Mississippi River sets all-time flood records; 2nd major spillway opens

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:06 PM GMT on May 09, 2011

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The Mighty Mississippi continues to wreak havoc as the river's highest flood crest in history pushes southwards near Memphis, Tennessee today. The river crested at its highest height on record over the past four days along a 70-mile stretch from New Madrid, Missouri to Tiptonville, Tennessee, to Caruthersville, Missouri, smashing records that had stood since the great flood of 1937. The flood height of 47.6' at Caruthersville, Missouri, on Saturday was a full 1.6 feet above the previous record flood height, set in 1937. However, thanks in part to decision by the Army Corps of Engineers last Monday to intentionally destroy a levee at Birds Point on the west bank of the Mississippi, pressure on the levees along this stretch of river was substantially reduced, potentially preventing multi-billion-dollar levee breaches. Currently, the Mississippi is expected to reach its 2nd highest level on record at Memphis on May 10, cresting at 48.0'. The all-time record at Memphis occurred during the great flood of 1937, when the river hit 48.7'. Downstream from Memphis, flood waters pouring in from the Arkansas River, Yazoo River, and other tributaries are expected to swell the Mississippi high enough to beat the all-time record at Vicksburg, Mississippi by 1.3' on May 19, and smash the all-time record at Natchez, Mississippi by six feet on May 21, and by 3.2 feet at Red River Landing on May 22. Red River Landing is the site of the Old River Control Structure, the Army Corps' massive engineering structure that keeps the Mississippi River from carving a new path to the Gulf of Mexico. I'll have a detailed post talking about the Old River Control Structure later this week. Its failure would be a serious blow to the U.S. economy, and the great Mississippi flood of 2011 will give the Old River Control Structure its most severe test ever. Also of concern is the forecast for the Mississippi to crest at 19.5 feet in New Orleans on May 23. The levees in New Orleans protect the city for a flood of 20.0 feet--that is not much breathing room. Fortunately, rainfall of at most 0.5 inches is 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. Opening of the Bonnet Carre' Spillway on March 17, 1997. The spillway was operational from March 17 to April 18, 1997, operating at a maximum flow of 243,000 cu ft/s (6,900 m3/s). Image credit: Army Corps of Engineers.

Bonnet Carre' Spillway opens
Today, the Army Corps of Engineers is setting in motion another key part of their plan to control the great flood of 2011. The Corps is opening the Bonnet Carre' Spillway to divert 250,000 cubic feet per second of water from the Mississippi River into Lake Pontchartrain, some 28 miles upstream from New Orleans. A large crane will traverse a 1.5 mile-long stretch of the Mississippi River and remove large wooden slats that will allow the river to spill northwards into a 6-mile long channel lined by guide levees, to Lake Pontchartrain. The land that will be inundated is uninhabited and is not farmed, unlike the land of the Birds Point-New Madrid Spillway that was inundated by last week's intentional levee breach. The main concern with opening the Bonnet Carre' Spillway is the impact of the Mississippi River's fresh water on the salt water ecosystems of Lake Pontchartrain. This is the 10th time since 1937 that the Bonnet Carre' Spillway has been opened. The Army Corps is considering opening the final spillway they have in reserve, the great Morganza Spillway in Louisiana, late this week. The Army Corps has never opened all three Lower Mississippi River spillways at the same time. The Morganza Spillway has been opened only once, back in 1973.


Figure 2. The last time the Bonnet Carre Spillway was opened was in 2008. The International Space Station captured this image of the muddy brown waters of the Mississippi flooding into Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain, just upstream from New Orleans. Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory.

