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Mississippi River flood over $2B in damages #407563
05/12/11 08:29 AM
05/12/11 08:29 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 74,952
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Mississippi River flood of 2011 already a $2 billion disaster

Posted by: JeffMasters, 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, 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 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 ten 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

Re: Mississippi River flood over $2B in damages [Re: Marty] #407626
05/12/11 03:20 PM
05/12/11 03:20 PM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 74,952
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Memphis: Incredible panoramic photo of the Mississippi River at/near its crest of 47.87ft:


Below is a small version, make sure to ZOOM IN on the big version. I am sure the pic is bigger than your browser window which means a click makes it larger....

from a friend...

This is what everyone is was talking about. The island to the right (Mud Island) has 4 houses that had detached storage shed damage but other than that Memphis dodged a bullet. Contrary to the Media only 500 people are displaced as they lived in the flood zone. Now the mess comes with Mosquitoes, Stench & West Nile.

Oh Joy!

Click for larger version

Re: Mississippi River flood over $2B in damages [Re: Marty] #407658
05/13/11 01:45 AM
05/13/11 01:45 AM
Joined: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,436
Caye Caulker
Cooper Offline
Cooper  Offline
Just left New Orleans yesterday, what can you say when you are a poor home owner and due to the best of the most, you loose everything you have for the greater good. When it is decided to open up the spillways..floodgates...the poor and some rich that can afford insurance get slammed..the poor are always the victims...yet got to love them as we talked to them and the horrific experience of Katrina..they seem to be used to being ignored persons. Its Sad....because all the water will end up with them.....

Re: Mississippi River flood over $2B in damages [Re: Marty] #407773
05/14/11 09:12 AM
05/14/11 09:12 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 74,952
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

America's Achilles' heel: the Mississippi River's Old River Control Structure

Posted by: JeffMasters, 5:20 PM GMT on May 13, 2011

America has an Achilles' heel. It lies on a quiet, unpopulated stretch of the Mississippi River in Louisiana, a few miles east of the tiny town of Simmesport. Rising up from the flat, wooded west flood plain of the Mississippi River tower four massive concrete and steel structures that would make a Pharaoh envious--the Army Corps' of Engineers greatest work, the billion-dollar Old River Control Structure. This marvel of modern civil engineering has, for fifty years, done what many thought impossible--impose man's will on the Mississippi River. Mark Twain, who captained a Mississippi river boat for many years, wrote in his book Life on the Mississippi, "ten thousand river commissions, with the mines of the world at their back, cannot tame that lawless stream, cannot curb it or define it, cannot say to it "Go here," or Go there, and make it obey; cannot save a shore which it has sentenced; cannot bar its path with an obstruction which it will not tear down, dance over, and laugh at." The great river wants to carve a new path to the Gulf of Mexico; only the Old River Control Structure it at bay. Failure of the Old River Control Structure would be a severe blow to America's economy, interrupting a huge portion of our imports and exports that ship along the Mississippi River. Closure of the Mississippi to shipping would cost $295 million per day, said Gary LaGrange, executive director of the Port of New Orleans, during a news conference Thursday. The structure will receive its most severe test in its history in the coming two weeks, as the Mississippi River's greatest flood on record crests at a level never before seen.

Figure 1. Two views of the Mississippi River. Left: the meander paths of the Mississippi over time, as published in "Geological Investigation of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River" (Fisk, 1944). Right: The Army Corps of Engineers' view of Mississippi River peak flow rates during a maximum 1-in-500 year "Project Flood" (U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, 1958.) The places outlined in red are where the Corps has built flood control structures capable of diverting a portion of the Mississippi's flow.

A better path to the Gulf
The mighty Mississippi River keeps on rollin' along its final 300 miles to the Gulf of Mexico south of New Orleans--but unwillingly. There is a better way to the Gulf--150 miles shorter, and more than twice as steep. This path lies down the Atchafalaya River, which connects to the Mississippi at a point 45 miles north-northwest of Baton Rouge, 300 river miles from the Gulf of Mexico Delta. Each year, the path down the Atchafalaya grows more inviting. As the massive amounts of sediments the Mississippi carries--scoured from fully 41% of the U.S. land area--reach the Gulf of Mexico, the river's path grows longer. This forces it to dump large amounts of sediment hundreds of miles upstream, in order to build its bed higher and maintain the flow rates needed to flush such huge amounts of sediment to the sea. Thus the difference in elevation between the bed of the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya--currently 17 - 19 feet at typical flow rates of the rivers--grows ever steeper, and the path to the Gulf down the Atchafalaya more inviting. Floods like this year's great flood further increase the slope, as flood waters scour out the bed of the Atchafalaya. Without the Old River Control Structure, the Mississippi River would have carved a new path to the Gulf in the 1970s, leaving Baton Rouge and New Orleans stranded on a salt water estuary, with no fresh water to supply their people and industry.

