Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Flood of 2019: Bomb cyclone and melting heavy snow cover on frozen ground

March 17, river levels in Nebraska are going down, but downstream towns are looking now in danger.
Nebraska is having floods that are breaking records that were set in 2011. And that is just one of the states that are struggling with floods. Railroads are having to detour trains off their mainlines to get to Chicago because they are closed. And Spencer Dam failed. These extreme floods were triggered by a "bomb cyclone" that crossed the plain states and Wisconsin. It dumped snow and/or rain on top of frozen ground and a snow cover left by a record setting snowfall of 30" in February. Then all of that snow started quickly melting. The rivers still had sheets of ice from a cold winter. Up to 20" thick. The runoff broke the ice into slabs and caused ice jams up to several miles long. [omaha]

A bomb cyclone is formed by bombogenesis. By definition, bombogenesis is a midlatitude cyclone that rapidly intensifies, dropping at least 24 millibars within 24 hours. It happens when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass. This normally happens over a warm ocean. [NOAA] But this Spring it happened over Colorado and Wyoming on March 13 and continued east past Wisconsin. I read that this bomb cyclone had a low pressure that was equivalent to a Cat 2 hurricane. In the Chicagoland area, we had high winds during a whole night. They were over 60 mph.

I remember back in the 1990s that one of the predictions of the affect of climate warming was more severe weather. Not only are we breaking records just eight years after they were set, the Missouri River is going higher than some of the levees. A levee in Nebraska's Dodge County was breached. [NPR] I have not been able to determine if those levees were designed for 100-year or 500-year floods. Some towns are isolated because all their roads in and out are flooded. And fresh water supplies are being threatened.

USA Today
18-wheelers think they can go through water flows that would cause cars to turn around. Plus, how do you turn a semi-truck around on a two-lane road? (Why can't people learn to turn their cell phone when they make a video?)
Vdieo from WFLA
It happened during Wednesday’s [3-14-2019] “bomb cyclone” in Amarillo, Texas.
Wind gusts up to 75 mph were reported in the area.
Thankfully no major injuries were reported from the crash.

The ice jams have been taking out some bridges. The Canadian Pacific also lost a bridge.
[They never did mention where this was nor the name of the railroad so watching just a few seconds is enough. It is worth watching a little to see how fast the river is flowing.]

From a New Mexico State Police tweet:
State Police on scene of a on SR 469 near Logan, NM involving 26 rail cars. No injuries reported. Wind was contributing factor in crash.
Reports I'm seeing indicate sustained winds above 50 mph (80 kph), with gusts around 70 mph (115 kph). Blowing perpendicular to the train, that's plenty strong enough to blow it off the tracks.

The winds were around 80 mph and the cars fell at least 40'. [TheDrive]
The bridge had an anemometer. But why bother to install one if you are going to ignore the readings? The cars were at the end of the train, which is where empties should be added. But I could not find any info concerning the contents of the containers. It does appear from the photos that most of the platforms were double stacked. So they had a high wind resistance and torque.

Jeff Ford shared:
This is the Golden State Route - Kansas City to El Paso. The Rock met the SP end-to-end at Tucumcari, NM where crews, engines and cabooses were swapped. This bridge is on the RI-operated portion a short distance east of Tucumcari, near Logan, NM, where the line crossed the broad gape of the Canadian River. After the Rock crumbled, the SP-subsidiary Cotton Belt assumed control. Eventually the line was folded into the UP in 1996.
Kelly Hogan I don't know when the Rock and SP stopped the engine/caboose swap at Tucumcari, but they they did run thru for years, that's why you'd see Rock units in LA and SP/Cotton Belt units in Chicago. It saved time.

Life is Better at Ute Lake posted three similar, but different, photos with the comment: "Windy day, part of a UPRR train was blown off the Canadian River bridge at Logan. No injuries and the N.M. Hwy 469 crossing is open."

1, cropped

2, cropped

Life is Better at Ute Lake posted three more photos with the comment: "Train blown off the tracks the repairs & cleanup begins."

Tonya Cox-Cone Trains back on track last night running again!! Four days and a few hours it's on!!!
Everett Lueck No real damage to the bridge structure, only the track structure. New ties, new rail, and new walkway and good as new.
Eric Augatis Reminds me of the BNSF train that went off at Fort Sumner back in 2013.
Abbot RH Bain I pray they do not bury this wreckage on our family ranch.
Scott Thomas They do not bury wreckage anymore.
Tonya Cox-Cone This stuff is worth a lot for scrap..it's leaving as fast as it can..
Abbot RH Bain good to hear..
Rick McLaughlin Location is between Logan and Tucumcari, New Mexico, on the old Rock Island Golden State Route (now UP) on the bridge over the Canadian River.
Kelly Hogan I think this happened Wednesday the 13th.


Dana ErieLackawanna Railroad Carl Why do the two piers on the right look crooked or leaning to the right?
[I had to look twice. Then I saw the concrete footings up on the bank that are on a noticeable angle.]


  1. I wonder what wind-speed the very tall midwest buildings were designed to withstand.

    Eventually, one of these "Bomb Cyclones" will find Chicago too.

  2. This should be the top story on every news channel and web site as it has serious implications.The supply chain has been disrupted for goods moving east to Chicago and all points beyond.The Kansas City to St Louis line on Union Pacific is flooded and as we all know spring can be a very rainy time so this will take some time to dry out and have crews check affected trackage on all rail lines affected.Prepare accordingly if you feel a sense of urgency as I do as the weather in the United States has been acting very unpredictable the last few months.