The rain keeps coming and the Missouri River is rising.
Lakes and ponds are at full pool, the ground is saturated and many are sharing their opinions on what is to come, experts and casual guessers. I am not a meteorologist, but have studied floods several years and these thoughts are based on my observations and personal records.
I believe that the 2019 flood will not be big as the 1993 flood, depending on numerous factors, but more like the 2011 version, the second most deadly flood recorded in modern times.
For example, a big difference is that the 1993 flood was started by 1992 natural disaster events.
I wrote the book, “Missouri’s Great Flood of 1993 — Revisiting an Epic Natural Disaster” and was blessed to gain an interview with now-retired Mike Thompson, chief meteorologist for Fox 4 News Kansas City. He had observed wet weather patterns in this region, but had witnessed few contributing events like those that led up to the 1993 deluge.
“Many factors led to the ‘93 flood,” Thompson said. “Mount Pinatubo, an equatorial volcano in the Philippines erupted the year before and spewed enough ash into the stratosphere to cool the entire globe for about four years. The jet stream actually helped create 1993’s heavy rains.”
The jet stream is high-speed winds at the top of our atmosphere. Without the jet stream, air collapses, killing thunderstorm activities.
Because of Pinatubo, the air in June was cool and rainy while the jet stream remained, sitting on top of us. This condition carried into July, extremely late in the year to find the jet stream this far south. A combination of Mount Pinatubo cooling the entire globe, and the jet stream displaced over Midwestern states instead of farther into the northern plains where it should have been by that time of year, was the beginning.
El Nino fed large amounts of tropical moisture up into the Southwest United States, creating another contributing factor. This added additional moisture caught up in the jet stream, creating storm cycles throughout the Midwest.
Researchers in 2019 predict that this hurricane season will be slightly below normal activity, but added that a big storm could pop up and create an active hurricane and possibly more Midwestern rain.
We certainly had a wet winter and spring in 2019. The ground is already saturated and additional moisture is runoff, adding to flooding. The soil became saturated in earlier months and heavy rains have nowhere to go, creating incredible runoff that will continue to fill the rivers. Rainfall actually broke an old record.
“Kansas City Received 12.8 inches of rainfall in May, 2019, breaking the old May record of 12.75 inches set in 1995,” according to the National Weather Service. “This also makes May 2019 the third wettest month for any month in (Kansas City’s) 131-year period of recording data.”
But there is another factor that could shoot my 1993, 2011 or 2019 flooding theory into the trash can; huge amounts of water released from upstream reservoirs, a big factor in the 2011 flood. For example, recently authorities reported releasing larger amounts of water at Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River in Yankton, S.D. due to heavy rainfall in the region.
Army Corps of Engineers officials say rainfall over much of Nebraska, South Dakota and central North Dakota has been 200 to 600 percent above normal for this time of year. The continued rain has led to higher inflows at Oahe, Big Bend, Fort Randall, and Gavins Point Dams.
Lakes throughout Missouri are releasing huge amounts of water that wind up in rivers like the Missouri and Mississippi. For example, on May 29 the Army Corp of Engineers reported Missouri’s Truman Dam releasing over 10.7 million gallons of water every minute.
Missouri River levees are breaching like in 1993. The constant pounding of high, heavy water currents has weakened these structures, flooding farmlands and communities — and that eventually could be a problem for feeding your family.
Food prices rose for several years after the 1993 flood and 2011 flooding wiped out precious fields of bottomland across the region. Meanwhile, flood records were broken at 49 individual points on the Missouri River and 44 on the Mississippi in 1993. Many stretches on the river broke flood records by more than 4 feet. Many of the fields up north have already been flooded, wiping out crops or planting opportunities.
The so-called bottom line is, how much water will be released from dams up north and how many more days of heavy rain will we get.
In fairness, there are many factors that could link the 1993 flood to our recent 2019 version. But I still believe flooding will be closer to 2011, unless the jet stream somehow hangs around and it keeps raining up and down the Missouri River chain.
Added moisture mixed with heavy releases from northern dams on the Missouri and Kansas rivers would be a determining factor or maybe more extremely violent storms could pop up like we saw on May 28, 2019, breaking more records. There seems to be more severe storms than ever before.
I hope the big waters will cease and end this 2019 flooding.
God only knows for sure!
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.