NOAA: Flooded Areas Remain Vulnerable

More Rain Coming for Midwest Regions Hit by Flooding

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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NOAA forecasters on Thursday said Midwestern states hit by flooding remain vulnerable this spring. (DTN photo by Russ Quinn)

OMAHA (DTN) -- With good chances of continued flooding across the Midwest this spring, areas hit by devastating floods in Nebraska and Iowa may find some silver lining from the latest National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration flood and climate outlook released Thursday.

While chances are good for additional flooding, Kevin Low from NOAA's Missouri River Basin Forecast Center, said snowpack in the mountain regions is reaching its peak accumulation for the year.

In addition, Low said mountain snowpack is reported average to below average, with mountain runoff expected to be average to below average through September.

"That is a good thing," he said. "But there is an increased chance over much of the Missouri River Basin of flooding. We remain vulnerable."

RISK OF HEAVY RAIN IN MIDWEST

Farmers in the Midwest are anxious to recover from floods and wet conditions so they can get into their fields. The latest 10-day weather forecast dampens those plans.

"As a matter of fact, there's a very high probability that the situation is going to worsen," DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Michael Palmerino said in an interview Friday morning.

"We have got another rain event coming up this weekend, probably worth about a half inch to an inch across much of the Midwest, and then we see indications that there could be a major storm, a very intense storm, moving up towards Kansas City during the middle of next week," he said.

"It even has some similarities to that system we had back a few weeks ago. The only difference is, of course, we're not melting any more snow. That system melted most of the snow away, except for the far northern Red River Valley, so we're not going to be throwing snowmelt into the equation," Palmerino said.

"But we are going to be throwing heavy rain. It looks like it could be blanketing much of the Midwest with 1 to 2 inches of rain, and it looks like on the left side of this storm track, especially in the higher elevations, there could be blizzard conditions with moderate-to-heavy snow, especially if you head back towards areas like western Nebraska."

There's also another moderate-to-heavy-rain event forecast for the following weekend.

Regarding the flood threat, "I think we need to continue to worry about it," Palmerino said. "The soils are saturated, there's just nowhere for the rainfall to go at this point, except into the rivers, and they're basically, you know, at flood level now or exceeding it in many areas."

DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Joel Burgio said these rains next week could push rivers that were already high into flooding and could also lead to reflooding in some areas that have already been flooded.

LONG-TERM FLOODING NOT EXPECTED

In the lower Missouri River basin, Low said he doesn't expect there to be long-term flooding this season, although chances of flooding remain higher than normal across the basin and vulnerable to spring rains.

NOAA said moderate-level flooding is likely in the lower basin during the next three months as a result of increased thunderstorm activity.

"There will be a moderate level of flooding expected in the lower third," he said. "And we'll likely have flooding on the main stem itself."

Flooding chances remain higher and more widespread than last year and in several years across much of the Midwest, NOAA said.

As of Wednesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported it had used about 43% of its flood storage in Missouri River Basin.

As of Thursday afternoon, there continued to be some snowpack in north-central South Dakota, Low said, with some areas 5 inches deep.

Additionally, snowpack remains solidly in place in northern Minnesota, eastern North Dakota and up into Canada.

During April, NOAA forecasts major flooding of the James River in South Dakota and moderate flooding along the Big Sioux River in South Dakota and Iowa.

Some of the good news, perhaps, is NOAA is calling for quick-moving storm systems across flooded regions, which would reduce the chances of flooding rains.

There continues to be an abundance of moisture available in Midwestern soils.

As of April 3, NOAA's calculated soil moisture was heaviest in the central and southeast parts of Nebraska, nearly all of Iowa, southeast South Dakota, southern Minnesota, southwest Wisconsin, northwest Illinois and western Kansas.

Doug Kluck, NOAA's National Center for Environmental Information regional climate services director, said the period between March 2018 and February 2019 was one of the top 10 wettest periods in many areas. In some cases, he said, precipitation was at 200% of normal in the Midwest.

"There are lots of things pointing to wet soils and continued issues," Kluck said. "Really no place across the central U.S. is below-normal soil moisture."

Palmerino said the wetness is a concern. "I think we have to be very concerned about this, and you know, with every passing week ... we're just pushing off the ability for producers to get out in the fields. You know, we were saying that there wouldn't be much of anything going on through mid-April, and we can say that with a lot of confidence, based on what we're seeing. And now we're, you know, pushing things even further back. And producers, at the earliest -- and I'm not saying they will -- may not even get into their fields until the end of April at the earliest, if then."

NOAA is forecasting through mid-June an above- to much-above-normal flood risk for the upper and middle Mississippi River basins, including the main stem of the Mississippi, the eastern Missouri River basin and the Red River of the North basin.

NOAA said the Mississippi and Illinois rivers are seeing open waters and ice continuing to break up.

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN

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Editor's Note: DTN Associate Managing Editor Elaine Shein contributed to this story.

(CZ/AG)

Todd Neeley