There’s been plenty of water cooler talk about the rain from Tropical Storm Gordon moving through Missouri.
Gordon struck the southern Gulf Coast at 70 mph, just shy of hurricane strength, near Pascagoula, Mississippi, late Tuesday. It was never a Hurricane and later weakened into a depression on Wednesday.
Missourians can expect most of the rain to fall between Thursday night and Sunday morning. A Flash Flood Watch is in effect for most of the state, except for the southeast and far western portions, from noon Friday through Midnight Saturday night.
The heaviest rain is predicted to fall in an area from Springfield in southwest Missouri extending north and east through Rolla and St. Louis along I-44 into the northeast part of the state. Those parts of the state could receive up to six inches of precipitation during a period of time lasting two days or less.
Meteorologist Jayson Gosselyn with the National Weather Service in St. Louis points out the rain will be unusual for the Midwest because it’ll have tropical characteristics. “By tropical characteristics I mean the rainfall rates will be quite heavy,” said Gosselyn. “You may not have a lot of thunder and lightning with it, but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to get potential heavy rainfall rates,”
Gosselyn says flash flooding will occur if a lot of rain falls quickly, but the full impact of storms won’t be realized immediately on bigger rivers such as the Mississippi, Missouri and Meramec. “The bigger rivers are still going to be coming up into next week after the rain has already fallen,” Gosselyn said. “It takes time for all those smaller tributaries to rise and flow into the bigger rivers.”
The most likely portion of the Mississippi River to see significant flooding will be between St. Louis and Chester, Illinois. Moderate flooding could occur on the Missouri River between Hermann and St. Charles.
Eastern Missouri could see 3-6 inches of rain resulting from Tropical Depression Gordon while 4-6 inches could fall in the southwest portion of the state.
Meteorologist Jeff Raberding with the National Weather Service in Springfield says the heaviest rainfall in southern Missouri will take place from Friday night into Saturday morning. “It’s the tropical nature of this storm that’s going to drop heavy rain in kind of a short amount of time,” said Raberding. “So, we’ll likely have some either flash flooding or river flooding and flooding in general.”
Raberling advises drivers in southwest Missouri to be on the lookout for road closures and low-lying water areas. But he also says flooding will probably pose fewer problems in southwest Missouri because the region is coming out of a drought.
“A lot of our river flows in this part of the state are low, so they can take that water,” Raberling said. “In other parts of the state where they’ve had quite a bit of rain, it’s going to be a little different there. It’s going to manifest itself much quicker much quicker into flooding than it would be, say, in our part of the state.”
The rain was already coming down in large quantities ahead of Gordon in west central Missouri where three to four inches fell Thursday.
Meteorologist Jared Leighton is with the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill, which handles forecasting responsibilities for western and northwestern Missouri. Far western counties that border Kansas, including the metro Kansas City area, are not included in the flash flood watch.
Leighton says counties east of Kansas City will experience significant rain from Gordon. “Definitely east of I-35 and south of I-70 we’re still pegging some of those heavier rains, maybe on the order of 3-5 inches across some of those areas,” said Leighton.
While there’ll likely be flood conditions across much of the state, the portion of northwest Missouri most ravaged by the drought will not see heavy rain.
Leighton says those areas will also need more precipitation than what the aftermath of Gordon is bringing. “Both the combination of we need a little than even one of these types of events, as well as this event is probably going to miss contributes to keeping that drought going probably a little bit longer,” Leighton said.
Eight counties in northern Missouri along with four in the central part of the state and the metro Kansas City area are experiencing the second highest level of drought, D-3, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The most severe condition, D-4, is afflicting the immediate Kansas City area.