All Weather News

Storm Stalls: More Heavy Rain Mississippi Valley (aggravating and prolonging river flood risk)

29 Apr 2013, 5:32 am
A Mixed Blessing
Meteorologists often come off as Spock-like, Doppler-loving automatons; finger-pointing nerds who relish a good storm. Truth? We do.
But when weather is persistently foul (Exhibit A: this spring) it’s no fun predicting the future.
Every day brings a chorus of new complaints. “Can’t you DO something about this lousy weather, Paul?” When’s the last time a sportscaster got BLAMED for the Twins losing? Totally irrational – but I guess it comes with the turf.
Sure, we’ve had 3 plowable snowfalls in April, nearly 18″ snow – the snowiest month of the season; almost 4 times more snow than fell in January!
Not. Right.
But a fire-hose of Gulf moisture has returned, fueling a parade of very wet storms. The drought is fading fast and the metro area should avoid the most serious river flooding in the weeks ahead. So it’s not all bad news, right?
Wait, I think I hear crickets.
Expect lukewarm sun today & Tuesday, followed by 1-2″ rains and greening lawns later this week, as a huge storm stalls over the Plains. Wednesday’s soggy cold front does a U-turn; more rain pinwheeling in from the east by late week. Wet snow could mix in by Friday.
Excuse me while go I yell at the weatherman.

“Ice Breakers” Hasten Winter’s Retreat On Lake Minnetonka. This is new one – using boats and waverunners to accelerate ice-out? Can you tell locals are getting frustrated with our extra-late spring? Here’s an excerpt from Lake Minnetonka Patch: “Boats—and even jet skis—were out on Lake Minnetonka yesterday trying to break up ice and hasten the arrival of open water season.”

Photo credit: “The photo received more than 40 “like” on Lake Minnetonka’s Facebook page in less than 24 hours.

Unusual For May. These cut-off lows are more typical in March or October, rare (but not unprecedented) for early May. The same pattern that’s pumping a steady stream of drought-busting moisture northward is also pulling unusually chilly air south out of Canada. It’s hard to have one without the other. A storm aloft is forecast to stall over Missouri, counterclockwise winds pumping more rain (and a little wet snow?) back into Minnesota by late Thursday into Saturday. GFS model: NOAA.


PG Rated Weather Map. PG for pretty grim. But right now the latest NAM model keeps accumulating snow over southeastern Minnesota, western Wisconsin and parts of Iowa. The axis of slush may wave back and forth from east to west in the coming days – too early to know who may wake up to a (very rare) May snowfall.


Midwest States Continue To Fight Record Flooding. Here’s an excerpt of a story atThe Los Angeles Times: “After months of drought, many areas of the Midwest on Saturday continued to fight off flooding from rising rivers that are not expected to crest for several more days. National Weather Service forecasters expect flooding to continue throughout the week along the Des Plaines, Fox, Illinois and other rivers and their tributaries in Illinois. U.S. Geological Survey monitors in the area have recorded record floods. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has declared 48 counties in his state disaster areas. In making the announcement, he noted that water is receding in some areas but rising in others. “We are continuing to do everything we can to provide the personnel and resources needed to fight the flooding,” Quinn said…”

Photo credit: “Water covers the intersection of Illinois State Route 100 and Route 3 in Grafton, Ill., on Tuesday. Swollen rivers in the Midwest are expected to remain at high levels into next month.” (Derik Holtmann / Associated Press / April 23, 2013)

Tracking The Rising Red River. Click here to see a live webcam from Fargo, courtesy of the City of Fargo. USGS has a webcam in the Grand Forks area available here.

  Some Good News For Fargo. Flood Warnings are posted for the Red River now, a Flood Watch for northwestern Minnesota and northeastern North Dakota for rapidly melting snow and ice dams causing sudden rises in streams and rivers. The latest NOAA forecast for Fargo shows a crest near 37 feet between Tuesday night and Wednesday night, a foot lower than predicted Saturday, and 3-4 feet below the high water mark set in 2009.

Effects Of Midwest Flooding Will Be Felt For MonthsNBC News has a good overview of the problems, including a wild swing from not enough water in the Mississippi River a couple months ago to severe flooding in recent days; here’s an excerpt: “…To the north, a damaged lock may keep a stretch of the Illinois River closed to commercial shipping traffic for weeks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said. Flooding has halted the transport of corn and soybean barges at certain terminals on the river, Reuters reports. The disruptions could cause significant disruptions in the flow of grain and corn in the second-highest soybean producing state. Reuters reports almost 60 percent of U.S. grain exports are transported on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Grain prices at export terminals at the Gulf of Mexico climbed this week to the highest level in at least a month due to the disruptions…”

Photo credit: Seth Perlman / AP. “Steve Peters uses a make shift bridge to access dry land in Peoria Heights, Ill. The Illinois River crested at 29.35 feet, eclipsing a 70-year record in Peoria.”

Up To 375 Flood Gauges To Turn Off Because Of Fund Cuts. Doyle Rice from USA Today has a head-shaking story, another victim of “The Sequester”. Coming at a good time huh? Here’s an excerpt: “Just in time for the spring flood season, the federal sequester is threatening to shut off funding for hundreds of stream gauges used by the U.S. Geological Survey to predict and monitor flood levels across the country. “The USGS will discontinue operation of up to 375 stream gauges nationwide due to budget cuts as a result of sequestration,” the USGS notes on its website. Additional stream gauges may be affected if USGS partners at state and local agencies reduce their funding support...”

