"The Big Muddy" Not So Muddy

June 19, 2012; 6:05 PM
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The Missouri River lived up to its nickname "Big Muddy" last spring when excessive amounts of snow runoff and heavy spring rains caused historic levels of flooding in June.

The 140 percent above-normal snow accumulation last year created a record-breaking runoff of 13,800,000 acre-feet (2 acre-feet is equivalent to the amount of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool).

But experts say "Big Muddy" won't cause as much worry this year, thanks to a calmer winter and a drier spring.

"It was the heavy snow pack across the northern Rockies and the northern Plains that was the driving force behind the historic Missouri river flooding last year," said Expert Senior Meteorologist Bernie Rayno. "We don't have that kind of snow in that area this year, so the flooding will be far less."

The river crest at Brownville, Neb., rose to its highest in history at 44.79 feet, according to FEMA.

Last spring's flooding was so substantial that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released water from the river's reservoirs, a strategy used to control the intensity of the river's flooding.

The photo on the left shows Gavins Point Dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border before the Missouri River started to flood. On the right, waters rush up to 150,000 cubic feet per second after the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers released more water in an effort to control flood damage. (Left photo courtesy of Overduebook at Flickr.com, right photo courtesy of Thomas A. O'Hara III, OmahaUSACE).

Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said this is done for two reasons: to relieve pressure from the dams and to reduce the amount of unwanted upstream flooding.

"It's like a balancing act to try to control all that," Sosnowski said. "It's intended reduce the severe impact in the overall scheme."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Omaha District, which serves a large area in the northern Plains and Rocky Mountains, has done extensive work throughout the year to repair the flood's damage.

According to the USACE Omaha District website, $99 million in repairs have already been completed, and they hope to have all Missouri River levee repair projects complete by the end of 2012.

Last year's video footage shows "Big Muddy" causing severe damage to the Northern Plains, and what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' did in efforts to control the flooding.

However, the Missouri River is unlikely to transform into "Big Muddy" this year.

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