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

Jeff Masters

Flooding In Tennessee (sunrisejake)
The flood waters of the Obion River and the Mighty Mississippi River has taken over many communities in Northwest Tennessee. This small Community of Bogota in Dyer County is only one of many that is now a disaster area.
Flooding In Tennessee
Mississippi River at Memphis Greenbelt Park Flood at 47.6 ft 6 (Barb)
This is the parking lot to the park that I posted pictures of a few days ago. Now the entire lot is under water.
Mississippi River at Memphis Greenbelt Park Flood at 47.6 ft 6

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Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Katrina had no effect on the OCRS. It is well inland and well west of the track taken by Katrina.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 5951
Quoting cat5hurricane:

What is an IP ban? Do you know what that is exactly. Please explain. I want to learn.



here you go


this is what JFV is doing with comeing back with new IDs he be geting a IP banned

IP Ban - People who repeatedly circumvent bans will be the recipients of an IP ban, which blocks access to the entire site.
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114712
204. xcool
lmaoo
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting SunshineStateCarnage:
You've been reported for starting up problems with me, Taz! Geeze, why do you always do this? Is it asking for too much for you to behave diplomatically in here? And no, your mental retardation ''DOES NOT'' justify your behavior, just saying! Anyhow, on to lighter things, Levi, how did your first year of college go, my friend? Are they challenging you enough, up there? You must be so good at math, I'd imagine, ^_^.




reported right back
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114712
201. bappit
11:55 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Dr. Masters says that "the great Mississippi flood of 2011 will give the Old River Control Structure its most severe test ever."

That statement requires an apples and oranges comparison. A lot of changes have been made to the ORCS since 1973. If they have desired effect, this test should be less severe actually. In 1973 the structure was in danger of collapsing. Hopefully such a dangerous situation will not come to pass, and the structure's foundations will remain secure.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 5951
198. Tazmanian
11:54 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting cat5hurricane:

How do you know it's really who you say it is?




watch the way he talks and all ways look at the end of his words he likes puting this , ^_^.
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114712
197. Tazmanian
11:53 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
if i was the Admin of this site if you got in a banned be for i mean the kind of banned you can no longer post on the blog site and you come back with a new ID you be IP banned for some in
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114712
195. Tazmanian
11:50 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting Orcasystems:


Oh man not again :(
The season hasn't even started yet:(



yup JFV is back with yet other name


and you no what i find that drive me nuts when some one bannds you you this dont keep comeing back on with new IDs too bypass your banned it even in the rules
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114712
193. Tazmanian
11:48 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
i say some this dont get it when some banneds you this dont keep comeing back with new IDs
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114712
192. Orcasystems
11:48 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting Tazmanian:





hey look its JFV and you been reported


Oh man not again :(
The season hasn't even started yet:(
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
191. Gearsts
11:48 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
LinkO,O
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1423
190. Tazmanian
11:43 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting SunshineStateCarnage:
G'evening, all; perfect timing I see, too, the elite bloggers are all on, ^_^.





hey look its JFV and you been reported
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114712
189. Gearsts
11:38 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Paleotempestology is the study of past tropical cyclone activity by means of geological proxies as well as historical documentary records. The term was coined by Kerry Emanuel.LOL
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1423
188. Levi32
11:31 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting Gearsts:
By controlling the position of the Azores high, the NAO also influences the direction of general storm paths for major North Atlantic tropical cyclones: a position of the Azores high farther to the south tends to force storms into the Gulf of Mexico, whereas a northern position allows them to track up the North American Atlantic Coast.[2]

As paleotempestological research has shown, few major hurricanes struck the Gulf coast during 3000%u20131400 BC and again during the most recent millennium. These quiescent intervals were separated by a hyperactive period during 1400 BC and 1000 AD, when the Gulf coast was struck frequently by catastrophic hurricanes and their landfall probabilities increased by 3%u20135 times.Totally not wiki ;)


Wow, I learned a new word today =)
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26547
187. Gearsts
11:22 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
I know which one you're talking about, I need to look through my 250+ bookmarks though, lol.
lol
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1423
186. MiamiHurricanes09
11:18 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting Gearsts:
Was a graph for the average shear for each month :(
I know which one you're talking about, I need to look through my 250+ bookmarks though, lol.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
184. Jedkins01
11:09 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting RastaSteve:
It also appears with neutral conditions coming that the gulf coast states and including FL are in for a very wet summer that could last well into October. As some have said we really haven't had nuetral conditions in quite some time. The bad side is some of this rain will be associated with tropical systems.


neutral years usually do means it gets very active in Florida.

