News In Mississippi backwater, flood rises after weeks of waiting JEFF AMY•In this Monday, March 11, 2019 photo, Peggy and her husband George Sellars sit by the „lake” that was the driveway to their home, along Mississippi 16, east of Rolling Fork, Miss. The couple said the backwater flooding is the worse they have encountered and correctly concluded that water would overtop the retention levee that protected their house and three others. This week the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), along with select local emergency management offices will be conducting joint damage assessments in response to the severe storms and flooding are impacting the state. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)ROLLING FORK, Miss. (AP) — For decades, Peggy Sellars and her husband George have warily watched periodic floodwaters inundate the land around their home in the Mississippi Delta, but the dwelling always remained dry — until this year.After weeks of fearful waiting, rising water finally got their house on Monday.Two weeks ago, they had moved out of their residence east of Rolling Fork, correctly concluding the worst flooding since 1973 would overtop a small levee around their neighborhood. They returned twice a day to check things, worried about potential looters and the watery peril to their uninsured house.Finally, a Monday afternoon boat ride showed the fate Peggy Sellars had feared.”I’m devastated,” she said. „The water is in my house.”The Sellars and the farmers who plant crops in the nearby Delta flatland are the latest victims of an unusual flood that involves flood-control structures.Weeks of rainfall have fed high waters in the Mississippi River, which is lined with a levee that keeps those waters contained. Meanwhile, the Yazoo Backwater Levee also protects thousands of square miles from inundation that could back up the Yazoo River north of Vicksburg.But the rain that swelled the Mississippi has also sent water rising between the backwater levee and the even taller levee along the Mississippi.When water is low, the Big Sunflower River, the Little Sunflower River, Deer Creek and Steele Bayou exit the closed-in region through a floodgate along Steele Bayou, eventually reaching the Mississippi. But when the Mississippi is high, the gate is closed to protect against even worse flooding and water backs up across the flat land of the Mississippi Delta. And every time it rains upstream, more water heads south.This year, the Steele Bayou floodgate has been closed since Feb. 15. Sharkey County Supervisor Bill Newsom said residents began noticing the water rising out of the wooded swamps about 10 days later. Now, engineers say the region is on track for the worst flood since 1973, before the levee was completed. The water’s steady, inch-by-inch rise is cutting off highways and isolating communities.Without the backwater levee, the flood would actually be worse. But it’s bad enough. Peter Nimrod, chief engineer of the Mississippi Levee Board, says the flood will cover at least 500,000 acres (200,000 hectares), swamping fields 60 miles (100 kilometers) or more to the north.In the sparsely populated area, most homes remain dry for now. Newsom estimates about 50 families have moved out across Sharkey County. A Red Cross shelter in nearby Mayersville has no occupants.But the big economic blow will fall on farmers. By the time things dry out, it will be too late to plant corn. It may still be possible to plant cotton, but farmers might be limited to a late planting of soybeans. Albert Dornbusch, who farms 5,000 acres with his son, said they’ll probably limp by with the assistance of crop insurance payouts linked to their inability to plant, but he’s not sure.”Tell me when it goes down,” Dornbusch said.When the backwater levee was built, the plan was to pair it with giant pumps that would suck water out of the area, pushing it over the levee into a flooded Mississippi. But environmentalists fought the pumps for decades, saying they would dry out and destroy wetlands dotting the region. They also argued the pumps, estimated to cost $220 million, were too expensive and would mainly benefit farmers.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency vetoed the project in 2008. Advocates made a last-ditch attempt at getting Congress to mandate construction last year before U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran retired and left his powerful post as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, but they failed.Newsom remains an advocate of the pumps, saying agriculture is the region’s only industry. He said he doesn’t want to drain wetlands, just control high-water crests like the current one.”We’re just wanting to have a flood level we can live in,” Newsom said.But the water isn’t done yet. Forecasters had predicted a brief but sharp drop in the Mississippi River later this month, which could have allowed the floodgate to reopen. That relief now appears unlikely, which could mean weeks more of the long, slow siege.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Monday it was releasing enough water into nearby Eagle Lake to raise already swollen levels by 4 feet (1.2 meters), aiming to prevent a flood-control structure from being undermined. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency delivered 10,000 sandbags Monday to Sharkey County officials, and heavy rain is possible later this week.Lance Lowrey, who lives near the Sellars, told Newsom on Monday that he’s ready to evacuate with his daughter and two grandchildren. Water is beginning to submerge part of the state highway leading to Lowrey’s home. That dwelling remains dry for now, but he relies on his truck to make it down his flooded driveway.”I ain’t got no boat,” Lowrey said.Standing in a cold, driving rain outside his front door, Lowrey said things are getting worse.”It keeps raining,” he said. „It’s going to get deeper.”_Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.
