River flooding to persist well into spring 2019 over central US

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
March 18, 2019, 3:00:06 AM EDT


The recent bomb cyclone has set into motion the big surge of water that can keep most larger rivers above flood stage for many weeks this spring.

Rain and melting snow from the storm have already produced record-high water levels along portions of the Boyer and Floyd rivers in Iowa and the Big Blue and Loup rivers in Nebraska.

The Missouri River at Plattsmouth, Nebraska, (south of Omaha) has risen more than 3 feet above the record crest of 36.73 feet from late June 2011.

Dozens of other rivers are well out of their banks from northeastern Kansas, central Nebraska and southeastern South Dakota to southern Wisconsin and will remain so early this week.

River flooding March 17


These rivers and others flow into progressively larger rivers. Generally, the larger the waterway, the longer it takes for flooding to cycle through.

Vice President Mike Pence thanking emergency personnel in Omaha, Nebraska. (Twitter/VP)

Vice President Mike Pence surveying flood damage in Omaha, Nebraska. (Twitter/VP)

Vice President Mike Pence surveying flood damage in Omaha, Nebraska. (Twitter/VP)

Vice President Mike Pence surveying flood damage in Omaha, Nebraska. (Twitter/VP)

Vice President Mike Pence touched down in Omaha, Nebraska to survey flood damage, and thank volunteers and emergency personnel. (Twitter/VP)

Vice President Mike Pence touched down in Omaha, Nebraska to survey flood damage, and thank volunteers and emergency personnel. (Twitter/VP)

Vice President Mike Pence getting briefed while en route to Nebraska. (Twitter/VP)

(Facebook/Illinois Department of Transportation)

Flooding in Miller City, Illinois, on Tuesday, March 19.

AP

This Monday, March 18, 2019 photo taken by the South Dakota Civil Air Patrol and provided by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, shows flooding along the Missouri River in rural Iowa north of Omaha, Neb. (Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management via AP)

(Photo/NASA)

NASA photos taken a year apart show the dramatic extent of the historic flooding devastating parts of Nebraska.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Gabe Schmidt, owner of Liquid Trucking, back right, travels by air boat with Glenn Wyles, Mitch Snyder and Juan Jacobo, as they survey damage from the flood waters of the Platte River in Plattsmouth, Neb., Sunday, March 17.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Gabe Schmidt, owner of Liquid Trucking, back right, travels by air boat with Glenn Wyles, Mitch Snyder and Juan Jacobo, as they survey damage from the flood waters of the Platte River in Plattsmouth, Neb., Sunday, March 17.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Trino Nuno and his dog Tyson navigate flooded streets in Fremont, Neb., Monday, March 18, 2019. Authorities say flooding from the Platte River and other waterways is so bad that just one highway lane into Fremont remains uncovered, and access to that road is severely restricted.

(Mike Bossman / Omaha Police Department)

Historic flooding in Nebraska left some roads completely washed out and scenes of widespread devastation, dramatic aerial photo showed.

(Mike Bossman / Omaha Police Department)

Historic flooding in Nebraska left some roads completely washed out and scenes of widespread devastation, dramatic aerial photo showed.

(Photo/Bellevue Police Department)

Floodwaters inundated an intersection in Bellevue, Nebraska.

(Photo/U.S. Senator Ben Sasse)

Residents in Nebraska worked together to set up sandbags amid the historic flooding.

(Mike Bossman / Omaha Police Department)

Historic flooding in Nebraska left some roads completely washed out and scenes of widespread devastation, dramatic aerial photo showed.

(Photo/U.S. Senator Ben Sasse)

One home looked like an island as it was completely surrounded amid the historic flooding in Nebraska.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Gabe Schmidt, owner of Liquid Trucking, right, talks to Glenn Wyles, second right, as they survey by air boat flood damage from the flood waters of the Platte River, in Plattsmouth, Neb., Sunday, March 17, 2019.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

A BNSF train sits in flood waters from the Platte River, in Plattsmouth, Neb., Sunday, March 17, 2019.

(Twitter / Offutt AFB)

Much of Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska, where the US Strategic Command and the 557th Weather Wing and 55th Wing are located, was underwater amid the rising floodwaters.

(Photo/Christopher Heady)

Highways submerged by flood waters in Nebraska.

(Photo/@OmahaHeating)

Flooding in Ashland, Nebraska.

(Image/Gov. Pete Ricketts)

What remains after the failure of the Spencer Dam in Nebraska.

(Photo/Nebraska State Patrol)

A bridge that fell apart due to the strong current of a swollen river in Genoa, Nebraska.

(Photo/Nebraska State Patrol)

A road destroyed by flooding in Nebraska.

(Photo/U.S. Senator Ben Sasse)

Massive chunks of ice and rising floodwaters wreaked havoc in Nebraska over the weekend.

(Twitter / Offutt AFB)

Much of Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska, where the US Strategic Command and the 557th Weather Wing and 55th Wing are located, was underwater amid the rising floodwaters.

(Mike Bossman/Omaha Police Department)

Historic flooding in Nebraska left some roads completely washed out, dramatic aerial photo showed.

(Photo/Nebraska State Patrol)

A vehicle submerged in flood waters in Columbus, Nebraska.

(Photo/Mitch Schneringer)

Flooding in Arlington, Nebraska, as seen from a C150 airplane.

(Photo/Nebraska State Patrol)

A closer view of the bridge that fell apart in Genoa, Nebraska.

(Photo/Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts)

Aerial view of Nebraska flooding.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

A Welcome to Wahoo sign stands in flood waters outside Wahoo, Neb., Wednesday, March 13, 2019.

