August 4, 2015

Tornado confirmed in southeast Missouri Wednesday night

The National Weather Service has confirmed an EF-1 tornado did touch down in southeast Missouri during storms Wednesday night.

An EF-1 tornado collapsed this shed east of Kelso the evening of July 8, 2015.  (photo courtesy; National Weather Service)

An EF-1 tornado collapsed this shed east of Kelso the evening of July 8, 2015. (photo courtesy; National Weather Service)

The twister touched down about 1.5 miles east-southeast of Kelso at 8:35 and traveled 6.5 miles across the Mississippi River before lifting up east-northeast of Thebes, Illinois. Its winds reached an estimated 95 miles per hour.

The storm uprooted or snapped off trees and destroyed outbuildings including a large farm shed. It also rolled three camper trailers and blew shingles and siding off some homes.

A tornado was also confirmed to have touched down Wednesday near Caledonia, in eastern Missouri. The Weather Service received no reports of damage beyond that to some trees.

 

Missouri governor will seek federal disaster declaration due to floods

Governor Jay Nixon said more than 50 of Missouri’s 114 counties have been damaged by flooding, and he’ll be seeking federal help to pay for repairs.

Governor Jay Nixon discusses the damage caused by flooding in Missouri so far this spring and summer.  (photo courtesy; Timothy W. Church, KRZK)

Governor Jay Nixon discusses the damage caused by flooding in Missouri so far this spring and summer. (photo courtesy; Timothy W. Church, KRZK)

Nixon said he will be asking President Barack Obama to declare a major disaster in Missouri. The governor said Missouri has clearly sustained enough flood damage to warrant that request, but first it must be assessed.

“For example, when I talked [Wednesday] morning to the mayors of Cassville and Branson, we’re going to have to get underneath some of the bridges in those towns to see what the damage is. You only get one chance to request this stuff, so sometimes that takes us a few weeks to get the full determination,” said Nixon.

Nixon said it could take a couple of weeks to complete those assessments and make the request. If approved, a declaration could provide up to 75-percent federal assistance for public infrastructure like roads, bridges, and parks.

On the private side the state is working with non-governmental agencies like churches and the Red Cross to meet needs.

“For the individuals out there that are in dire short-term need, working those agencies to make sure we get food, shelter, and other things that are necessary out to folks has been a very effective way for us,” said Nixon.

Nixon credited emergency responders and the Weather Service with saving lives, particularly in more than 20 high-water rescues since mid-June. He reminded Missourians not to drive in high water.

He acknowledges that people have died in flooding in Missouri, but said the last couple of days in south Missouri could have been far worse.

“As governor of the state it’s just always a lot easier when you’re not talking about significant injuries or deaths when you’re in these situations, and believe me, with the amount of water we had and where it was moving, we could have had both yesterday if it wasn’t for preparation and execution by the team here at the National Weather Service, the Highway Patrol, local law enforcement, our parks service, and others.”

Clearly roads and bridges have been damaged, said Nixon, but he said damage to the Roaring River State Park in far south Missouri also presents an important need.

“Roaring River is a significant asset to this region of the state and it took a big hit, and so we’re going to be evaluating what to do there to try to get that park up and operating,” said Nixon. “It’s my best guess that the trout that were there are on their way to New Orleans.”

Lynne Roberts, KTTS, and Timothy W. Church, KRZK, contributed to this story

Study: flood systems on Midwestern rivers inadequate, based on miscalculations

A researcher at Washington University in St. Louis says the flood control systems along the Missouri, Mississippi, and other rivers in the Midwest are based on flood height estimates that are too low.

A Washington University geology professor says predictions of how high a 100-year flood event on some Midwestern rivers can be are off, leaving cities, towns, and farms along those rivers in danger.  (photo courtesy; Missouri Department of Transportation)

A Washington University geology professor says predictions of how high a 100-year flood event on some Midwestern rivers can be are off, leaving cities, towns, and farms along those rivers in danger. (photo courtesy; Missouri Department of Transportation)

Geology Professor Robert Criss says that miscalculation means federal agencies are underestimating how high a 100-year flood on those rivers can be. A flood that reaches even a few inches above the top of a 100-year levee could cause a major breach in a flood control system, says Criss.

