Stumbling Into Spring – Flood Risk Update

I feel like I’m sleepwalking into spring this year. Fewer boots and layers; last weekend I cheered myself up by stashing the heaviest coats into cold storage. It may be premature, but seeing my favorite T-shirts again lifted my spirits.

Is winter over? The worst of the snow, ice and wind chill, absolutely. We’ll probably experience a few more slushy snows, but Old Man Winter is quickly losing interest.

While residents of Fargo and the Red River Valley hold their breath, snow melt continues, but without a series of heavy rainstorms adding insult to injury; increasing the odds of a worst-case flood scenario.

A rain shower may pop up Sunday, but the wettest storms track well south and east of Minnesota into next week.

Nebraska is experiencing some of the worst flooding in that state’s history. Rivers will flood in Minnesota in a few weeks, although timing and severity is still unknown. There’s no place for panic or complacency; we
just need to be prepared.

50s will feel good Saturday; possibly again next Thursday for the Twins Home Opener! 

Vanishing Act. From 19″ a week ago Sunday, to 1″ Tuesday evening, metro snow is going fast. Tell that to people living up in Grand Forks, with 23″ still on the ground. There’s a lot of liquid water trapped in remaining snow – as much as 3-8″ of water. Snow map: AerisWeather and Praedictix.

Cooler Start to April. Not exactly arctic, but temperatures may run near or even a few degrees below average the first few days of April. The good news: the pattern isn’t ripe for major (rain) storms anytime soon across the Upper Midwest.

In Photos: Deadly Floods Sweep the Midwest. The Atlantic has staggering photos that capture the scale of the ongoing river flooding: “At least three people are confirmed to have lost their lives so far amid record-setting floods affecting parts of Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and other nearby states. Thousands of people have been asked to evacuate, and many have been away from their homes for days in hard-hit Nebraska, following last week’s “bomb cyclone” weather system that dropped huge amounts of precipitation—adding to existing troubles from heavy snowmelt and ice-choked rivers. Dams and levees were overwhelmed, roads have been washed away, and some neighborhoods, farms, and military bases now sit in water up to eight feet deep. Some of the rivers in eastern Nebraska are beginning to recede, and others are expected to crest within 24 hours. Areas downstream, along the Mississippi River Valley, are preparing for likely flooding…”

Photo credit: “Flooded apartments are seen in this aerial photo taken above the Elkhorn River in Nebraska on March 16, 2019.” Office of Governor Pete Ricketts / Handout via Reuters.

Historic Flooding Ongoing. NOAA has updated information and a very effective interactive tool to keep up with current and future flooding potential:

Fargo Declares Emergency as Floods Swamp Four Midwestern States to the South. Star Tribune has the very latest; here’s an excerpt: “With epic floods swamping much of the Great Plains and warmer weather likely to start melting the snowpack across Minnesota and North Dakota, Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney decided Monday not to take any chances. Mahoney declared a state of emergency for his city in anticipation of spring flooding and is seeking 200 volunteers to begin stuffing 1 million sandbags next week in case the Red River of the North, still largely frozen, crests at 40.3 feet — just below the historic 2009 flood. “We cannot be complacent,” he said. The latest forecast indicates “significant” flooding will likely occur in coming weeks along the Red River, which borders northwestern Minnesota and eastern North Dakota and flows north into Canada. The chance the river will reach major flood stage in the Fargo-Moorhead area has increased from 50 percent to 90 percent, the National Weather Service (NWS) said…”

Red River Basin: “Moderate to Major River Flooding Nearly Guaranteed”. So say the hydrologists at the National Weather Service in the Twin Cities. Click here for details.

