Spring Flood Alert

South Dakota WARN is encouraging all states – but particularly those in the Upper Midwest Region – to begin early preparations in anticipation of significant spring flooding along the Missouri, Red, James, and Big Sioux Rivers in the Dakotas.  Rivers in Minnesota, including the Mississippi, also look as if they are primed to flood; especially the Minnesota River.

The link below from the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center (NOHRSC) at NOAA offers a comparative way to track the snow/water content in specific geographic regions by toggling between data for this year and last year.


At this stage, SD WARN advises, we are ahead of last year’s snow pack in both the mountain regions and the plains.  March is the largest snow accumulation month for these regions; so this year could be much worse for flooding.  SD WARN anticipates significant flooding from the Missouri River to the East Coast on nearly every significant river.  They note that this may be one for the record books.

The Corps of Engineers has not yet evacuated enough water from the main stem reservoirs along the Missouri River to meet normal runoff conditions.  This year’s run off will be anything but normal.  According to SD WARN, this is compounded by the anticipated flooding downstream.  The Corps will hold back water to help alleviate the downstream flooding; filling the reservoirs to capacity in the process.  Once full, they will pass everything that comes in.  In April 2009 the inflow to Oahe was 140,000 cfs.  That would be a flood of biblical proportions here and downstream.  It is also reasonable to anticipate that those states that are down stream and not affected directly by all this moisture will become affected when the runoff reaches them.  One item of concern in the coming days/months is sandbagging supplies.

Looking eastward, SD WARN continues, it appears as if this most recent storm went right down the Ohio River Valley. That can’t be good for that system.  There are some significant events that could preclude significant flooding – such as slow thaws with intermittent freezes and a general lack of precipitation for the rest of February and March.  However, utilities should be working the flood preparation supply chain to see what is available and be ready.  It is a high probability that a large scale flooding event(s) will occur this year.

As Kevin Morley from AWWA noted when sharing the SD WARN advisory, “Better to be safe than sorry…start the discussions now and continue to build on your relationship with State/local Emergency Management.”  ASDWA concurs and encourages all state drinking water programs to work with their water utilities and WARNs to enhance community resiliency.



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