Just months after record long flood, Mississippi River rising again
If you feel like we just stopped talking about this, you feel right. In the climate cycle, a lot can happen in five months. We experience a variety of changes from heat to cold and dry spells to flood events. However, in the water cycle, five months is a short time.
Last Saturday, January 18, the Mississippi River rose above the 35-foot flood stage. This happened just 167 days after a record-breaking stretch during the first 8 months of 2019. From January 5 to August 4, Big Muddy ebbed and flowed between 35 and 44.2 feet. For perspective, historically, most Mississippi River flood events have lasted for well under 100 days.
As the WBRZ Weather Team has reported in the past, rain, and not snowmelt is the main culprit for river rises. Parts of north Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee have registered 6 to 16 inches of rain since December 20. This wet 30-day stretch in parts of the Mississippi River watershed caused substantial rises downstream. Just before Christmas, the gauge height at Baton Rouge was around 26 feet.
Will it continue?
As of this writing, the official projection is for the Mississippi River to crest in moderate flood stage, around 38.5 feet on January 28, and begin falling thereafter. At such levels, the only impact is to river islands and river traffic.
Experimental, computer generated river level modeling does suggest a drop below flood stage in February. Of course, the farther out in time, the more prone these particular models are to error.
Spring is the climatologically favorable time of year for rain in Big Muddy’s catch basin. In the 3 to 5 week timeframe, the Climate Prediction Center is expecting a drier pattern to emerge across a large portion of the watershed across the Lower Midwest. However, the 3 month outlook favors a wetter than average spring for those same areas.
While no actions are announced at this time, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers is always monitoring the levels and forecasts. 2019 marked the first time since opening in 1931 that the Bonnet Carre Spillway was opened in consecutive years. The structure has only been used 13 times in history.
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