Risk of flooding to expand over Ohio, Mississippi valleys into next week
By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
February 25, 2018, 3:54:00 AM EST
Both short-term and long-term flooding will continue over a large part of the central United States as more rain falls and runoff continues through next week.
The risk of urban and small stream flooding will continue while multiple rivers are already at or projected to reach major flood stage in the central United States over the next several days.
In less than 48 hours, from Monday to Wednesday, more than a month's worth of rain fell on some locations from Texas to Michigan. Rainfall in parts of Arkansas topped 8 inches.
Additional heavy rain will fall on areas from the southern Plains to the lower Great Lakes and Appalachians during the first part of the weekend.
The combination of melting snow, frozen ground and drenching rainfall into Monday pushed the secondary waterways in Illinois, Indiana, the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and northwestern Ohio well out of their banks.
Communities along the Illinois, Pecatonica, Kankakee, Kalamazoo, Grand, St. Joseph, Iroquois, Rock, Yellow, Tiffin, Tippecanoe and others can expect major flooding in the coming days, even though the heaviest rain will fall farther south and east.
Portions of the Yellow, Kankakee, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph rivers are forecast to reach or have already reached record flood stage.
The Ohio River is forecast to reach moderate flood stage along much of the southern border of Ohio and West Virginia in the coming days, according to National Weather Service hydrologists.
If the Ohio River rises to anticipated levels, significant flooding will occur in communities along the river, including Marietta, Ohio, early in the new week.
Moderate flooding is already underway farther downstream on the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Ohio, to where the river meets the Mississippi River. Further rising is projected into next week.
Into Saturday night, heavy rain will focus on the Ohio, Tennessee and lower Mississippi basins.
Flooding is expected to continue along the Ohio and middle to lower Mississippi rivers over the next couple of weeks as it takes much longer for the flooding cycle to occur on the large rivers.
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By Sunday, areas from northeastern Texas to the Ohio Valley will have received between 4 and 6 inches of rain since Thursday morning with locally higher amounts. This area will be at greatest risk for new flooding of widespread nature in urban areas, small streams and secondary rivers.
The heavy rainfall has resulted in evacuations, water rescues, road closures and state of emergency declarations.
From Sunday to Tuesday, the region experiencing or at risk for flooding is expected to catch a break from the relentless rainfall.
Dry and cooler air is projected to sweep in and turn off the Gulf of Mexico faucet.
This dry stretch should be enough to allow small streams and secondary rivers to return within their banks. However, it may take a few weeks until much of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers fall below flood stage.
Water levels on the lower Mississippi River and over much of the Mississippi Delta region are likely to rise well into March.
While floods along the rivers over the Central states are more common from March to June, some of the highest water levels have occurred during the winter.
Indications are that more rain is likely to develop over Texas and spread northeastward over the Ohio and Tennessee valleys during the middle and latter part of the upcoming week.
Some of this rain has the potential to be heavy enough to aggravate flooding in some communities. The storm delivering this soaking rain can trigger another round of severe weather.
Farther north, moisture from that storm may fall as snow around the Great Lakes and the Upper Midwest.
Much of the landscape and headwaters of the Mississippi and Missouri will remain frozen to prevent significant melting over the next couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, ongoing drought conditions are playing a role in keeping water levels lower in rivers originating from the eastern slopes of the Rockies and High Plains, such as the Red, Arkansas and Platte.
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