Towns Isolated, Roads and Bridges Wash Away in Historic Midwest Flooding. USA TODAY has an update: “…This is really the most devastating flooding we’ve probably ever had in our state’s history, ” Gov. Pete Ricketts told CNN. “So many people are being displaced; towns are being isolated.” The culprit is a combination of runoff into rivers from the “bomb cyclone” storm that blasted across the Midwest last week and spring snowmelt after a winter of heavy snows. Thousands of people in Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri have been driven from their homes by the fast-rising waters. At least two deaths were blamed on flooding, and a Nebraska man has been missing for days. Some areas are bracing for more rain Tuesday, forecasters said…”

Photo credit: “Gabe Schmidt, owner of Liquid Trucking, top right, travels by air boat with Glenn Wyles, top left, Mitch Snyder, bottom left, and Juan Jacobo, bottom right, as they survey damage from the floodwaters of the Platte River in Plattsmouth, Neb., on March 17, 2019.” (Photo: Nati Harnik, AP)

Home of America’s Strategic Air Command Under Water. An update at War Zone at The Drive made me do a double-take: “The home to America’s prized RC-135 “Rivet Joint” strategic reconnaissance and E-4B “Nightwatch” Advanced Airborne Command Post aircraft, as well as others, and the headquarters of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), is flooding with water from a swollen Missouri River.  Offutt Air Force Base sits near Omaha, Nebraska and is considered one of the most critical installations in the U.S. Air Force’s portfolio. Not only does it house extremely high-value, but low density reconnaissance and command and control aircraft—massively expensive platforms that are essential to national security—but it is also the beating heart of STRATCOM that oversees America’s strategic nuclear forces. In fact, a brand new command bunker, buried underground at the base, was just opened in January—which sounds far less than ideal considering water is now nearly covering the end of the base’s runway…”

Hilton is Recycling Used Bars of Soap to Save the Planet. has the story: “Used soap from Hilton Hotels is getting a second life. The company announced Monday that it will collect used bars of soap from guest rooms across its hotels and recycle them into 1 million new bars of soap by October 15, which is Global Handwashing Day.  The project is in conjunction with Clean the World, a social organization that distributes soap to communities in need. Hilton (HLT) said it will collect soap from its various hotels, including Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites. The used soap is “crushed, sanitized and cut into new soap bars,” according to the company…”

Image credit: Hilton Hotels.

To Build the Cities of the Future, We Must Get Out Of Our Cars. A story at National Geographic made me do a double-take: “…In Calthorpe’s utopia, in China or America or elsewhere, cities would stop expanding so voraciously, paving over the nature around them; instead they’d find better ways of letting nature into their cores, where it can touch people. They’d grow in dense clusters and small, walkable blocks around a web of rapid transit. These cities of the future would mix things up again: They’d no longer segregate work from home and shopping, as sprawl does now, forcing people into cars to navigate all three; they’d no longer segregate rich from poor, old from young, and white from black, as sprawl does, especially in the United States. Driving less, paving less, city dwellers would heat the air and the planet around them less. That would slow the climate change that threatens, in this century, to make some cities unlivable…”

Image credit above: “SHANGHAI, CHINA. Near the center of this city of 24 million, China’s largest, the Yanan expressway crosses under the North-South expressway. The country has gained half a billion city dwellers since 1990—and nearly 190 million cars. “It’s truly almost incomprehensible what happened in China,” says American urban designer Peter Calthorpe, who has worked there extensively. With nearly 300 million more people expected in cities by 2030, Chinese planners say they’re changing course, prioritizing walkable streets and public transit over cars.” Photo: Andrew Moore.

Henrik Fisker Plans Electric SUV Priced Under $40,000. Automotive News has more details: “Noted designer Henrik Fisker, who tried to start his own automobile company more than a decade ago, is taking another shot — this time, he says, with an electric SUV with a price starting under $40,000. Fisker Inc. aims to have the vehicle fully designed, engineered, tested, validated, certified and on sale in just over two years from now — even though it has not finalized a deal for a venue in which to build the vehicle. The company says the vehicle — which has yet to be named — will be available with either one electric motor for two-wheel-drive models or two electric motors for four-wheel-drive versions. The goal is for a 300-mile range between charges from an 80-kilowatt lithium ion battery pack…”

Photo credit: FISKER. “Henrik Fisker — aiming to counter what an SUV can be — released an early look at a planned all-electric luxury vehicle Monday. He calls it a futuristic, elegant muscular EV with clean surfaces, dramatic shape and design touches that have been traditionally found on supercars.”

