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Multi-faceted storm, December 21-28, 2015

John Farley

Kind of surprised there hasn't been more discussion of recent weather here (aside from the 12/23 reports), given the nationwide and multifaceted impacts of this past week's storm system. This article from CNN gives the big picture:


However, there are a number of smaller pictures:

1. Tremendous snowfall in the Rockies from the initial wave of the storm, which cut off and more or less stalled in the Rockies for several days. For example, the Wolf Creek Ski Area in Colorado received 77 inches of snow in a week, and nearby Wolf Creek Pass (U.S. route 160) was closed for two days - a real rarity, given that this area routinely gets a lot of snow and has one of the best snow removal operations anywhere.

2. Multiple tornado and severe weather outbreaks from both the initial energy east of the main storm on the 23rd in MS, TN, and elsewhere (this part well documented by chasers in the 12/23 thread) and then another outbreak in TX on the 26th with EF-4 damage in Garland, TX and 11 fatalities tied to 3 tornadoes. I have seen spectacular video of the Garland tornado illuminated by power flashes and lightning online and on TV, but not much discussion of it on ST. When the deaths from these tornadoes are added to the SPC database, which they have not yet been, 2/3 of this year's tornado fatalities will have occurred in December, a pretty rare situation.

3. A record-setting blizzard in the plains of NM and the southwestern part of the TX Panhandle, as well as in the central and southern mountains of NM. Mountain snow totals included 41 inches at Ski Apache near Ruidoso, NM and 30 inches at Sandia Peak above Albuquerque, and on the plains, as much as 30 inches of snow fell at San Ignacio along I-40 (which was closed from Albuquerque to the OK/TX state line at times). Drifts in parts of eastern NM reached 7-8 feet, and the all-time one-day snow record was broken at Roswell, which received in excess of a foot.

4. Record December rainfall in parts of OK, MO, and IL, resulting in widespread flooding and at least 14 deaths, and in all likelihood more, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The vast majority of these deaths involved people driving into flooded areas on roads, and with 9 of the deaths occurring in two incidents in which people apparently unfamiliar with the areas they were in were swept away. This system brought St. Louis, officially, a storm total of 9.15" of rain, with spotter reports of 12.25 inches in Union, MO and 11 inches in Lyon, MO and Bunker Hill, IL. In St. Louis, the all time annual rainfall record has been broken by nearly 3 inches (it now stands at 61.21 inches), and it is also record rainfall for December. Additionally, current flood crest forecasts predict that in some places downstream from St. Louis, the 1993 all-time record flood crests will be exceeded, and on the Meramec River, the record crests of 1982 will be exceeded in a couple places.

In some way, this weather system impacted pretty much the entire lower 48 states, with major impacts in quite a few of them. Definitely a storm system for the record books!
I would certainly like to see some discussion. I have no technical expertise to contribute, but I am 5 miles north of major flooding on the Meramec River so I'm interested. There is also major flooding along the Mississippi. Water is lapping the steps up to the Gateway Arch.


24-mile section of I-44 closed & intersection with route 141 closed -> major traffic problems
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All-time record flood stages have been reached at some locations along the Meramec and Bourbeuse Rivers:


The Mississippi River crested several feet below record levels in the St. Louis area, but near-record or record levels remain possible at some downstream locations such as Cape Girardeau. An interesting feature in this storm for me, aside from the fact that I was in the St. Louis area visiting family when it occurred so I experienced some of its effects, is that on the Meramec and Bourbese Rivers, most of the records that were broken in this event were set in December of 1982. 1982-83 was one of the strongest El Ninos on record. So both the 1982 and 2015 record flooding events occurred in December during exceptionally strong El Nino events. Here is some information on the 1982-83 El Nino:

http://www.fcst-office.com/HardRock/Meteo241/El Nino 1982-1983/ProjectThree.html
The stretch of eight days in a row with tornadoes in the U.S. is the longest streak in December on record and the longest streak overall since 11 days from July 4-14.
The I-44 & 141 GIF is terrific! Three days, same spot, looking North, I think?, along 141 under 44 overpass.
This storm had some pretty significant effects up here in West Central Illinois. Had over a quarter inch of ice combined with 50+ mph wind gusts which caused quite a few prolonged power outages. I was out of power a little over 2 1/2 days, however some other folks were closer to a week. Thankfully we purchased a generator when we had an ice storm about 9 years ago, so we were able to use that. My only regret with this was not getting any real good photographs considering I was sick at the time. A crazy way to close out 2015 that is for sure!
My wife and I drove I-44 through Missouri last Monday on the way home from visiting family for the holidays. Thankfully we only encountered two spots with flooding concerns, neither of which actually slowed traffic to any significant degree. Both were between Rolla and Springfield. Looks like we would've had a much worse trip had we left any later than we did.
image.jpeg image.jpeg I live about 50 miles southeast of Springfield in an area that straddles the divide between the Kaskaskia River Drainage Basin and The Illinois River Basin, flat farmland with only the very beginning headwaters of a few creeks. There are a few low spots everybody knows about, where a ditch or small creek cuts across the road, but basically it is high ground. I felt quite secure from flood hazards, thinking the whole state would have to go under before it backed up as far as my high water house. I never dreamed a flood would start here and have to find its way downstream, but that's what happened. There was water in places I've never seen it before, and that's 50+ years. It only took a few days to drain off, and would have been less if the entire central Illinois/Missouri are hadn't simultaneously flooded. But 4 people drowned in flood waters locally Saturday evening, compared to maybe 2 or 3 a decade on average. Our basement is ruined despite running two sumps. Storm total here was 7.02", over 5" from 8:00am to 10:00pm on Saturday, the 27th. 10" was common a few miles northwest. I stayed off the roads mostly, the one trip I took 17 miles north to Taylorville took me two hours to get home, trying to get across South Fork Creek. These pictures were taken before it ever stopped raining as I tried to find a way around the closure on the blacktop between Taylorville and Nokomis, the first time in my memory that stretch of road went completely under.


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