Winter Storms to Raise Flooding Risk in Midwest, Northeast

By , Expert Senior Meteorologist
February 05, 2014; 1:11 AM
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As storms continue to bring heavy snow in a swath from the Midwest to the Northeast, they will also raise the potential for flooding.

The immediate concern will be in portions of the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic, with West Virginia in the middle. Parts of this area has recently received heavy snow. Enough rain can fall in this area to bring the risk of urban flooding Tuesday night into Wednesday.

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Following another period of slippery travel in some locations, melting snow and rainfall can lead to blocked storm drains and street flooding.

Cities or some of the suburbs thereof that may experience minor flooding problems with the midweek storm include: Louisville, Ky.; Cincinnati; Pittsburgh; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Wilmington, Del.; Philadelphia and New York City.

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The midweek storm will bring also bring the possibility of flash and urban flooding to part of the lower Mississippi and Tennessee Valley. Locally severe thunderstorms with gusty winds are possible within this zone.

Additional storms of various strength will continue to hit approximately every two to four days.

A storm due to hit the Northeast on Sunday into Monday is also likely to raise the potential for coastal flooding at times of high tide. The storm early next week is forecast to be strong enough to produce gusty winds from off the ocean from perhaps as far south as Delmarva to as far northeast as eastern New England and the Maritimes.

While each storm will bring a zone of drenching rain on their southern flank, snow cover will build on their colder flank and may increase the risk for flooding later.

The storms through midmonth will pack more water content than the storms from January because of their origin. Most storms moving forward into February will grab plenty of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. So not only will the snow be more difficult to shovel and plow, but the snow will release more water when it melts compared to snow earlier this winter.

At the end of the siege of snowstorms, a broad area may end up with a couple of feet of snow on the ground.

A passenger train passes over the iced-jammed Delaware River early Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, near Trenton, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Not enough warm air may work into part of the Upper Midwest and interior Northeast in the wake of each storm to gradually melt the snow on the ground and the ice on rivers. This raises the risk for a sudden, big meltdown and ice-jam flooding later on this winter.

The upcoming cycle of thaws and freezes will lead to an increasing number of potholes and the potential for water main breaks.


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