History of the Old River Control Structure
The Mississippi River has been carving a path to the ocean since the time of the dinosaurs, always seeking the shortest and steepest route possible. Approximately once every 1000 years, the river jumps out of its banks and carves a new path. In John McPhee's fantastic essay, The Control of Nature, we learn:

The Mississippi's main channel of three thousand years ago is now the quiet water of Bayou Teche, which mimics the shape of the Mississippi. Along Bayou Teche, on the high ground of ancient natural levees, are Jeanerette, Breaux Bridge, Broussard, Olivier--arcuate strings of Cajun towns. Eight hundred years before the birth of Christ, the channel was captured from the east. It shifted abruptly and flowed in that direction for about a thousand years. In the second century a.d., it was captured again, and taken south, by the now unprepossessing Bayou Lafourche, which, by the year 1000, was losing its hegemony to the river's present course, through the region that would be known as Plaquemines. By the nineteen-fifties, the Mississippi River had advanced so far past New Orleans and out into the Gulf that it was about to shift again, and its offspring Atchafalaya was ready to receive it.

For the Mississippi to make such a change was completely natural, but in the interval since the last shift Europeans had settled beside the river, a nation had developed, and the nation could not afford nature. The consequences of the Atchafalaya's conquest of the Mississippi would include but not be limited to the demise of Baton Rouge and the virtual destruction of New Orleans. With its fresh water gone, its harbor a silt bar, its economy disconnected from inland commerce, New Orleans would turn into New Gomorrah. Moreover, there were so many big industries between the two cities that at night they made the river glow like a worm. As a result of settlement patterns, this reach of the Mississippi had long been known as "the German coast," and now, with B. F. Goodrich, E. I. du Pont, Union Carbide, Reynolds Metals, Shell, Mobil, Texaco, Exxon, Monsanto, Uniroyal, Georgia-Pacific, Hydrocarbon Industries, Vulcan Materials, Nalco Chemical, Freeport Chemical, Dow Chemical, Allied Chemical, Stauffer Chemical, Hooker Chemicals, Rubicon Chemicals, American Petrofina--with an infrastructural concentration equaled in few other places--it was often called "the American Ruhr." The industries were there because of the river. They had come for its navigational convenience and its fresh water. They would not, and could not, linger beside a tidal creek. For nature to take its course was simply unthinkable. The Sixth World War would do less damage to southern Louisiana. Nature, in this place, had become an enemy of the state.

The Atchafalaya steadily took more and more of the Mississippi's water to the Gulf of Mexico during the 20th Century, until by 1950, it had captured 30% of the great river's flow, becoming the 4th largest river in the U.S. by volume discharge. The Army Corps of Engineers stepped in, and in the late 1950s began construction of a massive structure that resembled a dam with gates to control the amount of water escaping from the Mississippi to the Atchafalaya. This "Low Sill Structure", completed in 1963, consisted of a dam with 11 gates, each 44 feet wide, that could be raised or lowered. The entire structure was 566 feet long. A companion "Overbank Structure" was built on dry land next to the Low Sill Structure, in order to control extreme water flows during major floods. The Overbank Structure had 73 bays, each 44 feet wide, and was 3,356 feet long. The total cost of the two structures: about $300 million.

Figure 2. Aerial view of the Mississippi River's Old River Control Structure, looking downstream (south.) Image credit: U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

The flood of 1973: Old River Control Structure almost fails
For the first ten years after completion of the Old River Control Structure, no major floods tested it, leading the Army Corps to declare, "We harnessed it, straightened it, regularized it, shackled it." But in 1973, a series of heavy snowstorms in the Upper Midwest was followed by exceptionally heavy spring rains in the South. The Mighty Mississippi rose inexorably until the flow rate at the Old River Control Structure reached 2 million cubic feet per second--twenty times the flow of Niagara Falls--and stayed there for more almost three months. Turbulence from the unprecedented flows through the Low Sill Structure scoured the foundation and destroyed a 67-foot-high wing wall that guided water into the structure. Scour holes as big as a football field developed upstream, downstream, and underneath the structure, exposing 50 feet of the 90-foot long steel pilings supporting the structure. The structure began vibrating dangerously, so much so that it would slam open car doors of vehicles parking on top of Highway 15 that crosses over the top. Emergency repairs saved the structure, but it came every close to complete failure.

