U.S. witnesses 12 wettest months in 125-year span
By Ian Livingston
The Washington Post
Flooding swamped parts of the Southeast over the weekend, with as much as a foot of rain falling in western North Carolina. At the same time, the Mississippi River continued its long-lasting assault on communities along its banks. Near St. Louis, the crest over the weekend was second highest on record.
Just the latest high-water news, during what has seemed like a never-ending parade of storms.
During May, a stormy pattern, headlined by widespread flooding in the nation’s heartland and a two-week swarm of tornadoes, boosted the nationally- averaged precipitation to the second highest level on record for the month. The 4.41 inches was 1.5 inches above normal, only trailing 2015’s 4.44 inches, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The substantial May total helped pushed the most recent 12-month output for the Lower 48 states to the highest level in 125 years of record-keeping (since 1895): 37.68 inches. It easily topped the previous record 12-month total of 36.20 inches set just last month.
Over the weekend in North Carolina and parts of the adjacent region, early season extreme heat and a rapidly developing drought was replaced by intense rainfall. The signals for flooding were seen days in advance, yet the ferocity of the rainfall was still hard to fathom.
Saturday evening, a “high risk” from the Weather Prediction Center Saturday was hoisted as rainfall coalesced over western North Carolina.
A large area saw totals as high as 10 to 12 inches with a few spots exceeding that. Peak totals of 13.64 inches near Brookford and 13.57 inches to the east of Boone were reported by AccuWeather.
Extreme rainfall over a short period led to many waterways overflowing their banks, washing out roads, and entering homes or businesses. The worst was focused in the mountains and foothills.
A slower-motion flood reached its latest apex in and around the St. Louis area over the weekend.
In what has become the longest cycle of Mississippi River flooding since 1927, Saturday’s crest of 46.02 feet at St. Louis was second highest on record for that location, falling only behind a 49.58 foot mark during the Great Flood of 1993.
The weather service office in St. Louis notes that this is the sixth major crest of the Mississippi at St. Louis since 2013, all top 10 marks at that location that date back to the 1700s.
Although the Mississippi River has continually faced more and more flood control measures, various levee and dam failures and over-toppings have caused water to inundate a number of towns and cities in recent months.
Alton, Illinois, to the north of St. Louis, was the latest victim when a flood wall failed last week.