Facebook Says Service Hindered By Lack of Local News. Uh huh. I wonder how those “news deserts” came to be? Here’s the intro of a story at AP: “Facebook’s effort to establish a service that provides its users with local news and information is being hindered by the lack of outlets where the company’s technicians can find original reporting. The service, launched last year, is currently available in some 400 cities in the United States. But the social media giant said it has found that 40 percent of Americans live in places where there weren’t enough local news stories to support it. Facebook announced Monday it would share its research with academics at Duke, Harvard, Minnesota and North Carolina who are studying the extent of news deserts created by newspaper closures and staff downsizing…”

AP Photo/Richard Drew, File.

Not Even the Joneses Can Keep Up Anymore. The key operative word here is…more. Here’s a clip from Intelligencer: “…Anybody who’s been around parents consumed with the status of the kindergarten or even preschool their offspring attend can imagine that the desire to keep the next generation of the very privileged at the top might be intense enough to encourage corner-cutting and perhaps even law-breaking. And there’s not much question this is a by-product of a society, and an economic system, in which competition is deeply embedded by every instrument of culture — including education itself. The historian and sociopolitical critic Garry Wills once observed that the reigning metaphor of American life was the footrace, in which some people felt disadvantaged by a poor position at the beginning of the race and others felt entitled to self-congratulation for finishing well…”

The College Admissions Scandal and the Banality of Scamming. Let’s hope we never become immune to this stuff. Here’s a clip from The New Yorker: “…As I read the documents, I wondered why perusing the minute interactions between Singer and his clients gave me so much pleasure. The people whose words are in the affidavit—save for Singer, post-flip—thought they were doing something that would remain private. Part of what I was experiencing was the slightly gross excitement one feels when sneakily reading a diary: fulfilling the prurient fantasy of observing people behaving despicably, as they really are. But what captured my attention even more was the sheer everydayness of the documented conversations, whose polite blandness, in the context of their apparent criminality, often led to high comedy. In one moment, Loughlin expresses her happiness at her younger daughter’s fraudulent acceptance at the University of Southern California by texting Singer a high-five emoji…”

Your Guide to the 2019 NCAA Men’s Tournament. Here is an excerpt of a very helpful post at FiveThirtyEight: “…According to the FiveThirtyEight model, top seed Duke has the best chance of advancing to the Final Four in the entire field (53 percent probability) as well as the best odds of winning the national title (19 percent). The Blue Devils are led by four soon-to-be first-round draft picks, including Zion Williamson, one of the greatest talents in recent memory. Duke is a walking highlight reel on the offensive end and far stingier on defense than many may realize. This is among Mike Krzyzewski’s most-balanced teams and projects to be his first since 2010 to rank inside the top six in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offense and defense metrics. That team won the national title.1

Likeliest first-round upsets: No. 9 Central Florida over No. 8 VCU (47 percent); No. 11 Belmont* over No. 6 Maryland (39 percent); No. 10 Minnesota over No. 7 Louisville (34 percent)...”

The Future of Sports is Interactive, Immersive and Intense. Finally, a use for virtual reality beyond gaming? Check out an eye-opening Wall Street Journal article: “…The future of sports is, of course, interactive. You’ll be able to join a teeming mass of soccer fans in the chat section on Twitch, or offer real-time feedback on every play and moment. Fantasy games will get even bigger, as broadcasters of different sports try to copy features like the March Madness bracket. Traditional leagues will learn a lot on this front by watching esports, as gamers continue to gain recognition as a new breed of professional athlete. “Our players jump in the chat, and they’ll engage with fans,” said Brendan Donohue, general manager of the 2K League, the NBA’s esports offering. It’s not crazy to imagine one day watching an actual basketball game, chatting with other viewers, when suddenly one of the bench players logs on and joins in…”

Image credit: “The way you watch sports is about to change: A concept video for Microsoft’s HoloLens headset showed how you might one day watch the game while tracking in-game stats and a player’s running speed.” Photo: Microsoft.

