouldn't go as far and say a Hurricane, but at least and Invest, at most a Tropical Storm, a weak one. There is Dry air, and some shear, Strong and moist tropical waves tend to one at a time dissipate all that dry air.
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709. yamil20
8:31 PM GMT on Junio 15, 2008
happy fathers day to all the fathers in this interesting blog and have a nice day with the rest of your family.!!
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708. Chicklit
3:28 PM EST on June 15, 2008
Don't know what an "overnight blogger" is...With a baby, be prepared to be an "all night blogger!" Sometimes they follow their own sleeping patterns (like sleep all day stay up at night!)
Anyhow, I'm one of those people who doesn't get the technical stuff except to know that low shear, warm water, low dust/dry air (or moist air) incubates storm systems.
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706. extreme236
8:25 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
705. I agree completely. Now if it doesn't start gaining convection over the next 12 hours or so then it's potential is not very good.
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705. weatherfromFlorida
8:22 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
Everyone, its DMIN, its suppose to happen. This is only one hour after the Max DMIN.
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703. extreme236
8:17 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
Well Taz you can have favorable wind shear near Greenland but without the SSTs it doesn't matter much.
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702. Tazmanian
1:09 PM PDT on June 15, 2008
wind shear is vary favorable right now its olny 5 to 10kt may be this a little higher carribbean

i dont care on what the maps says but the olny maps i look at is the wind shear maps
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701. Chicklit
3:11 PM EST on June 15, 2008
I used to have two wonderful, loving, delightful children who adored me...
today, alas, I live with two dark demonic creatures who abide me only to the extent that they view me as a human ATM...some describe them as 'teenagers'.....

That's very good...Best of luck to you and your wife JFV. And congrats to all of the dads out there!
It's trying to rain here just south of Daytona...(I've weeded and planted today!) But so far it's 'much ado about nothing...'
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700. louisianaboy444
8:06 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
not meaning this in a negative way at all 0741 but are you still trying to learn English i was asking because i'm on a program right now because i'm trying to learn french and spanish and i can tell your English is kinda rough so i was just asking :)
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699. extreme236
8:06 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
698. If I'm correct thats the MJO, but that doesnt have to be favorable for development to occur.
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698. 0741
7:54 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
679. cchsweatherman 7:33 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
Referring back to the image posted by weathersp, here are some quick observations we could all most likely agree to.
1) There is a well-defined circulation center.
2) Shear will remain favorable throughout its journey across the Atlantic.
3) There is some impressive outflow occuring with the tropical wave.
4) We will need to wait for Diurnal Maximum to see whether or not this will become an organized tropical system.
5) It has become far less impressive in terms of convection than this morning, but the structure has become better defined.

look at it not favorable for central atlantic or over atlantic it wont be untill late july this wave go poof by time it get carribbean
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696. presslord
3:53 PM EDT on June 15, 2008
yup....Congrats! Welcome to parenthood.....
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694. WeatherfanPR
7:35 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
very well define wave with an obvius circulation and warm waters and low wind shear ahead, so I think this system will become 92L.
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693. presslord
3:46 PM EDT on June 15, 2008
JFV...I used to have two wonderful, loving, delightful children who adored me...

today, alas, I live with two dark demonic creatures who abide me only to the extent that they view me as a human ATM...some describe them as 'teenagers'.....
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692. TerraNova
3:39 PM EDT on June 15, 2008
Afternoon everyone. Happy Fathers day.

Impressive wave out in the CATL! Although after looking at loops it looks like it's lost convection and overall organization. Compare this image from earlier today to this more recent one. None of the models develop this but some (CMC/GFS mainly) show it briefly closing off an isobar as it heads out to sea. The GFS has the wave riding along the ITCZ into South America and develops several low pressure centers in the area as it progresses westward. It's the only real thing out there and its definitely something to watch.

Is there a QS scan for this yet? it looks like it probably has an llc.
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691. Tazmanian
12:43 PM PDT on June 15, 2008
you no with the vary low wind shear in the gulf right now and with the loop eddys in the gulf and if any thing got vary strong vary fast and if wind shear did not go up some be for land fall you no it could make land fall at vary strong cat 4 or cat 5 storm ????
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690. Drakoen
7:35 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
I don't see a well-defined circulation center...
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689. presslord
3:37 PM EDT on June 15, 2008
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688. nash28
7:37 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
Hey guys. Just popping in for a sec to say Happy Fathers Day. Not much going on out there, yet.
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687. weathersp
3:33 PM EDT on June 15, 2008
All points are correct and are marginal +'s for development. Only time can tell. Also wanted to ad that SST's are marginally favorable (well it is only June, haven't gone past the solstice yet.) too.
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686. blueranch1
7:35 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
Didn't u already give that opinion 0741?
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685. extreme236
7:36 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
683. Well its Monday in Guam lol
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683. presslord
3:34 PM EDT on June 15, 2008
cchs...while I think you summed it up nicely...you'd be pretty hard pressed to get everyone here to even agree that it's Sunday.....
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682. 0741
7:23 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
people here i know it look good now that wave out their one reason why nhc not worry is one it far south this could gave rain to south america if donot move north and not time of season for this type system
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680. extreme236
7:33 PM GMT on June 15, 2008
Still very interesting looking. Probably makes this look more impressive than this really is though. Link
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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