2019 Spring Flood Outlook

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It may very well be a long Spring for flooding across much of the country, including right here at home.  The 2019 Spring Flood Outlook has been released earlier this week.  Meteorologist Jacob Dickey breaks down what it means and what impacts we could see locally through June.

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Here’s the latest press briefing from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration highlighting some of the key messages for the United States.

COLUMBUS, Miss. (NOAA) – Nearly two-thirds of the Lower 48 states face an elevated risk for flooding through May, with the potential for major or moderate flooding in 25 states, according to NOAA’s U.S. Spring Outlook issued today. The majority of the country is favored to experience above-average precipitation this spring, increasing the flood risk.

Portions of the United States – especially in the upper Mississippi and Missouri River basins including Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa – have already experienced record flooding this year. This early flooding was caused by rapid snow melt combined with heavy spring rain and late season snowfall in areas where soil moisture is high. In some areas, ice jams are exacerbating the flooding. Offices across the National Weather Service have been working with local communities, providing decision-support services and special briefings to emergency managers and other leaders in local, state and federal government to ensure the highest level of readiness before the flooding began.

Additional spring rain and melting snow will prolong and expand flooding, especially in the central and southern U.S. As this excess water flows downstream through the river basins, the flood threat will become worse and geographically more widespread.

“This outlook will help emergency managers and community decision-makers all along the nation’s major waterways prepare people and businesses for the flood threat,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., NOAA’s acting administrator. “In addition to the safety aspects, our rivers are critical to the economic vitality of the nation, supporting commerce, recreation and transportation. NOAA forecasts and outlooks help people navigate extreme seasonal weather and water events to keep the country safe and moving forward.”

Record winter precipitation across a large swath of the country has set the stage for the elevated flood risk. The upper Mississippi and Red River of the North basins have received rain and snow this spring up to 200 percent above normal.

The areas of greatest risk for moderate to major flooding include the upper, middle, and lower Mississippi River basins including the mainstem Mississippi River, Red River of the North, the Great Lakes, eastern Missouri River, lower Ohio, lower Cumberland, and Tennessee River basins.

Additionally, much of the U.S. east of the Mississippi River and portions of California and Nevada are at risk for minor flooding.

The National Weather Service (NWS), in coordination with local officials, defines flood levels for each of its river forecast locations when this is a greater than 50 percent or more likelihood of exceeding minor, moderate, or major flood levels.
The National Weather Service (NWS), in coordination with local officials, defines flood levels for each of its river forecast locations when this is a greater than 50 percent or more likelihood of exceeding minor, moderate, or major flood levels. (NOAA)

“The extensive flooding we’ve seen in the past two weeks will continue through May and become more dire and may be exacerbated in the coming weeks as the water flows downstream,” said Ed Clark, director of NOAA’s National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities.”

The flood risk outlook is based on a number of factors, including current conditions of snowpack, drought, soil moisture, frost depth, streamflow and precipitation. Local heavy rainfall, especially associated with thunderstorms, can occur throughout the spring and lead to flooding even in areas where overall risk is considered low. In the western U.S., snowpacks at higher elevations may continue to build over the next month, and the flood risk will depend on future precipitation and temperatures.