Breathalyzer for Texting? The Washington Post has an intriguing story: “New Technology Hopes to Curb Distracted Driving. Nevada is considering legislation that would allow police to test for cellphone use at the scene of a car crash. But the use of such technology to curb distracted driving also raises privacy concerns, and some critics contend it violates constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure…The Nevada bill would let police officers plug the device into a phone and scan for recent activity, like Facebook messaging or web browsing. The Israel-based company behind the textalyzer, Cellebrite, said it drew on the alcohol-detecting breathalyzer for the name. Privacy advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union, contend that law enforcement should not be allowed to use the tool without a warrant...”

Spaceflight is Activating Herpes in Astronauts. Go into space – get herpes! explains: “The longer astronauts spend in space, the more likely they are to have viruses like herpes, chickenpox and shingles reactivate, according to new NASA research. The reason may be the same for viral reactivation on Earth: stress. Samples of blood, urine and saliva were collected from astronauts before, during and after short space shuttle flights and long-term International Space Station missions. Herpes viruses reactivated in more than half of the astronauts. The study published last week in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. “To date, 47 out of 89 (53%) astronauts on short space shuttle flights, and 14 out of 23 (61%) on longer ISS missions shed herpes viruses in their saliva or urine samples,” said lead study author Satish K. Mehta at Johnson Space Center…”

Image credit: Astronaut Scott Kelly, NASA ISS.

Cow Runs Away from Indiana Police, Blocks Traffic, Goes to Chick-Fil-A. has the unlikely story: “Yes, you read that right. A cow temporarily halted traffic in a town just north of Indianapolis on Saturday, running away from police to the nearest “safe” spot: Chick-Fil-A. According to the Noblesville Police Department, officers were chasing a runaway cow across Campus Parkway before it crossed the street and waited by the fast-food chain. Indiana resident Athena Hopkins caught the wild cow crossing the street on video, which quickly became viral when she posted it to her Facebook page. “So this just happened!!!!” Hopkins exclaimed in her caption on Facebook.”

1″ snow on the ground at MSP International Airport.

46 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

43 F. average high on March 19.

45 F. high on March 19, 2018.

March 20, 1991: An early season tornado hits Faribault county from Bricelyn to Wells.

WEDNESDAY: A few clouds, breezy. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 44

THURSDAY: Partly sunny and milder. Winds: W 10-15. Wake-up: 31. High: 49

FRIDAY: Blue sky, less wind. Slightly feverish. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 32. High: 50

SATURDAY: Mild sun, nicer day of weekend. Winds: S 7-12. Wake-up: 35. High: 55

SUNDAY: More clouds, risk of a shower. Winds: NE 7-12. Wake-up: 40. High: 44

MONDAY: Plenty of sun, cooler. Winds: NE 7-12. Wake-up: 22. High: 43

TUESDAY: Sunny, trending milder again. Winds: SW 7-12. Wake-up: 27. High: 51

Climate Stories….

Energy Execs’ Tone on Climate Changing, But They Still See a Long Fossil Future. InsideClimate News has the post: “A weeklong energy industry conference that came to a close on Friday revealed an oil and gas industry in the midst of a working contradiction. In speeches that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago, executives from some of the world’s largest oil companies said the future is low-carbon and the industry needs to reinvent itself or risk becoming irrelevant as the world turns to cleaner energy. Yet at the same time, their peers talked about a future where oil and gas demand would remain strong for decades. They spoke of natural gas not as a bridge to some fossil-fuel-free world but as a “forever fuel...”

Photo credit: “U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Energy Secretary Rick Perry were at this year’s CERAWeek by IHS Markit, where oil and gas executives discussed the future of energy, particularly fossil fuels.” Credit: Ron Przysucha/State Department.

