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Mississippi River flood of 2011 already a $2 billion disaster

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 12:33 PM GMT on May 12, 2011

The Mississippi River continues to rise to heights never seen before along its course through the states of Mississippi and Louisiana. At Natchez, Mississippi, the river has already hit 59 feet, breaking the previous all-time record of 58 feet set in the great 1937 flood. The river is expected to keep rising at Natchez until May 21, when a crest of 64 feet--a full six feet above the previous all-time record--is expected. Record crests are also expected downstream from Natchez, at Red River Landing and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on May 22. Fortunately, the levee system on the Lower Mississippi constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers is built to withstand a greater than 1-in-500 year flood, and this flood is "only" a 1-in-100 to 1-in-300 year flood. However, flooding on tributaries feeding into the Mississippi is severe in many locations along the Mississippi, since the tremendous volume of water confined behind the levees is backing up into the tributaries. Huge quantities of farmland are being submerged in the great flood, and damages already exceed $2 billion. Rainfall amounts of at most 1.25 inches are expected over the Lower Mississippi River watershed over the next five days, which should prevent flood heights from rising above the current forecast.


Figure 1. A crowd of hundreds gathered to watch Monday as the Army Corps of Engineers opened gates on the Bonnet Carre' Spillway to allow flood waters from the Mississippi River to flow into Lake Pontchartrain. Image credit: Army Corps of Engineers.

Damage from flood over $2 billion, could hit $4 billion
Damage from the Mississippi River flood of 2011 is already over $2 billion, and could surpass $4 billion. Among the damages so far, as reported by various media sources:

$500 million to agriculture in Arkansas
$320 million in damage to Memphis, Tennessee
$800 million to agriculture in Mississippi
$317 million to agriculture and property in Missouri's Birds Point-New Madrid Spillway
$80 million for the first 30 days of flood fighting efforts in Louisiana

The Mississippi River flood of 2011 now ranks as the 10th costliest flooding disaster in the U.S. since 1980, according to The National Climatic Data Center Billion Dollar Weather Disasters list. The top ten most expensive U.S. flood disasters since 1980 are:

1) $30.2 billion, Summer 1993 Upper Mississippi and Midwest flooding
2) $15.0 billion, June 2008 Midwest flooding
3) $7.5 billion, May 1995 TX/OK/LA/MS flooding
4) $4.8 billion, 1997 North Dakota Red River flood
5) $4.1 billion, Winter 1995 California flooding
6) $4.0 billion, January 1996 Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, blizzard rain and snow melt flooding
7) $3.9 billion, Winter 1996 - 1997 West Coast flooding
8) $2.3 billion, Winter 1982 - 1983 El Niño-related West Coast flooding
9) $2.3 billion, May 2010 Tennessee flood
10) $2 billion, May 2011 Mississippi River flood

With the Morganza Spillway, 35 miles upstream from Baton Rouge, likely to be opened sometime between Friday and Tuesday, hundreds of millions more in damage will occur along the Atchafalaya River basin, which will take up to 300,000 cubic feet per second of water out of the Mississippi and funnel it down to the Gulf of Mexico. About 22,500 people and 11,000 structures will be affected by some flooding, according to Governor Jindal of Louisiana. Also of concern is the impact all the fresh water flows from planned diversions of the Mississippi into salt water oyster beds. According to nola.com, fresh water kills oysters because it wreaks havoc on their metabolism, preventing them from keeping a saltwater balance. Increased fresh water diversions in 2010, used to keep the Deepwater Horizon oil spill away from the coast, contributed to a 50% drop in oyster harvests in 2010 compared to 2009. The huge flow of fertilizer-laden fresh water into the Gulf of Mexico is also expected to create a record-size low-oxygen "dead zone" along the coasts of Louisiana and Texas. This year's dead zone could be as much as 20 percent greater than the record set in 2002, said Louisiana State University marine biologist Eugene Turner in an article published by nola.com. That year, the low oxygen area stretched over 8,500 square miles, an area the size of New Jersey. Dead zones are due to low oxygen level caused by blooms of algae that feed off all the fertilizers washed off of the farms in the Midwest by the Mississippi River.

