Map from US National Weather Service

I’m sitting in Darwin Airport at one in the morning waiting for the redeye to Sydney where I’ll then jump on an A380 to LA and points east of there.

I’ll spend a week or so in Cleveland, Ohio at a conference (I’ll post copies of my presentations in a while) and then head off to the other Cleveland in my life – Cleveland, Mississippi.

Cleveland, Mississippi is in the heart of the Mississippi Delta – famous for the eponymous river, the fattest people in the world and some great music and landscapes.

My friend and fellow ethnoornithologist Mark Bonta (and his wonderful family) live there and we’ve been chatting over the last few days about the weather. As anyone with an eye for anything other than a certain wedding may have noticed, there has been some rather extreme weather in parts of the American south iver the past few weeks.

You can see see a great map of the recent tornadoes that have been stomping across the south at the New York Times here.

The river map from the NOAA above reminds me of the week or so I spent on the Mississippi at this time last year with the wonderful John Ruskey of the Qapaw Canoe Company and which I posted a few pictures and notes of here.

At this time of year the Mississippi is full of snow melt from the 37 US states (and 2 Canadian provinces) that form its massive catchment.

A year ago I wrote that:

The river was up 40 feet at the Greenville Bridge by the time we got there – swelled by the normal snowmelt…and also from the floodwaters that flowed down from the Cumberland River that had trashed Nashville, Tennessee a couple of weeks ago – all of this made for some exciting canoeing – with many of the sandbars and islands under water.

A few days Mark Bonta wrote a quick note advising of the kind of time we might be in for in a week or so:

…they are predicting the 100-year flood, meaning highest water since 1937 and possibly 1927. Hopefully the levees won’t break.

My class had planned a River trip on the 14th, but I can’t imagine it will run (already postponed once–better in the Fall…)

It’s been raining and storming nearly every day. Welcome to Mud!

Followed by this note just yesterday:

…from the horrific storms that wiped out parts of Tuscaloosa and so forth. If not exceeding the 1974 24-hour Super Outbreak, yesterday’s mayhem certainly made this April by far and away the most destructive month for tornadoes in recorded US history. Naturally, we may have another month of this crap…

The real story, however, is what this is doing to the Mississippi river basin. Thankfully, we are protected by the best levees in the Valley (northern Delta counties), which did not even fail in 1927 (Cleveland hasn’t been flooded by the River since 1903!), so unless there is an earthquake, we should be all right.

Note, however, that the floodwaters in the Ohio are already exceeding the 1937 Flood in some places; Cairo will soon be under mandatary evacuation orders; the Tunica casinos have been closed for 3 to 6 weeks, and the Army Corps is attempting to open the New Madrid Spillway to relieve pressure on the mainline levee–the state of Missouri has sued to block (to protect about 100 homes and some farms).

So the risk cannot be understated–this is at least going to be in the top 3 of all-time big floods (with 1927 and 1937) whether any levees in the LMAV are breached or not. Floodwaters provisionally predicted to crest on around May 14, but any new rain would prolong that.

Me, I’ll be in the Delta in a week or so – and can’t wait…