Broad zone of US faces risk of dangerous flash flooding
AccuWeather forecasters warn that even as areas like St. Louis dry out following catastrophic flooding, excessive rounds of rain will threaten similar dangers across a lengthy stretch of the country.
AccuWeather meteorologists warn that unrelenting rounds of excessive rainfall will continue to threaten lives and property across a long swath of the United States from Colorado to North Carolina into this weekend.
Not only will a persistent weather setup continue the risk of flash flooding in urban areas and along small streams, but it will also lead to significant rises in water levels of secondary rivers in the region. The potential will exist for flooding in unprotected areas. In some cases, flash flooding can occur at night and add to the dangers.
In the Mississippi Valley and the southern Appalachians, downpours and thunderstorms will continue to parade. Areas from central Missouri to West Virginia and portions of Virginia, including the St. Louis area and portions of eastern Kentucky, will be at greatest risk into Thursday night.
St. Louis was slammed with an all-time record 24-hour rainfall of 9.04 inches that has less than 1 chance in 1,000 to occur per year, according to the National Weather Service. The deluge triggered widespread flooding on Tuesday morning. Up to a foot of rain fell northwest of the city, and one person died in the flooding event. Hundreds of water rescues took place as scores of vehicles were submerged in rapidly rising water.
On Thursday afternoon, several feet of water were reported in the city of St. Louis, which was put under a flash flood warning earlier in the afternoon.
Authorities confirmed multiple people were trapped or being rescued in the St. Louis area. One such report was of multiple persons, including children, trapped in a dwelling with rising flood water at a daycare operated within a church, according to the St. Louis Fire Department. By Thursday evening, firefighters had carried six children to safety from high-standing water. No injuries were immediately reported, according to the fire department.
Thursday evening the St. Louis Metropolitan Police confirmed flooding had been reported near Hodiamont and Horton Place, with approximately 7 feet of water in the area. There were still residents in the area who were trapped in their homes, according to the department.
Prior to the deluge, soil moisture conditions around the Gateway to the West ranged from average to abnormally dry — a fact that AccuWeather meteorologists point to in terms of demonstrating that flash flooding can occur regardless of prior drought or wet conditions when rain falls quickly enough.
This radar image from early Thursday afternoon, July 28, 2022, shows downpours and thunderstorms gathering over parts of central Missouri and Arkansas with eyes farther to the east, including the St. Louis metro area.
On Wednesday, officials in Floyd County, Kentucky, located in the eastern end of the state, declared a local state of emergency due to significant rainfall, with the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management on the ground to assist the area.
"Team Kentucky is committed to helping the people of Floyd County during this time to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all those living there," Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear wrote on social media. The population of just over 35,000 was slammed with over 4 inches of rain Tuesday evening, one of several Kentucky areas to hit the mark.
Hours later, a flooding disaster unfolded in eastern Kentucky from Wednesday night to early Thursday with great damage and fears of significant loss of life in Breathitt, Clay, Owsley, Letcher and Pike counties of the state. A state of emergency was in effect for these counties on Thursday.
This graphic shows rainfall from Monday afternoon to Thursday afternoon, July 25-28, 2022.
Farther east, West Virginia has dealt with significant rainfall in some areas, such as over 4 inches at R.D. Bailey Lake and Wharncliffe, as well as over 3 inches in western Greenbrier County. Earlier in the week, storms in Norfolk Naval Station, Virginia damaged at least 10 Navy helicopters, causing more than $2.5 million in damages.
As dry air pushes eastward portions of the Ohio and mid-Mississippi Valley will dry out. But, the corridor of heavy rain will be shunted southward and is likely to stall this weekend.
"Exactly where that corridor of moisture stalls will determine which areas from Colorado to Tennessee and North Carolina are likely to be hit the hardest with torrential rain and corresponding flash flood potential," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski said. At the same time, the risk of flash flooding is likely to continue in portions of Kentucky, West Virginia and southern Virginia.
The excessive rainfall, with amounts of around a foot, that targeted Missouri to southern Illinois occurred along a narrow band that was only a dozen miles wide. Downpours occurred on either side of the zone, but flooding in these fringe areas was more isolated and less extreme in nature.
Similarly, narrow bands of intense rainfall and flooding are likely to occur over portions of the southern Plains, Ozark Mountains, the Tennessee Valley and the southern Appalachians through Sunday, forecasters say. Mountainous terrain can exacerbate the flash flood threat.
From Thursday night through Sunday, a long, broad zone of 2- to 4-inch rainfall is forecast from eastern Colorado to eastern Tennessee, western Virginia and southern West Virginia with a zone of 4-8 inches of rain most likely from southern Kansas to southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Locally higher amounts can occur with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 12 inches.
Not all areas will be hit with flooding through this weekend, but some communities could be hit with intense rainfall and the potential for a disaster. There is the potential for a disaster similar to St. Louis and eastern Kentucky to be repeated farther to the west and south. Some cities with a high risk for major flash flooding include Pueblo, Colorado, Dodge City, Kansas; Branson, Missouri; and Nashville, Tennessee.
It is possible that some locations may have more than one round of torrential rain and flooding over several days.
As the corridor of downpours sags southward, it is likely to offer some temporary relief from the heat and drought over portions of the south-central U.S.
Tulsa, Oklahoma, may have its coolest days since early June if temperatures fail to climb into the mid-80s from Thursday to Saturday courtesy of clouds, showers and thunderstorms. The city has had 22 days with highs at or above 100 degrees this summer through July 27. The normal high for late July is in the mid-90s. Rainfall since June 10 has been skimpy with only 2.96 inches falling, compared to an average of 6.55 inches through July 28. Tulsa is in the zone where serious flash flooding could occur into this weekend.
At this time, thunderstorms are unlikely to reach far enough to the south to break the string of dry days in Dallas. Should measurable rain avoid the city into early next week, it would move into number two on the list of consecutive days of dryness, surpassing 58 days set in 1950 and 1934.
It is possible that enough cloud cover drifts into north-central Texas to keep temperatures from hitting 100 degrees on at least one day this weekend. Dallas has hit 100 or higher on 24 days this July, including 13 days in a row through July 28.
Drenching rainfall will reach parts of extreme and exceptional drought areas in western Kansas, eastern Colorado, Oklahoma, southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.
Looking ahead, heat and dryness will bounce back in a strong fashion next week from Nebraska and Iowa to Kansas and Missouri into Illinois, AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said.
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