NOAA’s National Weather Service Completes Doppler Radar Upgrades. New “dual-pol” Doppler upgrades do a better job calculating precipitation types and rainfall and snowfall amounts – so sensitive they can even detect the debris signature from a tornado on the ground. More details from NOAA: “This week, the National Weather Servicecompleted the dual-polarization technology update in Brownsville, Texas – concluding the 122 NWS radar site upgrades throughout the country. This new advanced technology is helping federal weather forecasters more accurately track, assess and warn the public of approaching high-impact weather. Dual-polarization is the most significant enhancement made to the nation’s federal weather radar system since Doppler technology was first installed in the early 1990s. Dual-pol radar sends and receives both horizontal and vertical pulses, which produces a much more informative picture of the size and shape of the objects in the sky. This provides meteorologists the ability to distinguish between rain, snow, hail and non-weather items like wildfire smoke plumes, birds and insects. Conventional Doppler radar only has a one-dimensional view making it difficult to tell the type of precipitation or object in the sky…”

Is Air Pollution Contributing To Hardened Arteries? Some of the research was done in St. Paul, among other U.S. cities. Here’s an excerpt from a story at Time Magazine: “Smog and car exhaust can take a toll on the heart, and the latest research explores how. Previous studies have shown an association between badly polluted air and a heightened risk of heart attack stroke, and researchers have started to investigate how pollutants could exert such harm. Some have documented the increased inflammation that pollution can trigger, as well as changes in blood pressure and the activity of clotting factors in the blood that could promote heart heart disease. The latest research, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, found that exposure to air pollution may increase heart attacks and strokes by accelerating the process of atherosclerosis…”

Climate Stories…


Climate Change: Extreme Weather, Insurance Companies And Taxpayers. Here’s a video and excerpt from The Energy Collective: “This NRDC video discusses the costs of extreme weather events, which in 2012 totaled one percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Insurance companies are “under water” in more ways than one and the US taxpayer ended up paying what is essentially a “climate disruption” of 2.7 percent more than the total collected in sales taxes for 2012...”

Climate Change: It’s Real And It’s Here, Expert Says. Here’s a clip fromhtrnews.com: “Twenty-five years ago, James Brey was a climate change denier. “Then the evidence began to mount,” he said. “At some point, doubts began to diminish and the conviction began to grow.” Today, Brey, American Meteorological Society education program director, is a believer. You might say he was preaching to the choir Thursday night when he spoke to a group of about 50 concerned citizens gathered in the Riverview Room at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum for his climate change workshop. The workshop was presented by Friends of the Manitowoc River Watershed in conjunction with the Lakeshore Natural Resources Partnership…”

China Becoming Global Climate Change Leader. There is little “debate” about the science of climate change in China, which is a bit ironic. They realize they have a problem, and they’re taking concrete steps to address those problems, according to this article from AFP and Google News: “China is rapidly assuming a global leadership role on climate change alongside the United States, a new study said Monday, but it warned greenhouse gas emissions worldwide continue to rise strongly. The report by the independent Australian-based Climate Commission, “The Critical Decade: International Action on Climate Change” presents an overview of action in the last nine months. It was released on the same day as a fresh round of UN talks were to start in Bonn on boosting action on climate change — a two-decade-long process that has been dogged by procedural bickering and defence of national interests. The study found that every major economy had policies in place to tackle the issue, but China was at the forefront in strengthening its response, “taking ambitious strides to add renewable energy to its mix”. “China is accelerating action,” said Tim Flannery, the co-author and a key figure at the Climate Commission, which brings together internationally-renowned scientists, as well as policy and business leaders…”

Photo credit: “Solar panels in the Sino-Singapore Eco-city near Tianjin on June 11, 2012.” (AFP/File, Ed Jones)

On Climate, GOP Turns From Concern To Denial. Here’s a clip from an Op-Ed at The Houston Chronicle: “…How did the conservative movement travel so far, so fast? How did a party that prided itself on reason become a hotbed of scientific denial? The transformation has paralyzed U.S. policymaking and squandered decades that could have been spent weaning the world from fossil fuels. Twenty-three years after Thatcher urged action, the United States has no policy on climate change, even as its effects are evident and the window for action is closing. In 1997, “There was no difference between the wayDemocrats and Republicans across America viewed the issue,” said Ed Maibach, executive director of George Mason University‘s Center for Climate Change Communication, a research center. Two out of three Democrats and two out of three Republicans believed that climate change was both real and serious. “Somewhere along the way, conservatism became, ‘I’ve got a God-given right to drive my SUV wherever I want to go, and we’ll send somebody else’s kids to the Middle East to fight for it,” said former South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis, a Republican who lost his 2010 primary election over global warming and now runs the Energy and Enterprise Initiative, where he is pushing for a price on carbon pollution…”

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Welcome to the WeatherNation blog. Every day I sift through hundreds of stories, maps, graphics and meteorological web sites, trying to capture some of the most interesting weather nuggets, the stories behind the forecast. I’ll link to stories and share some of the web sites I use. I’m still passionate about the weather, have been ever since Tropical Storm Agnes flooded my home in Lancaster, PA in 1972. I’ve started 5 weather-related companies. “EarthWatch” created the world’s first 3-D weather graphics for TV stations – Steven Spielberg used our software in “Jurassic Park” and “Twister”. My last company, “Digital Cyclone”, personalized weather for cell phones. “My-Cast” was launched in 2001 and is still going strong on iPhone, Android and Blackberry. I sold DCI to Garmin in 2007 so I could focus on my latest venture: WeatherNation. I also write a daily weather column for The Star Tribune startribune.com/weather And if you’re on Twitter, you’ll find me @pdouglasweather

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