A record number of billion-dollar weather disasters for so early in the year
The U.S. has already had five weather disasters costing more than a billion dollars this year, which has set a record for the most number of such disasters so early in the year. We've already beat the total for billion-dollar weather disaster for all of 2010 (three), and with hurricane season still to come, this year has a chance of beating 2008's record of nine such disasters. The billion dollar weather disasters of 2011 so far:

1) 2011 Groundhog Day's blizzard ($1 - $4 billion)
2) April 3 -5 Southeast U.S. severe weather outbreak ($2 billion)
3) April 8 - 11 severe weather outbreak ($2.25 billion)
4) April 25 - 28 super tornado outbreak ($3.7 - $5.5 billion)
5) Mississippi River flood of 2011 ($2+ billion)

Losses from the on-going Texas drought and wildfires are already at $180 million, and this is likely to be a billion-dollar disaster by the time all the agricultural losses are tallied.

Good links to follow the flood:
Summary forecast of all crests on Lower Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
Wundermap for Vicksburg, MS with USGS River overlay turned on.
National Weather Service "May 2011 Mississippi River Flood" web page

Jeff Masters
2011 Mississippi River
2011 Mississippi River

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

Quoting RitaEvac:
Jeff, did you enter your rainfall data on CoCoRahs site?
CoCoRah's site? eh?
You need to get signed up and get the gauge, I've had mine since 2007

http://www.cocorahs.org/Login.aspx
StAugustineFL (from Post 491)- Sure hope the News is wrong on that one! I was so excited when I read on here earlier this week that the NWS in Miami was expecting SoFLA to start seeing tropical moisture stream in next week.

Cape Coral here. Big t-storm rolled through Ft. Myers yesterday afternoon, with big hail. I don't want any of that, but the plants in my yard are surviving off the end of my hose, and my eyes are as starved for rain as their roots are.

Today I see a big plume of moisture all across the Gulf, headed towards Florida. But I don't know how fast it'll get here, or if Florida is going to keep having subsidence. Moreover, the sea breeze often robs the Cape of needed rainfall, pushing showers inland of I-75.

I'm afraid we're still awaiting the turning of the winds, the start of easterly and southeasterly breezes. I read on here today of heavy moisture hanging around Puerto Rico, but it looks like Florida is stuck in a dry slot between the Caribbean and the Central US.

Come on, Summah-time!!
504. IKE

Quoting jeffs713:
CoCoRah's site? eh?
I report daily to them.
Quoting RitaEvac:
You need to get signed up and get the gauge, I've had mine since 2007

http://www.cocorahs.org/Login.aspx

Once I get a new rain gauge, I will sign up.
Ike, I'm lazy, I haven't put in any zeros in months.
Quoting IKE:

Need a """pattern change"""

StormW where are you?


Nailing his forecast with a NAIL IT slogan.
I got my gauge for free, it was given to me by a met, how much are the gauges?
21.55" - rainfall in St Aug since April 2010
49" - average annual rainfall

44% of average and 27+" below normal the past year. The Texas numbers may be worse but it's still painful.
Quoting RitaEvac:
I got my gauge for free, it was given to me by a met, how much are the gauges?


About $25.00
Quoting jeffs713:

Once I get a new rain gauge, I will sign up.


Not talking about the 6" yellow gauge from Wal-Mart
$25 is pretty steep, but I guess it's to fund the CoCoRahs program
You can get the 4" guage sent to you from Cocorahs for $25.
Quoting MahFL:
My forcast for tomorrow includes possible large hail, which is bullshit, in 10 years in NE FL, I've seen pea sized hail 2 times.


hey watch the language...
Jeff, your data would of been vital since you got over an inch you said.

Quoting RitaEvac:
$25 is pretty steep, but I guess it's to fund the CoCoRahs program


Thats what I was thinking, probably get it cheaper thru another source.
I'm the 0.12" in the middle of Galveston county near I-45

Quoting RitaEvac:
Jeff, your data would of been vital since you got over an inch you said.



