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From Bloomberg Green (Leslie Kaufman):
With the coronavirus already stretching supplies and budgets, local leaders worry that a flood could overwhelm them.
New Orleans is a hot spot for Covid-19, and thousands of cases locally means [Belinda Constant, Mayor of Gretna, LA, is] working with a skeletal staff under lockdown conditions. Meanwhile, the Mississippi has risen more than a foot in the past week, triggering emergency flood measures. And the rains keep coming.
Gretna itself is below sea level, and currently some 11 feet below the surging river. All that’s keeping the city dry is a levee built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Constant says she prays every day that it doesn’t rain any more, or that one of the enormous cargo ships making its way down the river doesn’t get caught in the currents and swept into the barrier…
Louisiana, along with the rest of the Mississippi Valley region, is in the middle of its annual wet season, which usually peaks in April. This year’s floods are predicted to be more moderate than 2019’s, which covered a record expanse of 19 states, starting in January and lasted for an unprecedented nine months and affected 14 million people.
Even a milder season could be devastating to many, however. The U.S. National Weather Service says they might still affect more than 128 million people, and several areas are approaching flood stage already.
Colin Wellenkamp is the executive director of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative, which coordinates and organizes towns along the entire river corridor. He says Mayor Constant’s anxieties are shared by many local officials. “We are averaging a 100- to 200-year flood event annually somewhere on the river,” he says. As a result, many towns’ emergency capabilities were already tapped out before Covid-19, he says.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are promising the same amount of help to states as in previous years. Yet FEMA , by its own accounting, is well below its own 2015 targets for field staffing for emergencies. And even if the big agencies could provide the level support local communities have come to depend on, that still may not be enough. “The challenges are just so much bigger this year,” says Wellenkemp.
For starters, just like everywhere else, towns facing flooding are also facing extreme shortages of protective equipment such as face masks and gloves. Not only are doctors and nurses worried about shortages, so are first responders who may have to rescue people and property during an emergency. Most towns also rely heavily on volunteers for everything from filling sandbags to moving equipment to stocking shelters for displaced families. If officials can’t guarantee adequate safeguards for health, they aren’t sure people will show up…
Town officials have similar concerns related to institutions like the Red Cross, which they rely on to set up shelters when needed. Many wonder how they’ll cope in an era where group shelters such as gyms or tents are no longer an option.
Bob Gallagher, the mayor of Bettendorf, Iowa, isn’t one of them. He’s working with both state and federal officials and is optimistic that his city could handle flooding if it occurred. For now he’s sheltering homeless people in local hotels instead of group shelters, and says that’s working fine. But he acknowledges that the outlook might not be so rosy for smaller towns that have to rely almost entirely on volunteers in big emergencies.
The good news, says Wellenkamp, is that FEMA has made spending on Covid-19 preparations reimbursable by the federal government, a standard practice for damage from natural disasters that reach the level of federal emergency. The bad news is that FEMA still hasn’t reimbursed municipalities for the 2019 flooding, and many are already carrying heavy debt. “The economic impact from this will be greater than even last year’s record flood,” he says.
Click here to read the discussion:
The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC) geographic forecast area includes the Upper Colorado River Basin, Lower Colorado River Basin, and Eastern Great Basin.
Water Supply Forecast Summary
The weather pattern during the month of March was favorable for bringing storm systems across the Lower Basin into southern Utah/Colorado, while generally missing much of the northern portions of Utah/Colorado and Wyoming. March maximum temperatures across the Great Basin and Colorado River Basin were near to below normal. This helped preserve snow, even at lower elevations, that will contribute to seasonal runoff volumes. Observed snow water equivalent (SWE) conditions as of early April are generally near to slightly above normal (median) across the Upper Colorado River Basin and Great Basin.
April-July water supply volume forecasts are generally near to below average throughout the Upper Colorado River Basin and Great Basin. The highest forecast volumes with respect to average are in the Upper Colorado River mainstem, White/Yampa, and Virgin basins, where volume forecasts are generally near the 1981-2010 historical average. Lower Colorado River Basin January-May volume guidance increased during the past month due to above average March precipitation. Most Lower Basin April 1 water supply forecasts are much above median.
