High Flood Risk in the Central Plains

By Michael Doll, Meteorologist
August 04, 2013; 8:43 PM
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This time last year, the soil in the Plains was thirsty for rain with extreme drought conditions plaguing the region.

Now, the ground is soaked, and according to the latest flash flood guidance from NOAA, it could take as little as 1.75 to 2.25 inches of rain in three hours to cause flash flooding in eastern Kansas and southwestern Missouri.

More than twice that fell in Hutchinson, Kan., on Saturday night in 90 minutes. Numerous cars stalled in the high water on city streets and creeks overflowed their banks, forcing the closure of some roads in the area.

As clusters of heavy thunderstorms move across the central Plains on Sunday, a similar scene could play out in some locations, including larger cities like Wichita, Kan., and Springfield, Mo.

Additional rainfall amounts of over 3 inches are possible through Sunday afternoon. Torrential downpours could drop 1 to 2 inches of rain per hour.

Excessive runoff will cause water levels on streams and rivers to rise, and some may flood quickly with little warning.

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Travelers on Interstates 35 and 44 and other highways in the threat area should exercise caution and slow down if driving during heavy downpours.

If you come across a flooded road, you should turn around and seek an alternative route.

As much as 4 to 6 inches of rain fell early on Saturday east of Springfield, Mo., and some areas in Kansas and Missouri have had over 600 percent of their normal rainfall in the last seven days.

The above image shows percent of normal rainfall for the past seven days ending at 7 a.m. CDT, Sat., Aug. 3. Image courtesy of NOAA.

The region is on the northern periphery of a hot air mass that has sent temperatures in parts of Oklahoma and Texas soaring above 100 degrees.

This pattern is not expected to change much this week. It will remain hot in the southern Plains, and from time to time, thunderstorms will move through the central U.S.

With a persistent feed of moisture northward from the Gulf of Mexico, there will be plenty to fuel more drenching thunderstorms.

Story by AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Mike Doll

The thumbnail photo is courtesy of Photos.com


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