He says the formulas used to predict how high 100-year events could get assume conditions are the same as they were decades ago when there were fewer man-made structures along the rivers and global weather patterns weren’t changing.

“For example, the official calculations would suggest that at St. Louis since 2008 we’ve had three, 10-year floods, the most recent of which was last week. I’m saying in that period of time since 2008 we’ve had one, 5-year flood,” said Criss. “We overuse these terms – 100-year flood, 200-year flood, and so forth. They’re clearly out of whack with what is really happening. That’s because the levels we need to expect are higher than the official calculations.”

He says man-made river control systems narrow channels and keep floods from reaching wetlands and flood plains.

“We should leave our rural areas alone. We should leave our flood plains open to agriculture and not to commercial development, which is just putting more infrastructure in harm’s way while we’re aggravating the flood phenomena itself by restricting the floodwater’s access to flood plains,” said Criss, “which is what we do when we try to levee these areas off and change them from agricultural and wildlife uses to other uses.”

He says miscalculations mean 100-year levels predictions are too low in several Midwestern cities and towns along the Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, and Illinois rivers. He says those cities’ flood protection systems should be adjusted to prepare for higher crests.

“I think we should have more realistic flood estimates … We need to build our structures and protect our cities to accommodate those rising levels, and we need to have our future land use decisions accommodate what’s really good land use for low-lying areas,” said Criss.

More rain, flooding this week means more danger for drivers

More rain this week means more flooding, and more danger of getting caught in a flood while driving.

Emergency responders and experts recommend never driving into high water, and avoiding driving at night when flooding is possible.  (photo courtesy; National Weather Service)

Emergency responders and experts recommend never driving into high water, and avoiding driving at night when flooding is possible. (photo courtesy; National Weather Service)

Flash floods cause more deaths in the U.S. than any other weather phenomenon and more than half of those deaths are vehicle-related. Some deaths have already occurred in flash floods in Missouri this year and more flooding is happening with repeated rain this week.

Connie Burnham with the University of Missouri Extension says once a person is caught in a flash flood while driving options are limited, but getting out of the car is recommended.

“From there you just hope that you’re going to be able to either ride it out where your vehicle is going to stay upright and it’s not going to cover it, which it could, or that you’re going to be able to get to some kind of safety by trees and limbs that might be hanging out or something that you can grab onto that will stabilize you,” said Burnham.

She says the best thing to do is to avoid travel when flooding is possible, particularly at night when high water could be hard to see in time to stop.

“Even those roads that you’re traveling on, that you normally travel on, may become flooded very quickly,” said Burnham. “If it’s dark, you first of all don’t know if there’s a road in front of you, or you don’t know that there might have been debris that was coming with the water.”

Burnham also advises never intentionally driving into high water.

Flood Gates on Missouri’s Bagnell Dam opened (VIDEO)

Eleven of the 12 floodgates at Bagnell Dam on The Lake of the Ozarks are open. The Lake’s owner, Ameren Missouri, is trying to ease its levels after three inches of rain fell Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Bagnell Dam 1 07-01-2015

Ameren Missouri has opened 11 of 12 flood gates on Bagnell Dam to lower the level of the Lake of the Ozarks. (Photo credit, Shawn Kober, BigPlanetMedia.com)

The Lake has been near capacity since before Memorial Day Weekend. Engineer Alan Sullivan said those gates were opened at 10 percent.

“The Lake of the Ozarks has risen from 659.19 at midnight to 660.5 at 10 a.m. The rain continues and the Lake continues to rise,” Sullivan said. “We’ve increased plant discharge to our maximum turbine capacity … and at the same time requested Truman Dam to shut down completely.”

The National Weather Service is predicting more heavy rain tonight, with two- to four inches of rain possible in parts of central and southern Missouri.

Sullivan says floodgates on the Bagnell Dam will be left open as long as possible to stabilize the level of the Lake.

J.T. Gerlt, KTKS, and Shawn Kober, BigPlanetMedia.com, contributed to this story.