Virgin River Basin water supply forecasts increased by as much as 40% during the past month as a result of a wet March. April 1 SWE is generally 130-170% of normal over the Virgin Basin. Volume forecasts during the past month generally remained the same or increased slightly (5-10%) in the Duchesne, Dolores, and San Juan basins. The improvement in forecast guidance was due to above average precipitation and increased snowpack in these areas during March. Water supply volume forecasts generally declined around 5% in the White/Yampa and Upper Colorado River mainstem due to below average March precipitation. Green River and Gunnison March precipitation was more variable, and water supply forecasts followed the trend of observed March precipitation.
April-July unregulated inflow forecasts for some of the major reservoirs in the Upper Colorado River Basin include Fontenelle Reservoir 650 KAF (90% average), Flaming Gorge 880 KAF (90% of average), Blue Mesa Reservoir 525 KAF (78% of average), McPhee Reservoir 200 KAF (68% of average), and Navajo Reservoir 440 KAF (60% of average). The Lake Powell inflow forecast is 5.6 MAF (78% of average), a two percent decrease from March 1.
Water supply volume guidance in the Great Basin is most favorable in the Bear and Six Creeks basins, where forecasts are near to below average. Conditions in the Provo and Utah Lake Basins range from near normal in the headwaters of the Provo to below and much below normal for Utah Lake and Spanish Fork locations. The water supply outlook in the Weber River Basin is near to below average, with notable increases (5-10%) at East Canyon and Pineview reservoir inflows. Sevier River Basin forecasts generally increased in the past month due to above average March precipitation.
For specific site water supply forecasts click here
Water Supply Discussion
Weather Synopsis / March Precipitation & Temperature
The weather pattern during the month of March was favorable for bringing storm systems across the Lower Basin into southern Utah/Colorado, while generally missing much of the northern portions of Utah/Colorado and Wyoming. A slow moving cutoff low pressure system produced multiple days of heavy precipitation from March 10-12 over much of Arizona and southern Utah. Widespread 2-4 inches of precipitation fell over this period across the western half of Arizona (Bill Williams, Agua Fria, Verde basins) with 2-3 inches in the mountainous areas of southern Utah (Virgin basin). Another storm system on March 18-19 moved northeastward from Arizona into southern Colorado, producing another round of impressive precipitation. These two storm systems were generally too far south to significantly impact the northern half of Utah/Colorado and Wyoming, with the exception of the Uinta mountain range. A late month storm system on March 24-25 over the Great Basin targeted northern Utah and Wyoming, producing modest precipitation amounts.
March precipitation was variable across the Great Basin and Upper Colorado River Basin. Precipitation was near normal across the Upper Green Basin in Wyoming and the Bear/Weber basins in northern Utah. Precipitation was below average across the Upper Colorado mainstem and White/Yampa basins in northwest Colorado and the Six Creeks basin in Utah. Basins in southwestern Colorado (San Juan, Dolores) in addition to the Lower Green in northeast Utah fared better with slightly above (110-130%) average precipitation. As mentioned earlier, the Lower Basin saw much above average precipitation amounts during March with many SNOTEL locations in the Verde and Salt basins in the 80-90th percentile (or 150-200% of average). March maximum temperatures across the Great Basin and Colorado River Basin were near to below normal. This helped preserve snow, even at lower elevations, that will contribute to seasonal runoff volumes.
Observed snow water equivalent (SWE) conditions as of early April are generally near to slightly above normal (median) across the Upper Colorado River Basin and Great Basin. SWE conditions as a percent of the 1981-2010 median improved the most during March in the Virgin River Basin in southern Utah after a wet March. As of April 1, SWE is generally 130-170% of normal over the Virgin Basin. With the exception of the highest elevations of the Salt basin, snowpack has almost entirely melted out across the mountainous areas of the Lower Colorado River Basin (Arizona).
Upper Colorado River Basin SWE conditions as a percent of the 1981-2010 median improved during March in the Duchesne, Lower Green, and southwest Colorado (Gunnison, Dolores, and San Juan) basins. Duchesne SWE conditions are currently slightly above normal while the Lower Green, Gunnison, Dolores, and San Juan basins are near the early April historical median. Snow conditions in the Upper Green, White/Yampa, and Upper Colorado River mainstem declined slightly during March due to below average precipitation. SWE conditions as of early April remain above normal in the Upper Colorado River mainstem and near normal in the Upper Green and White/Yampa basins.
