In what may unfortunately seem like wet déjà vu all over again, apprehensive Iowa homeowners are again bracing for potentially severe flooding this spring.
In a word, the National Weather Service calls Iowa’s spring flooding forecast “grim.” The NWS is predicting a strong threat for potentially serious flooding in eastern Iowa. From the Mississippi River above Dubuque to its tributary river basins including the Maquoketa, Wapsipinicon, Cedar, Iowa and Skunk, Iowa could see high river waters this spring. The NWS’ official spring flood prognosis includes an above average chance for flooding on the Mississippi, Cedar and Iowa rivers. In western Iowa, the forecast is absolutely dark, with the NWS predicting “guaranteed” flooding along the Missouri River.
NWS hydrologists say snow packs in Minnesota and Wisconsin are heavier than they were a year ago – contributing to the flood risk downstream. The Iowa Flood Center (IFC) reports the soil in the Mississippi River basin is especially wet, the second-wettest moisture on record for the past 65 years.
The outlook for spring flooding “is not so good,” IFC director Witold Krajewski told Iowa lawmakers last month.
Gov Kim Reynolds’ administration is trying to get ahead of a potential flooding disaster with the allocation of $21 million in state flooding for a variety of flood-related projects around the state. The Army Corps of Engineers has begun increasing the amount of water that’s being released in the Missouri River from reservoirs upstream – to hold some of the melting snow that’s expected in the river basin.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to be in the best possible position to be ready for this spring,” the governor said.
For weary Eastern Iowa homeowners still paying off home flood damage from last year, high waters on the Mississippi are unfortunately becoming the new normal. The state’s weather-related losses topped $1.9 billion last year, according to federal records.
“Last March or so the river came up pretty high, and it stayed high all summer long, and we’ve been high all winter,” the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Nate Johnson told KWWL. “The river used to get down and stay around the eight to nine foot range. Now most of the winter we’ve been 10 to 12 feet. That is what we’re getting most of the year.”
On the brighter, drier side, lighter late-winter snowfall totals, longer melting periods and lighter spring rains can decrease the flood threat. And, as Krajewski notes, there’s never any harm in praying and hoping for a dry, warm spring.
“Hopefully, (Iowa’s elevated spring flooding threat) will be nothing,” Krajewski said, “but you should be mindful of the situation. The best thing would be a gentle, nice warm-up so the water can drain.
“But I think we all should be concerned.”
The message for Eastern Iowa homeowners living in flood plains is crystal clear: Be prepared for flooding this spring and take precautionary measures now.