Since November 2015, record-breaking rainfall in Missouri and Illinois has caused severe flooding that has claimed the lives of at least 31 people not only in Illinois and Missouri but also in Oklahoma and Arkansas. The flooding has forced large-scale evacuations.
The trend continued in December. Temperatures averaging 8 – 12 degrees Fahrenheit above normal added to the high level of moisture intensifying the rain storms. Meteorologists attribute the warmer temperatures to this season’s strong El Niño pattern. Over 18 inches of rainfall in St. Louis was almost three times the average of 6.5 inches. Normal rainfall in Minneapolis was doubled.
Water levels are expected to crest higher than in the devastating 1993 floods. According to accuweather.com, the pattern is typical of an El Niño, but rainfall of this magnitude is a new phenomenon. The US army engineers say the rising Mississippi River threatens 19 federal levees. If the levees are breached, thousands of homes will be vulnerable. The non-stop torrential rain has caused sewage to flow unfiltered from treatment plants into area waterways.
While the flooding continues to devastate the mid west, El Niño is also expected to send much needed rain to drought-ridden coastal Southern California and over desert areas of Arizona and New Mexico in early January. The rains will also bring snow to the region’s mountains adding to the runoff and more drought relief.