© 2019 Terry Swails

SPRING FLOOD THREAT NEVER BEEN HIGHER...

March 6, 2019

I'm on my way back from Minnesota where I am working on my flood special which will be out in a week. It's dark and cramped and the wireless signal could be better so this won't be long. I'm also not up to speed on weather developments, another issue I'm dealing with thanks to all the filming, interviewing, and location work.

 

However, I had a great day and came up with some compelling information and expert opinions. One thing I will drop on you right now is what the senior hydrologist I spoke with at the North Central River District said. Emphatically, he claimed that in all their analogs and history going back 100 years, he and his co-workers have never seen a year that compares to this one in terms of spring flood potential. They are exceptionally concerned about the Mississippi and said regarding it, " that it has many of the traits of 1965", a year that still holds crest records from Minneapolis to just north of the Quad Cities.

 

There are many variables that go into a threat risk and all are at the highest levels attainable. A couple key factors are soil moisture levels that are in the 99th percentile from the very wet summer and fall. Also, frost depth is also abnormally deep limiting run-off. The biggie though is the record snow season that's unfolded during the past 2 months over the upper Midwest. I took more pictures of the deep snow pack today and wanted to pass a few along. Pictures are proof but until you actually see it with your own eyes, it's pretty hard to grasp. Here's some shots from the area around Albert Lea, Minnesota, not much more than 30 miles north of the Iowa border. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's easy to see why I-35 was closed for 2 days. The plows usually grade parallel to the road. In many spots the drifts were so deep that they had to push the snow across the road (horizontally) and up the side of the ditch, a very slow and arduous task. I'm just blown away by the whole thing.

 

Here I am at the NWS headquarters in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Below with the hydrologist we are discussing a model which makes crest projections.

 

I also met with senior forecasters and the warning coordinator where we discussed snow and rainfall forecasts that they personally deliver to the hydrologists to make their flood projections.

 

Earlier I met with these NOAA pilots who fly missions over the snow fields to determine the moisture content of the snow.

They fly specific lines in the fall when the ground is bare and then go over them again in the winter when the snow pack grows. Using a radiation technique in the plane they can measure the fall readings and compare them to the current ones. The difference allows them to compute the moisture content of the snow to a very accurate degree. The data is an essential part of the process in making flood assessments.

 

Here's a view of their specially equipped plane. These guys are true pros committed to their missions. They really gave us an insight into their work and that will be a segment in the upcoming special.

 

After a break the past week the pattern is set to turn active and stormy once again late week. I will of course dig heavily into the set-up in coming posts. For now, I'm calling it a day as I pass south of Charles City, Iowa. To my left I can see the faint outline of the frozen Cedar River. I can't help but wonder what's ahead for it and other Midwest rivers when spring finally leaves a calling card. Roll weather...TS

 

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