It’s Getting Hot, Records Show: Climate Nexus has an overview and link: “Hot weather records in cities across the United States over the past 20 years have been broken twice as much as cold weather ones, the AP reports. An analysis conducted by the AP of 424 weather stations across the country with consistent data since 1920 finds that 87 percent of the stations had seen more daily hot records set than cold ones since 1999. The analysis shows that while the 1960s and 70s had about 1.5 hot records for every cold one, 42 of the weather stations analyzed had broken at least five hot records for every cold record since 1999. “As a measure of climate change, the dailies [temperature records] will tell you more about what’s happening,” Stanford climate scientist Chris Field told the AP. “The impacts of climate change almost always come packaged in extremes.” (AP)

On the Campaign Trail, Climate Change Can No Longer Be Ignored. A story at Roll Call caught my eye; here’s an excerpt: “…Borick explained that while each candidate’s environmental bona fides may not necessarily earn them a win in a crowded field, for Democratic voters, “if you’re not seen as giving due diligence to the issue, you could be putting yourself at a disadvantage.” Polling shows increased interest in climate change, especially among likely Democratic voters. While most polls show the economy and health care remain the top priorities for most Americans, growing numbers consider acting on climate change important. “It will probably play pretty well in the primaries,” said Barry Rabe, a professor of public and environmental policy at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. “The problem is what happens when you get through the primaries...”

Photo credit: “Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic presidential  hopefuls are betting that climate change will be a big issue in 2020.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo).

David Titley: The Warriors Who See the Face of Climate Change. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed from The Fayetteville Observer: “…As our climate changes, the environment in which our nation’s military operates changes. Imagine if the fundamental surroundings in which you were trained to do a specific job changed in ways you didn’t plan for. It would be challenging, indeed, to do the job you were hired to do. Imagine now, for a role as critical as protecting our country, the implications of a work environment that turns out to be unlike the one you thought you knew. Our armed forces are having to reevaluate their readiness to do their jobs, and the stakes — life and liberty — are high. The impacts of climate change are also threatening our military bases and infrastructure, as well as the ability of our personnel to perform their jobs both on-site and when deployed. As a Naval officer, I spent many days steaming offshore near Onslow Beach at Camp Lejeune, so I can picture that beach when I hear about the damage it sustained during Hurricane Florence. All of the state’s bases were touched by the storm — Fort Bragg, Cherry Point, and Camp Lejeune. These installations, the people who run them, and the families who support them all took a direct hit from climate change. Buildings and homes were destroyed, and vital training facilities were compromised...”

File image: AP.

The Switftness of Glaciers: Language in a Time of Climate Change. Check out this Aeon post at Pocket; here’s an excerpt: “…Shelley saw glaciers as predatory, immortal forces, eternal beings, before whose might mere humans quaked. But global warming has flipped that perception. We are now more likely to view glaciers as casualties of humanity’s outsize, planet-altering powers. Glaciers in the 21st century constitute an unfrozen hazard, as receding glaciers and ice packs push ocean levels higher. Just as alarming as the big thaw’s impact on sea rise is its impact on the security of our freshwater reserves. For glaciers serve as fragile, frigid reservoirs holding irreplaceable water: 47 per cent of humanity depends on water stored as seasonally replenished ice that flows from the Himalayas and Tibet alone…”

Photo credit: Payton Ferris on Unsplash

The Side Effects of Solar Engineering Could be Minimal. Then again, they may be significant on a planetary scale. What can possibly go wrong? Here’s an excerpt of a post at “…It could very well be that, on closer consideration, offsetting half of our future warming isn’t the optimal scenario, but this does suggest we could do a lot of solar geoengineering without significant side effects on precipitation. “Our results do not […] support the common claims that

[solar geoengineering]

would inevitably lead to significant harms to some regions,” the researchers write, “nor the claims that [solar geoengineering’s] benefits and harms always have a strongly unequal distribution.” Many climate scientists are staunchly opposed to—or at least deeply skeptical of—the concept of solar geoengineering…”

Image credit: JPL/NASA.