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Spring flood outlook: it’s bad and it’s gonna get worseSpring flood outlook: it’s bad and it’s gonna get worse

Forewarned is forearmed. Get ready, because more flooding is in the forecast.

Burt Rutherford

March 21, 2019

3 Min Read
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Scott Olson / Getty Images

“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 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

“This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities.”

Remember the historic floods of 1993 and 2011? There’s potential that the flooding this Spring will be worse than those historic years.

Related: Powerful scenes of the destruction in the Midwest from the bomb cyclone

That’s because, according to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the winter of 2018-19 was the wettest ever for the United States.

“Record-setting snow fell in the West and upper Midwest, culminating in the second-wettest February on record. Meanwhile, steady rainstorms crossed the Midwest with 19 states having a top 10 wettest February and Tennessee having the wettest February on record. The heavy rain from the recent Bomb Cyclone, coupled with melting snow, caused massive flooding across the region,” according to the NRCS March 21 Weather and Climate Update.

According to NOAA’s U.S. Spring Outlook issued March 21, 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. The majority of the country is favored to experience above-average precipitation this spring, increasing the flood risk.

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% above normal.

Here’s NOAA’s spring forecast for flooding potential:


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, re3ports NOAA.

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

Above-average precipitation is favored from the Central Great Basin to the East Coast and in Alaska, compounding the flood risk for many states, especially in the Central and Northern Rockies and in the Southeast.

READ: Bomb cyclone relief efforts underway for ranchers, farmers

Warmer-than-average temperatures are forecast to extend from the Pacific Northwest to the Central Rockies, and from southern Texas, northward through the Great Lakes and eastward to encompass the entire East Coast. The greatest chance for above-average temperatures exist in Alaska, the Northeast and mid-Atlantic. The interior of the U.S. from the Dakotas southward to northern Texas are favored to have below-average temperatures this spring.

“Severe weather and flooding can strike anywhere, whether or not you are in a high-risk area,” said Daniel Kaniewski, Ph.D., deputy administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Insurance is the first and best line of defense. Act now to make sure you have the right coverage for a flood by visiting floodsmart.gov, and don’t forget to download the FEMA mobile app to get real time weather alerts in your area.”

NOAA produces seasonal outlooks to help communities prepare for weather and environmental conditions that are likely during the coming months. Heavy rainfall at any time can lead to flooding, even in areas where overall risk is considered low. The latest information for a specific area, including official watches and warnings are available at http://water.weather.gov.


About the Author(s)

Burt Rutherford

Senior Editor, BEEF Magazine

Burt Rutherford is director of content and senior editor of BEEF. He has nearly 40 years’ experience communicating about the beef industry. A Colorado native and graduate of Colorado State University with a degree in agricultural journalism, he now works from his home base in Colorado. He worked as communications director for the North American Limousin Foundation and editor of the Western Livestock Journal before spending 21 years as communications director for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association. He works to keep BEEF readers informed of trends and production practices to bolster the bottom line.

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