The flood of 1973 permanently damaged the Low Sill Structure, forcing the Corps to build additional structures to control future great floods. The first of these structures was the Auxilliary Control Structure. This 442-foot long structure, completed in 1986, consisted of six gates, each 62 feet wide, and cost $206 million to build. Joining the mix in the late 1980s was a 192-megawatt hydroelectric power plant, build at a cost of $520 million.

Figure 3. The flow of water in the Mississippi River as of Friday, May 13 (red line) has exceeded 2 million cubic feet per second, and was approaching the all-time record (dashed blue line.) Image credit: USACE.

The Old River Control Structure's greatest test: the flood of 2011
Flow rates of the Mississippi at the latitude of the Old River Control Structure are expected to exceed the all-time record on Saturday, giving the Old River Control Structure its greatest test since the flood of 1973. Since there are now four structures to control the flooding instead of just the two that existed in 1973, the Old River Control Structure should be able to handle a much greater flow of water. The flood of 2011 is not as large as the maximum 1-in-500 year "Project Flood" that the Old River Control Structure was designed to handle, and the Army Corps of Engineers has expressed confidence that the structure can handle the current flood. However, the system has never been tested in these conditions before. This is a dangerous flood, and very high water levels are expected for many weeks. Unexpected flaws in the design of the Old River Control Structure may give it a few percent chance of failure under these sorts of unprecedented conditions. While I expect that the Old River Control Structure will indeed hold back the great flood of 2011, we also need to be concerned about the levees on either side of the structure. The levees near Old River Control Structure range from 71 - 74 feet high, and the flood is expected to crest at 65.5 feet on May 22. This is, in theory, plenty of levee to handle such a flood, but levees subjected to long periods of pressure can and do fail sometimes, and the Corps has to be super-careful to keep all the levees under constant surveillance and quickly move to repair sand boils or piping problems that might develop. Any failure of a levee on the west bank of the Mississippi could allow the river to jump its banks permanently and carve a new path to the Gulf of Mexico. I'll say more about the potential costs of such an event in a future post.

According to the latest information from the Army Corps the Old River Control Structure is currently passing 624,000 cubic feet per second of water, which is 1% beyond what is intended in a maximum "Project Flood." The flow rate of the Mississippi at New Orleans is at 100% of the maximum Project Flood. These are dangerous flow rates, and makes it likely that the Army Corps will open the Morganza Spillway in the next few days to take pressure off of the Old River Control Structure and New Orleans levees. Neither can be allowed to fail. In theory, the Old River Control Structure can be operated at 140% of a Project Flood, since there are now four control structures instead of just the two that existed in 1973 (flows rates of 300,000 cfs, 350,000 cfs, 320,000 cfs, and 170,000 cfs can go through the Low Sill, Auxiliary, Overbank, and Hydroelectric structures, respectively.) Apparently, the Corps is considering this, as evidenced by their Scenario #3 images they posted yesterday. This is a risky proposition, as the Old River Control Structure would be pushed to its absolute limit in this scenario. It would seem a lower risk proposition to open the Morganza spillway to divert up to 600,000 cfs, unless there are concerns the Corps has they aren't telling us about.

Figure 4. Kayaking, anyone? The stilling basin downstream of the Low Sill Structure of the Old River Control Structure, as seen during major flood stage of the Mississippi River on May 10, 2011. The flow rate is 2 - 3 times that of Niagara Falls here. Video by Lee Alessi.

