July 7, 2011

NOAA: Summer Flooding Could Rival Great Flood Of 1993

Threats of more flooding will continue throughout the summer as many rivers in the upper Midwest and northern Plains remain above flood state, warned forecasters at NOAA's National Weather Service on Wednesday.

"With rivers running high and soils completely saturated, just a small amount of rain could trigger more flooding, including areas that have already seen major to record flooding," the forecasters said.

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center is forecasting above-normal rain in most of these vulnerable areas in the next two weeks, and above-normal rainfall in much of the region in the one- and three-month outlooks.

Rising temperatures over the Rockies, which will release the water from the remaining snowpack, will also add to the flood threat, they said.

"The sponge is fully saturated "“ there is nowhere for any additional water to go," said NOAA National Weather Service director Jack Hayes.

"While unusual for this time of year, all signs point to the flood threat continuing through summer."

The forecasters said this season could rival the Great Flood of 1993, when the upper Midwest suffered persistent, record-breaking floods from April through August.  The widespread disaster impacted nine states and caused more than $25 billion (inflation adjusted) in damages.

"As flood threats continue in these areas, NOAA's partners at the Federal Emergency Management Agency are continuing to support the response efforts in all of the impacted states," the NOAA forecasters said.

They urged all residents in the affected areas to take steps now to prepare for severe flooding and other hazards.

"The flooding that many Americans have already experienced this spring is a crucial reminder of just how devastating floods can be," said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.

"As this forecast tells us, the response to this year's flooding is going to be a long effort "“ but we will be standing with all of the affected states, communities and families every step of the way."

"If you haven't already, visit ready.gov to learn more about how you can protect your loved ones, homes and other properties from flooding, including by purchasing flood insurance."

NOAA said the highest flood risk areas throughout the rest of the summer include:

  • North Central U.S. -- Souris River (North Dakota) and Red River of the North (border of North Dakota and Minnesota), Minnesota River (Minnesota), Upper Mississippi River (Minnesota and Iowa), and Des Moines River (Iowa)
  • Lower Missouri River from Gavin's Point (Nebraska and South Dakota border) downstream along the border of Nebraska and Iowa, continuing through the borders of Kansas and Missouri then through Missouri to the Mississippi River
  • Tributaries to the Lower Missouri including the James and Big Sioux Rivers in North Dakota
  • Lower Ohio River Valley including the White, Wabash and lower Ohio River
  • East of Rockies: North Platte River in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska and Yellowstone River in Wyoming and Montana
  • West of Rockies: Utah and Colorado

Many factors are contributing to this year's ongoing flood threats, including persistent rainfall last summer and fall, a substantial winter snowpack across much of the upper Midwest, an unusually cool and wet spring that resulted in additional snowpack in the higher elevations of the Rockies and saturated soil in lower elevations and in the northern Plains, and above-normal to record river levels for this time of year in the at-risk areas.

NOAA said FEMA has been working in the affected areas for months to help prepare for and respond to these threats.   Additional information about FEMA's efforts can be viewed at http://blog.fema.gov/search/label/Floods.

In the mean time, NOAA offered the following flood safety tips to residents:

  • Determine whether your community is in a flood-risk area and continue monitoring local flood conditions at http://water.weather.gov.
  • Visit http://www.ready.gov for flood preparedness advice to safeguard your family, home and possessions and for more information about the National Flood Insurance Program.
  • Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio receiver with battery power option to stay apprised of quickly changing weather information.
  • Study evacuation routes in advance and heed evacuation orders.
  • Turn Around, Don't Drown "“ never cross flooded roads, no matter how well you know the area or how shallow you believe the water to be.


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