(Photo/Nebraska State Patrol)

The Nebraska National Guard performing air rescues near Arlington, Nebraska.

(Photo/Kade Nelson)

River flooding has overtaken a highway in Columbus, Nebraska.

(Photo/@everythinglo18)

Flood waters in Cascade, Iowa, on Thursday.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Jim Freeman tries to saw through thick ice slabs on his property in Fremont, Neb., Thursday, March 14, 2019, after the Ice-covered Platte River flooded its banks.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Thick slabs of ice slabs surround a structure in Fremont, Neb., Thursday, March 14, 2019, after the ice-covered Platte River flooded its banks.

(Photo/Sarpy County Sheriff)

View of flooding in Sarpy County, Neb.

(Photo/Avery Andersen)

A baseball field flooded in Atlantic, Iowa.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Drivers go through flooded highway 92, as the Cottonwood and Wahoo creeks overflow their banks, in Wahoo, Neb., Wednesday, March 13, 2019.

(Photo/Michael Martz)

Streets flooded in Boone, Iowa, on Thursday.

(Photo/@everythinglo18)

Flood waters in Cascade, Iowa, on Thursday.

(Photo/@everythinglo18)

Flood waters in Cascade, Iowa, on Thursday.

(Photo/OPDOfcBossman)

A large part of Nebraska has been hit with catastrophic flooding.

(Photo/OPDOfcBossman)

A large part of Nebraska has been hit with catastrophic flooding.


This year will be a notable flood year for much of the Mississippi, including its major tributaries such as the Ohio and Missouri rivers, factoring in flooding that has already occurred and what is likely to occur moving forward.

Heavy snowfall this winter and the upcoming spring thaw with episodes of heavy rain are escalating the river flooding concerns into the spring, including along the Mississippi, Missouri and lower Ohio rivers.

spring rivers March 16


The Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois, has been above flood stage for many weeks and is expected to continue to fluctuate between major and moderate flood stage through the end of March.

However, the worst flooding may be yet to come for some areas along the upper and middle portions of the Mississippi River as much of the snow over the northern Plains, Upper Midwest and central High Plains melts.

A general 1-3 feet of snow is on the ground over the northern tier. Within that, there are 2-10 inches of water locked up in the snow from the Dakotas to northern Michigan as of the middle of March.

AP Nebraska Rural flooding

A road is flooded near Ceresco, Neb., Wednesday, March 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)


At Rock Island, Illinois, there is a greater than 90 percent chance of major flooding along the Mississippi River during mid- to late April, according to National Weather Service hydrologists.

Significant flooding during the spring and early summer occurs roughly every three to five years along the Mississippi River.

However, widespread major flooding episodes occur roughly one to two times per decade along at least some portion of the mighty waterway.

RELATED:
Historic Nebraska flooding visible from outer space in photos released by NASA
Preparing for the costliest weather disaster in the US: How to stay safe before, during and after a flood
What you should do if you get stuck driving in floodwaters
AccuWeather 2019 US spring forecast

Meanwhile, at Grand Forks, North Dakota, the Red River of the North has a nearly 90 percent chance of reaching major flood stage during the middle of April.

The Red River flows northward from a warmer climate to a colder climate like several rivers in Siberia. It is not uncommon for the headwaters to thaw before areas farther north. This can lead to significant lowland area flooding.

"From an agricultural standpoint, this is a 'wait and see' situation as to exactly how bad the flooding will be when planting time arrives," according to AccuWeather Agricultural Meteorologist Dale Mohler.

"Typically, even during years with widespread major river flooding, water only affects a fraction of agricultural lands," Mohler said. "However, there will likely be some patches well away from the rivers where water lingers in the fields for many weeks into the planting season."

In addition, the Mississippi River is used for transport of grains and other cargo. Tugboats can push multiple barges, more than a dozen, at one time. However, when river levels are high, the current is very strong. When this happens, the number of barges that can be pulled must be reduced and lowers the efficiency of the transportation method.

Farther south, multiple heavy rain events pushed river levels to moderate and major flood stage over portions of the Tennessee and lower Mississippi basins during the winter.

AP Image Vicksburg, Miss.

A school bus travels along a levee road near the Eagle Lake community near Vicksburg, Miss., Friday, March 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)


Looking ahead

"A break from major storms is forecast over much of the U.S. into Monday," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.

NC Monday March 17


This should help small rivers recede across the North Central states.

Some rain will return to the central Plains on Tuesday.

"While this storm will pale in comparison to last week's storm, there is the potential for 0.50 of an inch to 1 inch of rainfall in a narrow swath in the central Plains," according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Jim Andrews. "That could trigger new or aggravate problems if that rain targets the areas hit hardest by the flooding."

Larger rivers may rise slightly more than latest projections or their expected crests can be delayed.

"Already swollen smaller streams and rivers can also significantly rise," Andrews added.

Tues storm 3/18


Beyond the Tuesday storm, some additional rain may return around the start of the new weekend.

AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok is concerned for another storm to follow and aggravate issues in the flood zones March 25-26.

Farther north, below-freezing temperatures at night will also help slow the rate of melting snow across the north this week.

However, with inevitable melting snow coming for the northern tier and large rivers already swollen from recent storms, a long-lasting flooding event is likely for many communities along the Mississippi River and others this spring.

Pastelok is concerned that more big storms with heavy rain may resume during late March to early April over the South Central states, which may renew or aggravate the flooding situation over the Tennessee and lower Mississippi valley region.

As a result, much of the length of the Mississippi River may experience flooding at the same time this spring.

Download the free AccuWeather app to stay alert to the latest forecast and flood advisories as they are issued.


Podcast banner for news stories

Report a Typo

Comments

Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.

More Weather News