Recommended reading
John McPhee's fantastic essay, The Control of Nature

Re: Mississippi River flood over $2B in damages [Re: Marty] #407968
05/17/11 07:48 AM
05/17/11 07:48 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 74,952
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Unprecented floods on the Mississippi, in Colombia, and Canada

JeffMasters, 2:58 PM GMT on May 16, 2011

The great Mississippi River flood of 2011 continues to make history, with Saturday's opening of the flood gates of the Morganza Spillway marking just the second time that flood control structure has been used since its construction in 1956. With the Morganza, Bonnet Carre', and Birds Point-New Madrid Spillways all open, the Army Corps of Engineers has now opened all of its major spillways simultaneously for the first time ever. The Mississippi is rising at Vicksburg, Mississippi, where the water has now reached 56.5', exceeding the previous all-time record of 56.2', set during the great flood of 1927. Natchez, Mississippi, is also at its greatest flood height on record, with the water at 60.6'. The previous record high was 58', set in 1937. However, the opening of the Morganza spillway has reduced the predicted heights of the great flood of 2011 from Natchez to New Orleans by 1 to 1.5'. This will serve to greatly reduce the pressure on the levees and on the Old River Control Structure, which as I discussed in my previous post, is America's Achilles' heel, and must be protected. According the National Weather Service, flood heights along the Lower Mississippi from Natchez to New Orleans will peak this week, and slowly fall next week. Rainfall over the next five days is expected to be minimal over the Lower Mississippi watershed. The next chance for significant rain over the region will come Sunday, May 22.

Figure 1. Saturday's opening of the first gate on the Morganza Spillway, as seen on the live feed from USTREAM.

Devastating flooding continues in Colombia
Devastating flooding has hit South America in Colombia, where exceptionally heavy spring rains have killed at least 425 people so far this year, with 482 others missing. Damages are in the billions, and there are 3 million disaster victims. "Some parts of the country have been set back 15 to 20 years", said Plan’s Country Director in Colombia, Gabriela Bucher. "Over the past 10 months we have registered five or six times more rainfall than usual," said the director of Colombia's weather service, Ricardo Lozano. Up to 800 mm (about 32 inches) of rain has fallen along the Pacific coast of Colombia over the past two weeks (Figure 3). The severe spring flooding follows on the heels of the heaviest fall rains in Colombia's History. Weather records go back 42 year in Colombia. Colombia's president Juan Manuel Santos said, "the tragedy the country is going through has no precedents in our history." The 2010 floods killed 571 people--the second deadliest year for floods in Colombian history, next to 1987. The floods did over $1 billion in damage, and affected 2.8 million people. In many places, the flood waters from this great disaster never fully receded, and are now rising again due to this latest round of intense flooding. More rain is in the forecast--the latest forecast from the GFS model calls for an additional 5 - 10 inches (200 - 400 mm) across much of western and northern Colombia in the coming week.

Figure 2. Satellite-observed rainfall over Colombia during the past two weeks shows a region of up to 800 mm (about 32 inches) has fallen near the Pacific coast. Image credit: Navy Research Lab, Monterey.

Colombia's rainy season usually has two peaks: one the fall in October, then then another in the spring in April - May. The heavy rains are due to the presence of the Intertropical Convergence Zone, the area encircling the earth near the Equator where winds originating in the northern and southern hemispheres come together. When these great wind belts come together (or "converge", thus the name "Convergence Zone"), the converging air is forced upwards, since it has nowhere else to go. The rising air fuels strong thunderstorm updrafts, creating a band of very heavy storms capable of causing heavy flooding rains. In La Niña years, when a large region of colder than average water is off the Pacific coast of Colombia, rainfall tends to increase over Colombia. La Niña was moderate to strong during the fall 2010 rains and floods in Colombia, and was largely to blame for Colombia's deadly rainy season. However, in recent months, La Niña has waned. April sea surface temperatures off the Pacific coast of Colombia (0° - 10°N, 85° - 75°W), warmed to the 13th highest temperatures in the past 100 years, 0.68°C above average. Thus, this month's flooding in Colombia may not be due to La Niña.

See also my December 2010 post, Heaviest rains in Colombia's history trigger deadly landslide; 145 dead or missing

Figure 3. Dramatic video of flooding in Colombia over the weekend. Flood waters swept away cars and buses in a busy street in the city of Barranquilla, and passengers climbed on the roofs of their vehicles in order to escape the flood waters. Video credit: BBC.