That line came into Houston and went POOF. I guess the line gusted out and caused the line to fall apart.
Quoting RastaSteve:


That line came into Houston and went POOF. I guess the line gusted out and caused the line to fall apart.


It did, I saw the outflow boundary on radar starting to outrun the precip as it was coming into Galveston county, knew then it was falling apart
Hopefully the seabreeze collision can bring us some much needed rain here on the northside of Orlando today. Again any storms that fire will likely be severe (producing hail and strong wind gust) as has been the case the last couple of days.
Quoting RitaEvac:
Jeff, your data would of been vital since you got over an inch you said.


No, I estimate it at closer to 2/3 of an inch... maybe 0.6. Radar estimated over an inch, but I know that radar estimates tend to be high. We had a little popup storm before the main squall line came through pass right over my house (my neighbor across the street says it was a "toad-strangler" for about 3-4 minutes).
Seeing that line die like that was devastating, that was our only shot at significant rain in a long time and now were gonna cook and burn.
Quoting RitaEvac:


It did, I saw the outflow boundary on radar starting to outrun the precip as it was coming into Galveston county, knew then it was falling apart


Hang in there models want to bring more rain chances into your neck of the woods next week.
Jeff, your pretty close to that 0.95" up there in Tomball

Quoting StAugustineFL:


Here's an article from 5/4/2011 that addresses SW FL. May be another month.

Link
june 3rd
and rita sorry about that line yesterday but rain is coming just not yesterday ya need a gom costal hugger with good tropical fetch and then the rain will come that time is coming soon hold on a little longer
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
and rita sorry about that line yesterday but rain is coming just not yesterday ya need a gom costal hugger with good tropical fetch and then the rain will come that time is coming soon hold on a little longer


How much longer we looking at?
PR radar showing about 3" of rain during the last hour or so in the southwest portion of the island. More to come. Last time that happened in Cabo Rojo, roads were washed out.
Quoting tatoprweather:
PR radar showing about 3" of rain during the last hour or so in the southwest portion of the island. More to come. Last time that happened in Cabo Rojo, roads were washed out.


Yeah you guys have been seeing epic amounts of rain lately. PR has basically been the untold story as of late as this is extremely unusual to this much rain there in early May.
Ouch



531. IKE
SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
LAZ062-064-131530-

SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW ORLEANS LA
925 AM CDT FRI MAY 13 2011

...STRONG THUNDERSTORM MOVING NORTHEAST AFFECTING ORLEANS PARISH...
ST. BERNARD PARISH...

AT 922 AM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED A
STRONG THUNDERSTORM NEAR CHALMETTE...MOVING NORTHEAST AT 15 MPH.

THE STRONG THUNDERSTORM WILL AFFECT AREAS IN AND AROUND...EAST NEW
ORLEANS AND LAKE CATHERINE

THE PRIMARY THREAT FROM THIS STORM IS WIND GUSTS 35 TO 45 MPH...WHICH
COULD DOWN TREE LIMBS AND BLOW AROUND UNSECURED SMALL OBJECTS. SEEK
SHELTER IN A SAFE HOME OR BUILDING UNTIL THIS STORM HAS PASSED.

$$
In Hockley (extreme northwest Harris county), I recorded 1.1 inches on two separate guages and inside the truck.
lol, here is the official Houston rain amount

Precipitation
Amount
0.22 inches In the 24 hours preceding May 13, 2011
535. IKE
I'm stormW-casting.....along with

~The Chart.....


536. beell
Quoting bluheelrtx:
In Hockley (extreme northwest Harris county), I recorded 1.1 inches on two separate guages and inside the truck.


Oops!
Quoting IKE:
I'm stormW-casting.....along with

~The Chart.....




Ridge Pumping. LOL!
Quoting emcf30:
You can get the 4" guage sent to you from Cocorahs for $25.


Or the 13" one from RainmanWeather for around $25-$30. Tell'm you came from WU, and get a better discount.
Quoting bluheelrtx:
In Hockley (extreme northwest Harris county), I recorded 1.1 inches on two separate guages and inside the truck.


