Worst of flooding is over for much of central US, but still some hurdles to overcome into July
By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
June 13, 2019, 3:10:54 AM EDT
While the worst may be over in terms of widespread heavy rain, pockets of drenching showers and thunderstorms are likely to cause trouble at the local level over the central United States into July.
A break from the rainfall in recent days was a sign that the weather pattern that contributed a great deal to the widespread flooding has come to an end.
"We no longer have large storms rolling up from the southwest or pushing directly eastward from the Pacific Ocean," according to AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok.
"Instead, less-frequent, smaller storms will tend to drop southeastward from western Canada," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.
"While these storms will pick up some moisture from the Gulf of Mexico as they move along, they won't have so much water with them immediately," Anderson said.
During much of March, April and May, one storm after another was rolling into the region. The storms packed a great deal of Pacific and subtropical moisture. May 2019 went down as the wettest on record for Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri, and Oklahoma recorded its second wettest May ever.
"We have begun to see more separation in storm systems, which will translate to longer breaks of dry weather over more areas than we have seen in recent weeks and months," Pastelok said.
Even with the weather pattern changing, the response from the large rivers and an end to the flooding will not be immediate.
The middle portion of the Mississippi, as well as much of the Missouri and Arkansas rivers, has crested. River levels are forecast to fall slowly over the coming weeks.
Commerce on Mississippi River continues to be affected
The high water levels have shut down most lock operations on the Mississippi River above St. Louis. The terminals have either been flooded, or the force of the water is too strong for the lock to operate without damage.
The closed locks have stopped barge traffic over the upper part of the Mississippi River.
Barge traffic has also been affected on the Illinois and Arkansas rivers.
The fast flow of water has deposited silt and created shoals in some of the shipping channels, which has prompted dredging operations by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Farther south, the water is still rising over the lower part of the Mississippi River. However, with the opening of the Morganza Spillway above Baton Rouge, Louisiana, delayed indefinitely by the Army Corps of Engineers, there is hope that more water will not need to be released into the Atchafalaya River.
The release of water from Morganza and the Old River structure can lead to major flooding in the Atchafalaya Basin.
Still some bumps on the road to recovery likely
Even though the weather pattern moving forward in time suggests less rain less often, the region is not out of the woods in terms of localized heavy rainfall and the problems already set into motion.
"We certainly don't expect rain-free weather for the region in the coming weeks," Pastelok said.
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This time of the year, complexes of thunderstorms are responsible for the bulk of the rain in the region. And this is likely to be the case in the coming weeks.
For example, instead of heavy rain for three days straight over a several-state area, it may only rain hard during one day or part of a day every three days.
That type of rainfall can generally allow the large river systems to handle the runoff and even continue to recede, but small streams may rise quickly due to prevailing wet ground.
"There is still some concern for a front to stall across part of the region late this weekend into early next week, which could cause showers and thunderstorms to repeat," Pastelok said.
That setup is more likely to be in a narrow zone, rather than over the entire region. Some of that rain may fall on areas that have been hit by flooding recently or are still experiencing flooding.
In the coming weeks, barring minor setbacks, levels on the upper Mississippi should fall enough to allow locks to open and shipping to resume, although more dredging of the shipping channels may be needed.
If there is a river basin that may still experience flooding problems in the next couple of weeks, it may be the Arkansas based on frontal concerns aforementioned.
Part of the Ohio Valley may actually receive a bit more than which has occurred in recent months. However, much of that basin can handle a reasonable amount of rain.
Many fields and low-lying areas will remain under water or too muddy to venture into for days, if not weeks, and the clock is ticking on the planting and growing season.
Download the free AccuWeather app for more precise details on the forecast for your area. Keep checking back for updates on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.
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