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


Oops!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
535. IKE
I'm stormW-casting.....along with

~The Chart.....


Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
lol, here is the official Houston rain amount

Precipitation
Amount
0.22 inches In the 24 hours preceding May 13, 2011
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
In Hockley (extreme northwest Harris county), I recorded 1.1 inches on two separate guages and inside the truck.
Member Since: November 8, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 228
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.

$$
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Ouch



Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
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.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
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?
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
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
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StAugustineFL:


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

Link
june 3rd
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Jeff, your pretty close to that 0.95" up there in Tomball

Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
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.
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
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).
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5885
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
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
I'm the 0.12" in the middle of Galveston county near I-45

Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
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.
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1937
Jeff, your data would of been vital since you got over an inch you said.

Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
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...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
You can get the 4" guage sent to you from Cocorahs for $25.
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1937
$25 is pretty steep, but I guess it's to fund the CoCoRahs program
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
Quoting jeffs713:

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


Not talking about the 6" yellow gauge from Wal-Mart
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
Quoting RitaEvac:
I got my gauge for free, it was given to me by a met, how much are the gauges?


About $25.00
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1937
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.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I got my gauge for free, it was given to me by a met, how much are the gauges?
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
Ike, I'm lazy, I haven't put in any zeros in months.
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
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.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5885
504. IKE

Quoting jeffs713:
CoCoRah's site? eh?
I report daily to them.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
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!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
You need to get signed up and get the gauge, I've had mine since 2007

http://www.cocorahs.org/Login.aspx
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
Quoting RitaEvac:
Jeff, did you enter your rainfall data on CoCoRahs site?
CoCoRah's site? eh?
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5885
Jeff, did you enter your rainfall data on CoCoRahs site?
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
Quoting RitaEvac:
Jeff how much rain did you end up with?

You could of sliced Houston in half with a north/south line thru downtown, everything east of that line got screwed, I only had a pathetic 0.12" of water sprinkler type amount

The two PWS nearest to me recorded .38 and .52 (they are 2 blocks apart). Both tend to under-record rain, and per the radar estimates, I got a bit over an inch. So... I'm going to say I got around 2/3 of an inch. I need to get a new rain gauge, since mine was all crudded up and therefore not sitting on my fence so I could actually tell what I got.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5885
498. IKE
Today's QPF....


Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting Jax82:


I get the feeling like you do sometimes in Jacksonville. There will be this nice healthy line of rain near Lake City, and by the time it arrives here it just fizzles. I dont have any scientific explanation for it other than maybe it meets the seabreeze? who knows.

Also, coastlines have really weird atmospheric profiles, due to the sea breeze. Sometimes, the breeze can create convergence (firing off storms), but it can also create a cap, as the cooler air from the water puts a cooler layer at the surface, with a comparatively warmer layer at 5k ft.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5885
Quoting Cotillion:


Nah, that's not a lot to ask for.

Aside the loop (only around three storms have ever done that ~ hit Texas and then looped back out), that's not as fantastical as it sounds.

A few storms in 'hurricane antiquity' have done the whole paralleling of the northern Gulf of Mexico coastline. One even did the whole slowing by Texas (from Brownsville up to near Matagorda Bay etc) and speeding up beyond Louisiana and not being much more than 50-60mph. No loop though and nothing for the Bahamas. Albeit, it was the wrong way round to that. Close.

Storms do weird things.

Oh, I know its possible. Just unlikely to parallel the coast like that (especially curving down the TX coast) this early in the season, when the dominant steering flow right near the coast is W to E, instead of E to W.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5885
Quoting LuvsStorms:
Been a longtime lurker on here, mostly during hurricane season, but I wanted to ask some of you who have a better understanding of weather something.

I live in west central Louisiana, only about 18 miles accross the TX state line and since about August of last year every rain event that comes from the west breaks up as it gets to the TX line and we are getting almost no rain!!!! Just wondering what is going on that is making this happen. Any ideas?

Thanks for all your knowledge. I look forward to hurricane season when all the craziness starts in here...I come here for the education but there's a part of me that's coming for the entertainment as well.

Part of it is the persistent cap that is shutting off convection. Simply put, a "cap" is a layer at the low-to-mid levels that is either warmer than the layer below it, or much drier. Convection needs an air column that gets progressively cooler, since condensation is what drives storms. If you have a warm or dry layer, the convection stops, since it hits a "wall" (a layer it can't rise through, or a layer with low water levels, and therefore less energy)
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5885
494. Jax82
Quoting LuvsStorms:
I live in west central Louisiana, only about 18 miles accross the TX state line and since about August of last year every rain event that comes from the west breaks up as it gets to the TX line and we are getting almost no rain!!!! Just wondering what is going on that is making this happen. Any ideas?


I get the feeling like you do sometimes in Jacksonville. There will be this nice healthy line of rain near Lake City, and by the time it arrives here it just fizzles. I dont have any scientific explanation for it other than maybe it meets the seabreeze? who knows.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Uhhhh.... Drought




Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
Quoting afj3:

Any word on when the rainy season is due for South Florida at least?


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

Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Been a longtime lurker on here, mostly during hurricane season, but I wanted to ask some of you who have a better understanding of weather something.

I live in west central Louisiana, only about 18 miles accross the TX state line and since about August of last year every rain event that comes from the west breaks up as it gets to the TX line and we are getting almost no rain!!!! Just wondering what is going on that is making this happen. Any ideas?

Thanks for all your knowledge. I look forward to hurricane season when all the craziness starts in here...I come here for the education but there's a part of me that's coming for the entertainment as well.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
489. afj3
Quoting MahFL:
Starting to get very dry in FL.


Any word on when the rainy season is due for South Florida at least?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
488. IKE

Quoting MahFL:
The high presure ridge is providing killer subsidence in North FL. Result is not much rain.
Need a """pattern change"""

StormW where are you?
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
486. IKE

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858

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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.