Hrm... since there was 0.95 in Tomball (about 3 miles from my house), my estimate may not be terribly far off... (DW Hooks airport, which is about 2 miles to my east, got a whopping 0.08 inches, so their gauge is really off)

Also, after polling the 5 nearest PWS, here are the totals I get for yesterday.

.37
.52
.59
.39
.81

The best part... the .37 and .52 are right next to each other, as are the .59 and .39 (the latter two are on the same street).

I'm going to stick with .6, and call it a day.
No official decision on Morganza?!?! What do you folks think is going on?

I'm pretty shocked the commission hasn't said yay/nay as NO will be very close to the top of the levee's.

Are they worried they may not be able to close Morganza??
Speaking of being shocked, someone's avatar practically knocked me out.
Quoting HomoLibrarius:
Speaking of being shocked, someone's avatar practically knocked me out.


What the hell is yours? looks like the goof off saturday night live acting like that monkey.

Bah! Bah!
Quoting RitaEvac:


What the hell yours? looks like the goof off saturday night live acting like that monkey


I agree! Looks like a naked APE with a pink paddle. LOL
Sorry, I did not communicate that accurately. The avatar affected me in a good way. I am not dissing it.
530 RitaEvac "Ouch" [local forecast maps]

"Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice."
At least ya don't hafta worry about 40days and 40nights...
Quoting DestinJeff:


I love that I no longer have to post The Chart in order for it to be a punch-line ... but I know I will at some point.

I worked hard all last-season establishing that thing as the joke it has become. And I like seeing so many people enjoying it now. Long-live The Chart!
Feel its power
In fact, I wish more people on here had avatars like that.
550. IKE
Gotta love ~the chart....rain getting closer....woohoo.....


Quoting HomoLibrarius:
In fact, I wish more people on here had avatars like that.


I have to admit everytime I see yours I laugh. Looks like on of the guys from the movie Hang Over.
No, I do not wish more people had avatars like mine. Again, my meaning is misconstrude. That statement was in reference to the avatar that knocked me out, in a good way. Oh, nevermind.
540 CanesfanatUT "No official decision on Morganza?!?! What do you folks think is going on?
I'm pretty shocked the commission hasn't said yay/nay as NO will be very close to the top of the levee's.
Are they worried they may not be able to close Morganza??
"

Nah, considering the 100billion or so federal taxpayer dollars that Mississippi and Louisiana politicians got to split amongst their wealthiest citizens due to Katrina (while getting rid of "no account po' folks sittin' on valuable real estate" for developers), they're just waiting on the bribes...errr...campaign contributions to pour in.
Quoting DestinJeff:


I turn my monitor to the East everytime it is posted.
Yes,..YES....Not only is the Chart Gospel,.....Itsa shrine for the weather faithful to worship, pray and kowtow to....Thank yoooo Destin Jeff. Now I lay me down to sleep.... I pray to Chart my soul to keep.... And if I die before I wake.... I pray to Chart my soul to take...Chart bless Mom...Chart bless Dad......:0
556. IKE
"""A chart is a graphical representation of data, in which "the data is represented by symbols, such as bars in a bar chart, lines in a line chart, or slices in a pie chart".[1] A chart can represent tabular numeric data, functions or some kinds of qualitative structures.
The term "chart" as a graphical representation of data has multiple meaning
  • A data chart is a type of diagram or graph,that organizes and represents a set of numerical or qualitative data.
  • Maps that are adorned with extra information for some specific purpose are often known as charts, such as a nautical chart or aeronautical chart.
  • Other domain specific constructs are sometimes called charts, such as the chord chart in music notation or a record chart for album popularity."""....

from Wikipedia.
Quoting DestinJeff:


REVERAND!

...actually, I suppose facing it to the West would be more appropriate.
Actually East and west are appropriate..Many faiths and sects worship the rising sun..This has been a religious, spiritual rite for thousands of years and will continue for thousands more...Just my harmless opinion..:)
I say face the monitor towards the SE FL coast, as that is where most wishcasting tries to turn storms...
Not exactly blog related, but I found it interesting that a golf ball sized rock, traveling at 1,000 mph, can create such a powerful sonic boom.

