April 18, 2014

One plus from the drought — Nebraska faces lower risk of flooding

Gavins Point Dam

Gavins Point Dam

While many farmers, ranchers and others across Nebraska are concerned about another year of drought ahead, there are some who are also worrying about the possibility of flooding.

Kevin Lau, at the Missouri River Basin Forecast Center, expects lesser chances of flooding across much of the region this year, mostly due to the dry conditions.

“Below-average stream flow conditions in the fall, lower-than-normal fall rains, current soil moisture conditions, and the lack of much Plains snowpack all point to a diminished risk for significant flooding due to Plains snowmelt in 2013,” Lau says. “This does not mean the chance of flooding is non-existent. As we saw last spring, flooding can occur even under drier-than-normal soil conditions.”

There is concern over whether or not reservoirs surrounding the basin will be able to release proper amounts of water downstream and into the Missouri River for this winter and into the spring and summer months.

Lau says at this point in the winter, the basin has normally accumulated about 40-percent of the seasonal peak in snow-water equivalent from the mountains.

While it may seem obvious that a continued drought would mean a much lower risk of flooding, Lau says flooding does remain a possibility.

“Flooding due to ice jams has already occurred along the Loup and North Platte rivers and the threat of ice jam flooding will continue through the winter and into early spring,” he says.

The ground is so dry across the region, one federal forecaster is predicting it would take some eight-feet of snow this winter to make up for the lack of rain and snowfall over the past several months.