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Midwest Floods: Taste of Things to Come

NOAA Warns of Flood Risk From Maine to Texas
A group of homes are surrounded by flood waters from the Tippecanoe River south of Monticello , Ind., Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008. Floodwaters began a slow withdrawal across a swath of northern Indiana where surging rivers and streams killed three people and damaged hundreds of homes. (Michael Conroy/AP Photo)

Story: From Texas to Pennsylvania thousands of people were forced to flee floodwaters in more than 250 towns and cities. And the National Weather Service says this week is a taste of things to come. The government issued its outlook for the next three months yesterday, and predicted an UNUSUAL RISK OF FLOODING IN A BROAD ARC from the Northeast to the mouth of the Mississippi. The culprits, said forecasters, are continued rain patterns and melting snow from a rough winter in many states.

As flooding continues to torment southern Missouri, weather watchers in Kansas City are not just worried about what is happening today. They are worried about what could happen tomorrow. “The next couple of months could really be problematic.” Soils are saturated. Ponds are full. Streams are running strong, sometimes too strong. Add it all up, and even average rainfall totals for the next several months could spell disaster. “We’re on the edge of what could become a major problem. No doubt about it, there’s a very, very high likelihood of above-average precipitation. We got wet in October, and it hasn’t stopped yet.” No question, it has been a wet and wacky few months, from the RARE winter flooding now afflicting parts of the state, killing at least five people, to the 24.1 inches of snowfall at Kansas City International Airport this winter, to the tornadoes that swept through southwest Missouri in January. “It indicates we’re going to have a more active season. Whether the events will be catastrophic, whether they will be record-breaking, that’s tough to say. But it appears there will be more events this spring. If we had tornadoes as far north as Springfield this winter, it does give one pause.” Conditions are so soggy that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has cut way back on the amount of water it is releasing into the Missouri River from upstream reservoirs. To ensure that water levels are high enough during the river’s commercial navigation season, which starts April 1, the corps generally releases about 30,000 cubic feet of water per second into the river in March. “We’ve been holding steady at about 9,000, which is very low. The tributary conditions have been so high that all of the needs of the users along the river are met.” 2.63 inches of precipitation have already fallen at Kansas City International Airport in March, above average for the entire month. For the year, the airport is already at 6.7 inches, nearly 3 inches above normal. “Normally, the winter is the driest time of the year. But because we’ve been wet for the past several months now, any heavy rains we get are likely to lead to flooding. The soil just can’t absorb it, so the water just runs right off into the rivers and streams.”
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