As far as the near term,I would expect a sea breeze storm regime developing later this week into the weekend. Computer outputs show PW's near 1.75 later in the period and that combined with cold air aloft should lead to some sea breeze storms. Nothing widespread it appears right now. Hopefully that will change, a wet period would be great. But even if its just a few afternoon storms that's alright, we'll take it.



The one thing is though, computers models also show a front sagging into the area at the end of the period. Lets hope it stalls to the north to keep the dry air away and allow moisture to build more into next week.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7272
183. Gearsts
10:59 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting hurricanealley:
"Its getting Hot! Hot! Hot!"
Is there 1 from last month same day to compared?
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1423
182. Gearsts
10:54 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
CIMSS?
Was a graph for the average shear for each month :(
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1423
181. hydrus
10:53 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting SunshineStateCarnage:


Really? May you please further elaborate upon that, Hydrus? I'd appreciate it. I know that your not trying to be an alarmist or anything like that. But people need to know, since the season is now about 3 weeks away.
I am the furthest thing from a doomcaster, please believe that. I have not fully researched the data that is in from last year. I have not had time to finish examining the conditions that are out there right now. I will tell you that neutral years seem to have more landfalls. From 1900 to 1998, there were 63 major hurricanes striking the U.S., 5 during El Niño, 37 during neutral conditions, and 22 during La Nina. Those numbers are at the very least concerning. I do realize however that statistics are only numbers that have no control over actual events.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20493
180. Gearsts
10:52 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting hydrus:
My bad..I meant cat-1 or higher.
Oh ok ^^
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1423
179. CosmicEvents
10:51 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting SunshineStateCarnage:
G'evening, all; perfect timing I see, too, the elite bloggers are all on, ^_^.
I haven't been on in months.
I see I came back at the perfect time.:)
Member Since: August 3, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 5525
178. hurricanealley
10:51 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
"Its getting Hot! Hot! Hot!"
Member Since: March 26, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 971
177. pottery
10:50 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting SunshineStateCarnage:
You're def. part of that list as well, Pottery! BTW, how's everything down there by the ABC islands tonight? Getting ready for the season, I'd presume?

Yes Indeed.
While I have no idea what to expect this season, I am assuming for the worst, and hoping for the best. For everyone.
It has been a very peculiar DrySeason with plenty of rain.
I expect we will get a very wet RainySeason, which will mean floods and landslides if that happens.
I am looking at the ITCZ, and the moisture across the Trop. Atl. and the relative lack of Sahara Dust, SST's etc.
The combination of those things (and others of course) is how I forecast the rainy season here.
Looks to be a wet one coming....
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24023
176. MiamiHurricanes09
10:46 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting Gearsts:
15/9/2.Where is that shear graph that has been posted here in past entries?
CIMSS?
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
174. hydrus
10:40 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting Gearsts:
2004 Jeanne and 2007 sub tropical storm Olga
My bad..I meant cat-1 or higher.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20493
172. hydrus
10:37 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting SunshineStateCarnage:
Thanks for bringing the El Nino conspiracies to an end in terms of this year's upcoming hurricane season, Levi. Cough, cough, ''SkyPony'', cough, cough! People need to accept the fact that this year's season is gonna take place under neutral conditions, ^_^. Which should equate to a severe hurricane season, =). You're always the voice of reason when you speak in here, and for that, I appreciate you, my friend....
I fear that our region of the world is in for a tropical beating...Naturally I hope that it does not happen..Some of the necessary factors for such an event seem to be coming together.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20493
170. Bordonaro
10:35 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting RitaEvac:
Drought getting ready to start a whole new level now, summer heat banging down door. I can only pray for a tropical storm in June to quench the dead, parched, stifling, landscape with water some day.