Big Virginia Boom Likely a Meteor
Link
Quoting jeffs713:
I say face the monitor towards the SE FL coast, as that is where most wishcasting tries to turn storms...
Lol...That area will get whacked soon enough..Large and intense storms luv S.E.Florida and its P-warm Gulf Stream..:)
I am reviewing weather related books and movies on my blog. The first review is of "The Perfect Storm". Please stop by if you like. Thank you.
563. MTWX
Afternoon all!! Been a wet one here this morning in MS, looking toward the afternoon hail threat, hope it doesn't get too rediculious!!
You guys have the wrong chart. You need the new one.

Quoting hydrus:
Feel its power


We are all DOOM!
Quoting SQUAWK:
You guys have the wrong chart. You need the new one.

The peak between May 10 and June 1 is way too short. It needs to be equal with, or taller than the peak around September 10.
Quoting jeffs713:
The peak between May 10 and June 1 is way too short. It needs to be equal with, or taller than the peak around September 10.


Next year. The update for October thru December is not in yet.
Not attached to a front, closed circulation, warm-core convection and 35-50kt 850mb winds... NHC must still be on vacation. Definition of sub-tropical Link
Quoting SQUAWK:
You guys have the wrong chart. You need the new one.

Cat-5 on or about May-20.?...:0
569. Where do you see "warm-core convection"? I see popup storms around a low-pressure center - popup storms that don't sustain themselves, or grow in size.

Also, 850mb winds in a developing system frequently do not correspond to surface winds.

And finally... what would the NHC name it as? A STD/STS? or TS Arlene? Beyond that, what would be the point? Making you feel better?
Quoting Patrap:


Interesting spin there off of the delta... I guess that's just the low pressure system that actually gave Houston some rain yesterday? Here's hoping we don't get too much rain over "The River" and it's watershed today.
Here comes Waterworld! Flood baby, flood! :)
Quoting iahishome:


Interesting spin there off of the delta... I guess that's just the low pressure system that actually gave Houston some rain yesterday? Here's hoping we don't get too much rain over "The River" and it's watershed today.
It was probably a meso-low..
Quoting jeffs713:
569. Where do you see "warm-core convection"? I see popup storms around a low-pressure center - popup storms that don't sustain themselves, or grow in size.

As for "no front", there is still an occluded front stretching off around the northern half.

Also, 850mb winds in a developing system frequently do not correspond to surface winds.

And finally... what would the NHC name it as? A STD/STS? or TS Arlene? Beyond that, what would be the point? Making you feel better?

Sub-tropical storms are not suppose to have sustained convection, and model consensus says it went slightly warm core starting a day or 2 ago. That occluded front is also no longer there as seen on surface analysis, although I think they had it wrong even before they moved it; as the front was more to the north to begin with. Surface winds were being measured at 30 - almost 40 kts (recorded from a buoy) and that was far away from the higher winds. Prior to today 850mb winds were close to 60kts in some regions, I'm sure this translates to STS on the surface. The other storm it had merged with should have been at least a depression, although I think it also hit STS status before it was absorbed. I would like NHC to name storms which fully meet their requirements or to remove subtropical storms from their database and to change the rule back to the way it was. There will be an increase in sub-tropical storms in the future from SST creeping northward, it's bad science not to label them just because they are becoming more common.
Does anyone have the checklist used in regards to scoring a system whether it merits a TCFA?
Quoting jeffs713:
Does anyone have the checklist used in regards to scoring a system whether it merits a TCFA?

Link According to the list it should have quite the amount of points.
Quoting alfabob:

Link

Yeah, I have that... I was looking for a link to save (for reference), without having to manually cut/paste it, and such.
Maybe we should send out the "Planetary Distress" Signal Via the Federation Main Dish in Australia?


DAY 2 CONVECTIVE OUTLOOK
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
1219 AM CDT FRI MAY 13 2011

VALID 141200Z - 151200Z

...THERE IS A SLGT RISK OF SVR TSTMS ACROSS MUCH OF THE SERN U.S....

...ERN U.S...

