From the ABC 7 Weather team

Chesapeake Bay choked with mud, sewage after recent floods (MAP)

September 14, 2011 - 01:56 PM
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After last week's storms, the Bay is all clouded up with sediment and logs swept down from as far as New York. See what it looked like before and after.

This before/after shows just how much sediment, silt and mud was washed into the Chesapeake Bay by the recent storms. (NOAA)

Over at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Adam Wickline has posted an icky first-hand description of the newly fetid waters moating D.C. and beyond. The waterfall-like downpour of last week's major storms created so much runoff that it appears a Grand Canyon's worth of sediment, not to mention random items like beach balls and auto tires, is currently suspended in the Bay.

Says Wickline of the "brown, milky mess":

The water resembled chocolate milk. Logs, presumably from Pennsylvania, drifted by on this blue-sky day. As the Marguerite went further out into the Bay, the story did not change. Mats of debris, trash, and even what appeared to be a bowling ball floated all around. Tiffany Granberg, one of CBF’s educators, described the scene as a “cesspool.”

Where is Baltimore's famed floating "trash mill" when you need it?

So, I dunno about that magic floating bowling ball,* but what isn't in dispute is the Bay's dangerous levels of sediment. Well, dangerous if you're an oyster getting the life choked out of you by mounds of moving sludge. Or other forms of seafloor life that will be deprived of sunlight and oxygen due to the odious mocha cloud of mud, silt and fertilizer. Or swimmers or watermen who contract a disease from the estimated 700 million gallons of sewage that escaped into the Bay. Steamed crabs with toilet paper, anybody?

Look at how long the sediment plume extends into the main water body:

chesapeake bay sediment dirt flooding lee

That scene, captured on Sept. 11 by NASA's Aqua satellite, came two days after heavy rain caused the third highest flooding on the Susquehanna River in recorded history (a peak river discharge of 778,000 cubic feet per second, FYI). Some sectors of the D.C. area got an astounding 32 inches of rain in the past two weeks. Satellite photos taken yesterday show that the sediment isn't really going anywhere.

If you scrutinize the comparative images of the Bay located at the head of this post, you'll see what an immense difference in water quality a big storm can create. (Larger version.) A giant hunk of the nation's largest watershed went totally brown from Aug. 23 to Sept. 11 from runoff that flowed from as far north as central New York. If anybody in Staten Island is missing their favorite bowling ball, please drop me a note.

* Now I do! Some bowling balls DO float... lookee here.

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