News Powerful snowstorm expected to sock parts of WestKATHLEEN FOODY•A new avalanche slide path seen below Mount Victoria, Thursday, March 7, 2019, in Frisco, Colo. At least 4 feet of snow fell onto the Tenmile Range in the last 5 days and has caused many new avalanches in the area in the recent days. (Hugh Carey/Summit Daily News via AP)DENVER (AP) — An avalanche injured a sheriff and his daughters Tuesday when it smashed into their home in rural Colorado, underscoring the West’s late-winter woes as a powerful storm dumped more snow on California and prompted a blizzard warning in the Rocky Mountains.Hinsdale County Sheriff Justin Casey was with his two teenage daughters in their home nestled in the San Juan Mountains when the slide hit.Casey managed to call for help, and about 15 rescuers found the family within an hour.”The house is destroyed. Completely destroyed,” said Sandy Hines, an administrative assistant for the county.Casey and one of his daughters were treated for minor injuries. The injuries of his other daughter were initially described as serious. She was improving at a hospital, Hines said.About 15 homes near Casey’s property were evacuated as a precaution. Other residents in the area were warned of the possibility of additional avalanches.”This is all unprecedented,” said Hines, who has lived in the area for 25 years.Colorado’s mountains have been under continuing threat of avalanches this winter, and more snow was expected Wednesday — including a possible blizzard in Denver that could bring up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of snow and 60 mph (97 kph) wind gusts.As much as 18 inches (45.7 centimeters) of snow could fall in parts of Colorado and Wyoming, and wind gusts could reach 75 mph (120.7 kph).On Tuesday, heavy snow fell in the mountains of Southern California as winter took a late-season shot at the region. Several school districts declared a snow day for students in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles, where plows cleared roads and chains were required on vehicles.Mountain High ski resort at the east end of the San Gabriel Mountains reported at least 18 inches (45.7 centimeters) of new snow. Elsewhere, Big Bear Mountain Resort reported as much as 18 inches (45.7 centimeters).Wintry weather was expected to move across the Southern Rockies and into the Central Plains over the next couple of days, according to the National Weather Service.
A powerful storm will unleash a ferocious mix of snow, rain and wind across the central USA through Thursday.
„While not a tropical system, winds will rival what’s seen in a Category 1 hurricane,” said weathermodels.com meteorologist Ryan Maue.
The worst weather is forecast for the Plains, from Texas up to the Dakotas. „We expect a major blizzard to unfold with winds likely to approach hurricane force, heavy snow and massive drifts,” according to AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
Wednesday, 1-2 feet of snow and howling winds will lash portions of Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska, where blizzard warnings are in effect. The National Weather Service warned of „impossible travel conditions.”
„You risk becoming stranded if you attempt to travel through these conditions,” it said.
A blizzard warning was issued for Denver, where 4-7 inches of snow and wind gusts of up to 44 mph are forecast for Wednesday. At Denver International Airport, delays and cancellations will be likely, AccuWeather said.
Wild, destructive winds, gusting more than 100 mph, are forecast in Texas, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado, where widespread power outages are possible. Blowing dust will reduce visibility to less than a mile at times. The weather service office in Midland/Odessa, Texas, said Wednesday could be „the windiest day in years.”
„High winds may end up stretching over 1 million square miles of the central states with this storm,” AccuWeather’s Sosnowski said.
In the Upper Midwest and around the Great Lakes, as much as 3 inches of drenching rain on top of mounds of already-fallen snow and sodden soil could lead to flooding.
There is high confidence that a major winter storm will affect a large part of the central U.S. Wednesday into Thursday. Severe blizzard conditions are expected in some areas. You risk becoming stranded if you attempt to travel through these conditions.
„The greatest risk of flooding will tend to be in urban and poor drainage areas where piles of snow are blocking storm drains,” according to AccuWeather meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski.
After a chance of severe thunderstorms Tuesday in Texas, the tornado threat in the South in this storm is lower than in the past two big storms.
The storm is unusually potent and „will have an ‘eye-like’ feature similar to a hurricane,” according to Maue.
The Weather Channel named the winter storm Ulmer. No other private weather firm, nor the National Weather Service, uses that name.
While the central USA endures the storm, both coasts will see mostly tranquil weather this week.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Blizzard, wind, floods: Wild storm with winds like a Category 1 hurricane to batter central USA