BROAD ZONE OF MID LEVEL HEIGHT FALLS WILL OVERSPREAD REGIONS EAST OF
THE MS RIVER AS ERN DAKOTAS LOW DROPS SOUTH FORCING TN VALLEY TROUGH
DOWNSTREAM TO A POSITION ROUGHLY FROM CNTRL KY SWD ALONG THE AL/GA
BORDER AT 15/00Z. WHILE DEEP LAYER SHEAR IS NOT EXPECTED TO BE
PARTICULARLY STRONG AHEAD OF THE TROUGH...H5 FLOW ON THE ORDER OF
30KT WILL ROUND THE BASE OF THE TROUGH ACROSS MUCH OF GA/NRN FL
RESULTING IN SFC-6KM VALUES MORE THAN SUPPORTIVE OF ORGANIZED
MULTI-CELL UPDRAFT CLUSTERS. IT APPEARS STRONG BOUNDARY LAYER
HEATING WILL BE NOTED THROUGH MID DAY ACROSS THE WARM SECTOR STATES
OF AL/GA/FL INTO THE CAROLINAS. THIS SHOULD ENHANCE THE PROSPECT
FOR NUMEROUS ROBUST THUNDERSTORM DEVELOPMENT AHEAD OF EWD ADVANCING
COLD FRONT WHICH WILL JUXTAPOSE ITSELF WITH UPPER TROUGH AXIS. AS A
RESULT...MID LEVEL TEMPERATURES WILL COOL CONSIDERABLY AHEAD OF THE
WIND SHIFT WHICH SHOULD AID INSTABILITY FOR STRONG TSTMS AND PERHAPS
ISOLATED SEVERE CELLS CAPABLE OF PRODUCING LARGE HAIL AND LOCALLY
STRONG DOWNBURSTS.

OF SOME CONCERN IS THE PROSPECT FOR VERY STEEP LOW LEVEL LAPSE RATES
TO DEVELOP ACROSS THE CNTRL/SRN FL PENINSULA WITHIN A FLOW REGIME
THAT WOULD SEEMINGLY SUPPORT A POTENTIALLY ACTIVE SEA BREEZE. WITH
H5 TEMPERATURES EXPECTED TO COOL TO MINUS 12C THIS WILL LIKELY
RESULT IN A FAIRLY UNSTABLE THERMODYNAMIC ENVIRONMENT...POTENTIALLY
FAVORABLE FOR LARGE HAIL. AT THIS TIME WILL MAINTAIN 5% PROBS FOR
THIS REGION BUT AN UPGRADE TO SLIGHT RISK MAY BE REQUIRED IN LATER
OUTLOOKS TO ACCOUNT FOR THIS THREAT
.

FARTHER NORTH...SCATTERED-NUMEROUS SHOWERS/THUNDERSTORMS WILL ALSO
DEVELOP FROM THE SRN APPALACHIANS...NWD INTO PORTIONS OF THE OH
VALLEY AS BOUNDARY LAYER AIRMASS DESTABILIZES AHEAD OF UPPER TROUGH.
DEEP LAYER SHEAR ACROSS THIS ZONE IS NOT EXPECTED TO BE PARTICULARLY
STRONG AND INSTABILITY IS LIKELY TO BE CONSIDERABLY WEAKER THAN
REGIONS FARTHER SOUTH AS SBCAPE VALUES SHOULD BE ROUGHLY 500 J/KG AS
OPPOSED TO VALUES APPROACHING 2000 J/KG NEAR THE GULF COAST OF FL.
FOR THIS REASON WILL MAINTAIN 5% PROBS FOR SEVERE
HAIL/WIND...PRIMARILY DURING THE AFTERNOON/EARLY EVENING HOURS.
The monsoon trough is becoming active now, but is waiting for the current trough extending down into the Caribbean to lift out. It will soon, but another will immediately take its place, but farther west. The stream of moisture currently flowing over Puerto Rico and the lesser Antilles will then be redirected farther west, following the area of upper divergence. After this 2nd trough lifts out, the door may open for fun and games in the tropics.



(I'll try to add coastlines to this loop at some point lol)
NEW BLOG
Quoting Skyepony:
storm forent
south