River levels to continue falling this week

River flooding update (as of early May):

Rivers throughout the region reached their peak crest earlier this month. River levels will continue to fall through the next week.

The New Madrid Floodway was activated by the Army Corps of Engineers on May 2. The detonation of the levee near Birds Point and New Madrid, MO relieved pressure on levees in the Mid-Mississippi and Lower Ohio Valleys. Kentucky Dam and Barkley Dam on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers held back record water levels, but are now falling.

Rainfall History: A series of heavy rainfall events from April 22 to May 2 dropped up to 21 inches of rain (at Cape Girardeau and Poplar Bluff) and caused widespread river flooding. Cumulative rainfall totals from April 22 through May 2 are available here

  • Rainfall Records: 
    • Evansville - 11.77 inches of rain fell in April of 2011. This was the second wettest April at Evansville. The record was 11.83 in 1996. No records were set at Evansville. Spring 2011 is (so far) the 14th wettest as of May 3, with 21.75 inches. Records go back to 1897 at Evansville and 1937 at Paducah.
    • Paducah - 15.91 inches of rain fell in April of 2011. A variety of records were set at Paducah, including:
  • Wettest April (previous record was 14.54 inches set in 1983)
  • Wettest month (previous record was 14.91 in March of 1964)
  • Wettest spring (28.24 inches as of May 3 - previous record was 27.04" in 1973). Meteorological spring is March through May. It is worth noting that a couple other monthly rainfall records have been set at Paducah in the past several years, including wettest September (2006) and wettest October (2009). 

 Record river stages: Preliminary data available on AHPS indicate that record river stages were reached on:

 Photo of Ohio River flooding in Metropolis, Illinois on April 27. Barges can be seen in the distant background. NWS Photo. 

Photo of flooded street in Metropolis, Illinois


The following hydrograph is NOT CURRENT. It is the archived graph showing the effect of the activation of the New Madrid floodway on Cairo, IL.

Hydrograph from Cairo, IL after the New Madrid floodway was opened


The table was set for an active spring flood season late last winter. From February 23 through March 14, Evansville received 8.31 inches of rain, and Paducah received 9.43 inches. The rivers were not below flood stage very long before the most recent series of heavy rainfall events began.

Below is the storm-total rainfall graphic from the NWS Paducah radar from the evening of April 22 to the early morning of April 26. The color scale on the top left of the graphic indicates shades of pink and purple represent at least 6 inches, with aqua colors over 10 inches. The lowest rainfall amounts are over western Kentucky in shades of yellow, orange, and red.

Storm-total rainfall map from NWS Paducah radar








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