OH, I so agree :O)
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
169. hurricaneben
10:33 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
I can see the U.S not being so lucky this season. We might see a few hurricane landfalls possibly one major hurricane landfall.
Member Since: May 15, 2009 Posts: 414 Comments: 677
168. Gearsts
10:33 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting hydrus:
The last time they took a direct hit was Georges in 98. So they have had a nice lull.
2004 Jeanne and 2007 sub tropical storm Olga
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1423
166. hydrus
10:29 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting Gearsts:
PR gets hit every 3 to 4 years, so we should expect something this year.
The last time they took a direct hit was Georges in 98. So they have had a nice lull.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20493
165. Gearsts
10:28 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Couldn't agree more, my numbers are the same as yours with the exception that I think we'll see one more major.
15/9/2.Where is that shear graph that has been posted here in past entries?
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1423
164. pottery
10:28 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting hydrus:
paleowhat...:)

Yeah!
That's 5 four-letter words strung together.
Disgraceful!
:):) Good one though.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24023
163. pottery
10:25 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting SunshineStateCarnage:
G'evening, all; perfect timing I see, too, the elite bloggers are all on, ^_^.

Yep, we are.

heheheheh
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24023
162. hydrus
10:23 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting Gearsts:
By controlling the position of the Azores high, the NAO also influences the direction of general storm paths for major North Atlantic tropical cyclones: a position of the Azores high farther to the south tends to force storms into the Gulf of Mexico, whereas a northern position allows them to track up the North American Atlantic Coast.[2]

As paleotempestological research has shown, few major hurricanes struck the Gulf coast during 3000–1400 BC and again during the most recent millennium. These quiescent intervals were separated by a hyperactive period during 1400 BC and 1000 AD, when the Gulf coast was struck frequently by catastrophic hurricanes and their landfall probabilities increased by 3–5 times.Totally not wiki ;)
paleowhat...:)
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20493
161. MiamiHurricanes09
10:20 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting hurricane23:
Here are my numbers for this season 17/10/4 (which includes 1 Cat 5), and 180% ACE. With a weakening La Nina and neutral conditions, the vertical shear should be lower than last year. SSTs are above average and near the records of last year and the west Africa monsoon trof and east Pacific monsoon trof are both already active. Therefore,I see no reason why this year should be much different than last year, except that we should see U.S. hurricane landfalls this year. Last year was a the second year in a row that we did not have a U.S. hurricane landfall. That has happened several times before, but we have never gone three years in a row without a U.S. hurricane landfall. So the odds are against us this year.

Couldn't agree more, my numbers are the same as yours with the exception that I think we'll see one more major.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
160. Gearsts
10:19 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


That is a good in brief discussion of what the upcomming season may look like that I agree with. How do you see the NE Caribbean in terms of potential strikes as I live in one of the islands? PR) I think it depends of the NAO right?
PR gets hit every 3 to 4 years, so we should expect something this year.
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1423
159. Gearsts
10:17 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
By controlling the position of the Azores high, the NAO also influences the direction of general storm paths for major North Atlantic tropical cyclones: a position of the Azores high farther to the south tends to force storms into the Gulf of Mexico, whereas a northern position allows them to track up the North American Atlantic Coast.[2]

As paleotempestological research has shown, few major hurricanes struck the Gulf coast during 3000–1400 BC and again during the most recent millennium. These quiescent intervals were separated by a hyperactive period during 1400 BC and 1000 AD, when the Gulf coast was struck frequently by catastrophic hurricanes and their landfall probabilities increased by 3–5 times.Totally not wiki ;)
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1423
158. Tropicsweatherpr
10:17 PM GMT on May 09, 2011
Quoting hurricane23:
Here are my numbers for this season 17/10/4 (which includes 1 Cat 5), and 180% ACE. With a weakening La Nina and neutral conditions, the vertical shear should be lower than last year. SSTs are above average and near the records of last year and the west Africa monsoon trof and east Pacific monsoon trof are both already active. Therefore,I see no reason why this year should be much different than last year, except that we should see U.S. hurricane landfalls this year. Last year was a the second year in a row that we did not have a U.S. hurricane landfall. That has happened several times before, but we have never gone three years in a row without a U.S. hurricane landfall. So the odds are against us this year.



That is a good in brief discussion of what the upcomming season may look like that I agree with. How do you see the NE Caribbean in terms of potential strikes as I live in one of the islands? (PR) I think it depends on the NAO right?
Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14002

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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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