With normal and above normal temperatures finally returning to the area, our HUGE amount of snow that has plagued the area since December will be dwindling. The first thing that comes to mind with this type of situation is the flood potential as the water starts to flow into the many lakes, creeks, and rivers in the area. Despite the widespread 1 to 3 foot snow pack, the North Central River Forecast Center is NOT expecting widespread heavy flooding. That being said, as with any spring thaw, scattered localized flooding is still likely especially with the large amount of ice on area waterways which will create a recipe for ice jams. The jams can cause a very quick and significant rise in water levels in local spots throughout the next several weeks.
So what is the spring flood potential?? Well, despite the large amount of snow, and the several inches of water stored in that snow (which can be seen in the picture below) the spring runoff looks near or sub average. But this entirely depends on temperatures and precipitation seen over the next month. Here is the current spring flood outlook. These are maps that show the chances for minor, moderate, or major flooding at river gauges across the north central US.
Amount of Liquid Water Locked Away in the Snow
Minor Flood Potential
Moderate Flood Potential
Major Flood Potential
With just about any spring thaw, minor flooding can be expected in many areas, but the current forecast shows that even a little flooding isn't all that likely in most spots. You can see a couple of areas along the Minnesota, St. Croix, and Mississippi show yellow and orange dots indicating a 40 to 80 percent chance of minor flooding… but if you look just to our southeast… parts of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan have widespread areas that exceed 80 percent.
If you move onto the moderate flood potential, percentages get even lower and the major flood potential across our area is pretty much nill. But again, this is under the current conditions with normal precipitation and temperatures over the next few weeks. If a large storm were to arrive and drop an inch or two of rain or another foot or two of snow, then the flood forecast will change drastically. This is one of those times when just one storm can cause major issues. Keep your fingers crossed and stay away from the creeks, streams, and rivers as they start to rise.