The 2011 Mississippi River flood, aka, “The Great Flood of 2011”, was one of the most extreme flood events the region had seen in decades and occurred due to a culmination of multiple extreme weather events that had occurred in a sequence over the previous months that only exacerbated the effects of the normal spring flooding and created extreme flood conditions that produced record crest heights for the Mississippi and its tributaries, producing the worst flooding the region had seen since the “Great Flood of 1927”, affecting six states along the Mississippi (Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and most significantly Louisiana). I chose this topic because I am doing a project for another class relating to one of the structures and flooding in the Louisiana levee system, and I have always been interested in that topic, so I wanted to do my case study on these floods so I could learn more about the strength of the structure as well as the levee system as a whole.

NWS Map showing % of normal Precipitation in the first few weeks of the 2011 Mississippi Floods

The 2011 floods in the Mississippi River Valley actively affected the region between March 19th and June 25th, but the primary flooding occurred between Mid-April and Mid-May. To mitigate the effects of the floodwaters, the US Army Corps of Engineers utilized the system of levees and floodways distributed throughout the region that are specifically meant to make floods predictable and somewhat controlled. During this flood, all three spillways in the system were opened to control the flooding in certain cities like Baton Rouge and New Orleans, marking the first time ever all three spillways were in use at the same time.

Overall, insurance companies estimated the damage across all 119 counties affected by the flood to be around 2.8 billion dollars, with more than 21,000 homes and businesses and 1.2 million acres of agricultural land directly impacted, with over 43,000 people experiencing the effects. Despite this being the most major flooding event in the past 100 years, the overall loss of life was minimal, with only a few fatalities due to flash flooding during the peak of the storm. And while the levee system did take a major hit during the flood – with all levees damaged and over $800 million in congressional funds needed to repair them – the presence of the intricate and well-planned levee system is estimated to have prevented $62 billion in additional damage in the Mississippi Valley.

Based on the information gathered, it is clear that the disaster management organizations, as well as the people living in the region, are well prepared for floods purely because the Mississippi River Valley has been susceptible to floods for centuries and experiences them every few years. The primary way in which these organizations work to become more prepared for future floods is by drafting reports and hosting meetings that directly address what they did well and what they believe they could have done better during the previous flood. So, while the attitude towards intense preparation and improvement of methods and structures the disaster organizations continue to make over the years is extremely impressive and praiseworthy, unfortunately, this extensive preparation is necessary, just so that another storm does not come in and devastate the region. But, due to extreme flood events occurring much more frequently than ever before, the residents and the organizations of the area are forced to be much more prepared and aware of the dangers than ever.

NCAR Fire near Boulder, Colorado Prompts Evacuations

At around 2pm Saturday, a wildfire ignited near the National Center for Atmospheric Research, southwest of Boulder, Colorado (Referred to as the NCAR fire, due to the location of ignition). The cause of this fire remains under investigation, but it forced the evacuation of 8,000 homes and 19,000 people, and the closure of multiple roads and highways in western Boulder and the surrounding area (Boulder emergency authorities are using ArcGIS online to create and continuously update and evacuation map of the area that allows residents to check the evacuation status of their homes and roads). This fire was fueled by thick brush and fanned by strong winds, causing 123 acres to be burned by Saturday evening, with 0% containment.  High humidity overnight caused the fire to calm, but air tankers were expected to drop fire retardant in some remaining uncontained areas on Sunday morning. As of 4:30pm Sunday, the fire has grown to nearly 190 acres and is at 35% containment, but at 5pm, all evacuations in Boulder were lifted. So far, no buildings or structures have been damaged and no injuries have been reported. Mike Smith, a wildland fire specialist for Boulder Fire Rescue said in a conference Sunday morning “We’re feeling good, but we’re a little nervous about the upcoming [fire] season”, based on the multiple other fires that have occurred in the Boulder area this past year.

NCAR Fire: All Evacuations Lifted, Containment Stands At Around 35%


High Winds and Tornadoes in Alabama

On the evening of February 17th, Northern Alabama, as well as parts of Mississippi and Tennessee, experienced high wind speeds and a series of smaller tornadoes resulting from the warm side of Winter Storm Miles passing through the area. Earlier in the day, wind gusts reached between 35 and 50 mph, and multiple tornadoes were seen moving through the area by radar. While there were no reports of major injuries, these high winds caused several tractor-trailers to be blown over on Interstate 22, and one person had to be rescued from a mobile home after a tree fell on it. In total over 25,000 homes and businesses in Alabama and about 10,000 in Mississippi lost power due to the storms. These storms also produced lots of rain, leading to flash flood warnings being issued in Western Alabama near the area that was already devastated by tornadoes in Mid-December of 2021.