300-year flood in Canada; wildfires destroy large portions of Slave Lake, Alberta
In Manitoba, Canada, heavy spring snow melt in combination with heavy rains have combined to create record flooding on the Assiniboine River. Authorities intentionally breached a levee over the weekend to save hundreds of homes, but inundated huge areas of farmland as a result. The flood is being called a 300-year flood, and damages are already in excess of $1 billion. In Alberta, Canada, reverse extreme is causing havoc: severe drought and strong spring winds have made ideal conditions for wildfires, which swept into the community of Slave Lake (population 6,700) yesterday. The fires destroyed hundreds of buildings, burning down the town hall and at least 30% of the town, according to preliminary media reports.

Figure 4. Video of the May 15, 2011 Slave Lake fire.

First tropical wave of the year over the Atlantic
The first tropical wave of 2011 is now over the tropical Atlantic near 6°N 46°W, according to the latest Atlantic Tropical Weather Discussion. The wave will bring heavy rain to the northeast coast of South America over the next two days, but is too far south to be a threat to develop into a tropical depression. The Atlantic hurricane season is just two weeks away, and the Eastern Pacific hurricane season began yesterday. So far, the models are not predicting any tropical storm development in the East Pacific or Atlantic over the next six days.

Re: Mississippi River flood over $2B in damages [Re: Marty] #408383
05/21/11 08:07 AM
05/21/11 08:07 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 74,952
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Mississippi River flood of 2011 sets all-time flow record, but has crested

Posted by: JeffMasters, 2:43 PM GMT on May 20, 2011

The great Mississippi River flood of 2011 crested yesterday and today, and the volume of water being pushed toward the Gulf of Mexico is the largest ever recorded on the Mississippi, said Bob Anderson, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers for the Mississippi Valley Division. "It's never been this high; it's never had this much water," he said. "There's just a tremendous amount of strain on these levees." The Mississippi crested yesterday at Vicksburg, Mississippi, reaching 57.06'. This exceeded the previous all-time record of 56.2', set during the great flood of 1927. The river crested at Natchez, Mississippi early this morning, and is now falling. The flood height at Natchez was also the greatest on record--61.91', nearly three feet higher than the previous record height of 58', set in 1937. The opening of the Morganza Spillway on Saturday helped to reduce the flood heights from Vicksburg to New Orleans by 1 - 3 feet, greatly reducing the pressure on the levees and on the critical Old River Control Structure (which, as I discussed last Friday, is America's Achilles' heel, and must be protected.) According the National Weather Service, the Mississippi River is no longer rising anywhere along its length, and the great flood of 2011 has likely seen its peak. Rainfall over the next five days will not be enough to raise the Mississippi River water levels above the crests recorded yesterday and today. While it is great news that the flood has peaked, and the Old River Control Structure and all of the mainline levees on the Mississippi River have held, the fight is not over yet. Water levels will stay high for many weeks, and these structures will take a sustained pounding that could still cause failures. If another incredible heavy rain event like we experienced in mid-April occurs in June, the levee system and Old River Control Structure will threatened. Let's hope we don't have an early season Gulf of Mexico tropical storm that makes landfall over Louisiana. The latest 2-week forecast from the GFS model is not hinting at anything like this, fortunately. It's a good thing (for the sake of the levees) that Louisiana experienced severe drought over the winter and spring--had the water levels been high throughout winter and spring, like occurred in the run-up to the great 1927 flood, the levees would have been soggy and much more vulnerable to failure once the big flood crest hit.

Figure 1. The flow of the Mississippi River past the Old River Control Structure near Simmesport, Louisiana reached its all-time highest volume on record Thursday, when the flow rate hit 2.3 million cubic feet per second (cfs). The flow of Niagara Falls at normal water levels is 100,000 cfs, so the Mississippi's flow was 23 times that of Niagara Falls. Image credit: Army Corps of Engineers.

Recommended reading
My post on the Old River Control Structure, America's Achilles' heel: the Mississippi River Old River Control Structure, is well worth reading, if you haven't done so. I plan on making a follow-up post next week discussing the economic cost of the failure of this critical flood-control structure.

Our weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, has made a very interesting post on the greatest floods to affect each continent.

Figure 2. Track forecast for Tropical Storm Four.

First typhoon of 2011 coming?
In the Northwest Pacific, Tropical Storm Four has formed, and appears poised to become the first typhoon of 2011 by early next week. The storm is expected to head west-northwest or northwest towards the Philippines. While the GFS model predicts Tropical Storm Four will miss the Philippines and recurve northwards towards Japan late next week, it is too early to be confident of this forecast.

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