Great Basin SWE conditions did not change significantly during the past month when compared to the percent of historical median. Early April snowpack conditions remain above normal in the Six Creek basin, and near normal in the Bear, Weber, Provo/Utah Lake, and Sevier basins. Early April observed (SNOTEL) conditions as a percent of the 1981-2010 historical median are shown in the image below.
The image below is the representation of early April CBRFC model snow conditions in areas that provide the greatest contribution of April-July runoff. Model snow conditions closely correlate to SNOTEL conditions throughout the Colorado River and Great Basins.
CBRFC hydrologic model soil moisture parameters are adjusted in the fall after the irrigation season and prior to the winter snowpack accumulation to accurately reflect observed baseflow conditions. CBRFC model fall soil moisture conditions impact early season water supply forecasts and potentially the efficiency of spring runoff. Above average fall soil moisture conditions have a positive impact on early season water supply forecasts while below average conditions have a negative impact. The impacts are most pronounced when soil moisture conditions and snowpack conditions are both much above or much below average.
Modeled soil moisture conditions as of November 15, 2019 were variable across the Upper Colorado River Basin and Great Basin, with conditions generally declining from north to south. In the Great Basin, soil moisture conditions were near average. Within the Upper Colorado River Basin, the Upper Green and Duchesne basins entered the winter with the most favorable soil moisture conditions, while the White, Yampa, and Colorado River mainstem basins entered the winter with below average soil moisture conditions. The Gunnison, Dolores, and San Juan basins in southwest Colorado entered the winter season with much below average soil moisture conditions, primarily due to the poor 2019 monsoon season.
Soil moisture conditions tend to fluctuate more in the Lower Colorado River Basin of Arizona and New Mexico in the winter due to the frequency of rain events and possibility of melting snow. Soil conditions in the fall are less informative than they are in the northern basins that remain under snowpack throughout the winter season.
After the unfavorable 2019 monsoon season, winter soil moisture conditions have improved significantly throughout the Lower Colorado River Basin during the past several months due to a combination of above average water year (October-March) precipitation and snowmelt runoff. Lower Colorado River Basin early April soil moisture conditions are generally above average, as shown in the image below.
A cutoff low pressure system will develop off the California coast this weekend into early next week. An increase in ridging and southwesterly flow across the Colorado River Basin will bring a period of warming to much of the region, with near to slightly above normal temperatures expected. The cutoff system is forecast to slowly move eastward into Arizona and then into southern Colorado by Tuesday through Thursday of next week (April 7-9).
Precipitation chances will increase across Arizona into portions of Utah/Colorado as this system moves through the region. Overall, only modest precipitation amounts are expected at this time.The weather pattern becomes more uncertain in the 8-14 day period (April 10-16); however, a weak mean trough across the Intermountain West suggests slightly increased odds for below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation.
End Of Month Reservoir Content Tables [ed. the links below did not work as we went to press.]
Green River Basin
Upper Colorado River Basin San Juan River Basin
Great Salt Lake Basin Sevier Basin
Click here to read the “Accelerated Article Preview” of the paper. From the paper:
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an acute respiratory tract infection that emerged in late 2019. Initial outbreaks in China involved 13.8% cases with severe,and with critical courses. This severe presentation corresponds to the usage of a virus receptor that is expressed predominantly in the lung. By causing an early onset of severe symptoms, this same receptor tropism is thought to have determined pathogenicity, but also aided the control, of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003. However, there are reports of COVID-19 cases with mild upper respiratory tract symptoms, suggesting the potential for pre- or oligosymptomatic transmission. There is an urgent need for information on body site-specific virus replication, immunity, and infectivity. Here we provide a detailed virological analysis of nine cases, providing proof of active virus replication in upper respiratory tract tissues. Pharyngeal virus shedding was very high during the first week of symptoms (peak at 7.11 × 108 RNA copies per throat swab, day 4). Infectious virus was readily isolated from throat- and lung-derived samples, but not from stool samples, in spite of high virus RNA concentration. Blood and urine never yielded virus. Active replication in the throat was confirmed by viral replicative RNA intermediates in throat samples. Sequence-distinct virus populations were consistently detected in throat and lung samples from the same patient, proving independent replication. Shedding of viral RNA from sputum outlasted the end of symptoms. Seroconversion occurred after 7 days in 50% of patients (14 days in all), but was not followed by a rapid decline in viral load. COVID-19 can present as a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Active virus replication in the upper respiratory tract puts the prospects of COVID-19 containment in perspective.