Mississippi River flood of 2011 already a $2 billion disaster

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:33 PM GMT die 12o May, anno 2011

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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 NiƱo-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 (tkeith)
2011 Mississippi River

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586. ericbooth1926
02:35 AM GMT die 19o May, anno 2011
Quoting Skyepony:
storm forent
south
Member Since: October 6, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
585. nrtiwlnvragn
05:22 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
NEW BLOG
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 13 Comments: 10462
584. Levi32
05:18 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
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)
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
582. Patrap
05:00 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
Maybe we should send out the "Planetary Distress" Signal Via the Federation Main Dish in Australia?


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125572
581. jeffs713
05:00 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
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.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5792
579. jeffs713
04:49 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
Does anyone have the checklist used in regards to scoring a system whether it merits a TCFA?
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5792
577. hydrus
04:45 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
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..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19521
576. Waltanater
04:44 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
Here comes Waterworld! Flood baby, flood! :)
Member Since: May 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1418
575. iahishome
04:41 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
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.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 501
574. jeffs713
04:36 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
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?
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5792
573. Skyepony (Mod)
04:36 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 156 Comments: 36083
570. hydrus
04:30 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
Quoting SQUAWK:
You guys have the wrong chart. You need the new one.

Cat-5 on or about May-20.?...:0
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19521
568. Patrap
04:22 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125572
567. SQUAWK
04:21 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
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.
Member Since: December 9, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2498
566. jeffs713
04:19 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
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.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5792
565. TampaTom
04:18 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
Quoting hydrus:
Feel its power


We are all DOOM!
Member Since: June 20, 2005 Posts: 22 Comments: 1050
564. SQUAWK
04:16 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
You guys have the wrong chart. You need the new one.

Member Since: December 9, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2498
563. MTWX
04:15 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
Afternoon all!! Been a wet one here this morning in MS, looking toward the afternoon hail threat, hope it doesn't get too rediculious!!
Member Since: July 20, 2009 Posts: 23 Comments: 1391
561. hydrus
03:56 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
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..:)
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19521
560. IceCoast
03:56 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
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
Member Since: October 17, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1267
559. jeffs713
03:53 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
I say face the monitor towards the SE FL coast, as that is where most wishcasting tries to turn storms...
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5792
558. hydrus
03:52 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
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..:)
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19521
556. IKE
03:43 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
"""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.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
555. hydrus
03:40 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
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
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19521
554. aspectre
03:35 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
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.
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
550. IKE
03:23 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
Gotta love ~the chart....rain getting closer....woohoo.....


Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
548. hydrus
03:20 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
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
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19521
547. aspectre
03:20 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
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...
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
546. RitaEvac
03:19 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
543. RitaEvac
03:14 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
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!
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
540. CanesfanatUT
03:05 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
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??
Member Since: September 3, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 519
539. jeffs713
03:03 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
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.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5792
538. aquak9
02:59 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
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.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25506
536. beell
02:54 PM GMT die 13o May, anno 2011
Quoting bluheelrtx:
In Hockley (extreme northwest Harris county), I recorded 1.1 inches on two separate guages and inside the truck.


Oops!
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 137 Comments: 15303

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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.