55 2015 Red River Basin Flood Event: Timeline and Impacts

Monday, 11 January 2016
Tony O. Hurt Jr., Jackson State University, Jackson, MS; and J. Glinskas

Handout (1.6 MB)

2015 Red River Basin Flood Event: Timeline and Impacts

Tony Hurt1, Julianna Glinskas2

Jackson State University1, LeTourneau University2


            Some of the worst flooding in decades impacted the Red River basin during the latter part of May through June 2015.  Despite the fact that most of the basin had been experiencing drought conditions spanning the previous four years, historical rainfall, which occurred during the month of May throughout Texas and Oklahoma, essentially brought the drought to an end, and unleashed the devastating flood event which followed.

            The states of Texas and Oklahoma experienced their wettest-ever month of May in 2015, establishing a new record that now sits atop the 121-year period, dating back to 1895.  Texas received a statewide average of 8.81 inches of rain for the month, while Oklahoma received an average of 14.40 inches.  The statewide rainfall amount averages eclipsed Texas and Oklahoma records established in 2004 (6.66 inches) and 1941 (10.75 inches), respectively.  Of greater significance, the entire Red River basin across the two states received at least 10 inches of rain during the month, with many locations reporting accumulations between 15 and 25 inches.  Considering the basin accounts for only 15% of the total combined area of Texas and Oklahoma, the extreme nature of the unprecedented rainfall is further magnified.  As a result, reservoirs with critical roles in flood control along the Red River filled to capacity and, in some cases, exceeded capacity.  Due to water discharges from reservoirs, five locations along the Red River in northeast Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana recorded river crests which ranked in the top three in terms of all-time highest observed water levels.

            This presentation focuses on the relationship between the rainfall, the corresponding effect on the reservoirs, and the ultimate rise of the river to the historical levels reached at various downstream locations.  The timeline provided illustrates the flow of the maximum observed water level along the river from areas of northeast Texas through Arkansas and into central Louisiana.

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