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Comparison of the 2011 flood event

Published on: May. 27, 2011

You might ask, “So how did this year’s event compare to other flood events?” Well, I dug up some information to try and put things in perspective. The average rainfall in April and May is 9.5 inches. This, of course, varies from year to year. Surprisingly, last spring was average (we received 9.36 inches), but after that the bottom dropped out and we spent the rest of the year in a serious drought…which by the way, I think it is safe to say we are out of the woods.

Past Precipitation Totals During Wet Springs

I dug a little deeper to compare this spring with other wet years according to the Poplar Bluff weather station database. What I found was pretty interesting.

• In 1957, between April-May the total precipitation = 21.28 inches

• In 1973, between March-April the total precipitation = 20.95 inches

• In 1976, between April-May the total precipitation = 14.4 inches

• In 2008, between March-April the total precipitation = 17.63 inches

• In 2011, between April-May the total precipitation = 24 inches

In the past, our wet springs have totaled between 15-20 inches over two months. The 2008 flood was bad because we experience 12 inches within a couple days. This year was somewhat similar to 2008 because it was too much water in a very short amount of time. Instead of 20 inches of rain spread out over 60 days, it was 22.4 inches within 10 days. This is twice as much rain in 16 percent of the normal period of time.

Drainage and Floods

The Bootheel has one of the most intricate drainage systems in the United States with more than 6,000 miles of ditches. So why didn’t it work? Or did it work?

Let’s try to think about this flood and the ditches like our road system. Typically, you can drive from point “A” to “B” without many problems. You may have to slow down on some corners and at a few stoplights, but overall your “flow” of travel isn’t inhibited. In a similar way, our ditches work well during small rain events. A few corners and a little downed debris (those pesky beavers) don’t compromise the daily function of the ditches and water moves on downstream.

However, during peak rush hour when everyone is on the road it is a different story. You might experience this as you travel this Memorial Day weekend. The sheer number of cars exceeds the capacity of the traffic system. Delays are inevitable as cars back up because there is no alternative route and not enough space. In a similar fashion, the 2011 flood event was caused by too much rain all at once. A giant “water jam” occurred through the Bootheel’s ditch system. There was too much water for the infrastructure and it spilled out onto the adjacent land.

Like traffic jams, these periods of congestion don’t last forever. Over the last few weeks, water levels have definitely dropped as water has continued to flow downstream. This year’s rain event has definitely raised the bar in terms of the magnitude and scale of flooding that we’ve seen in recent years. Hopefully, we won’t see rainfall like this anytime soon.

If you do find yourself in a bit of a traffic jam, don't be too worried if your thoughts drift and you start thinking about water, wetlands and the surrounding landscape.  It happens to me all of the time -- even when I'm not in traffic. 

Travel safe and have a good weekend.

Comments

On June 3rd, 2011 at 2:47pm frank said:

As for the Renovation plans, the flooding has slowed our progress a bit.  Right before the flood we had a pre-bid meeting at Duck Creek for the contractors to take a look at the project and ask questions.  However, shortly thereafter we experienced the record setting deluge.  The decision was made to postpone the bid-opening until June 9th to allow things to settle down and allow contractors time to put together their bid packets.  Next week we will start moving forward with the project approval process as we accept the bids.  The next step will be getting approval at the July Commission meeting.  I’m as anxious as you are to get on down the road, move some dirt, and get this project under our belt.   Hopefully, in the next month or so we’ll get back on track.

On June 3rd, 2011 at 2:33pm frank said:

Over the past month it has definitely been a learning opportunity.  Some locations surprised me as the water moved off of the private land and upper portions of Duck Creek fairly quickly.  In the lower regions of the area I was amazed at how much water kept stacking up (did I mention that Mingo was 3 foot higher than 2008?  That is a lot of water over Duck Creek and Mingo combined…over 28,000 acres.)   As for Pools 2 and 3, water has been receding gradually over the last 3 weeks.  Pool 2 is drained except for the deepest borrows.  Pool 3 has taken a little longer to drain because it is connected to Mingo on the on the west side.  However, this week most of the water had dropped out of the pool and only remained in the boat lanes and towards the center, around Otter Pond. 

On June 1st, 2011 at 1:44pm Philly said:

The forum is a brighter place thanks to your posts. Tnhaks!

On June 1st, 2011 at 11:43am Darin said:

Are the woods in Pool 2 and 3 still flooded or has the water went down yet? How are the renovation preparations coming along for this year at Duck Creek with all the water around? Thanks!!
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