August 21, 2014

Corps: Repeat of 2011 Missouri River flooding “highly unlikely”

Missouri River near Council Bluffs in 2011

Missouri River near Council Bluffs in 2011

The experts say major flooding on the Missouri River is not likely this year, but the runoff forecast in the basin above Sioux City has risen to 121% of normal, according to the U-S Army Corps of Engineers.

Jody Farhat, chief of the Corps’ Missouri River Basin Water Management Division in Omaha, says while mountain snowpack is above average, they don’t expect a repeat of the widespread flooding of 2011.

“Runoff in the Missouri basin comes from three sources: plains snowpack, mountain snowpack and rainfall,” Farhat says. “It’s important to remember that the 2011 flood was the result of high runoff from all three of these sources. Currently, only one of those three conditions exists today, the above-normal mountain snowpack, so a repeat of the 2011 flood is highly unlikely.”

Farhat says there is better communication now compared to three years ago.

“We do a lot more coordination now with the other federal agencies, the state climatologists and local folks on developing our runoff forecast and that’s a pretty significant change,” Farhat says. “We’re working with all of the folks that are gathering data and making sure that we’re all singing of the same sheet of music.”

Dennis Todey, the South Dakota state climatologist who works with the Corps on forecasting, says the heavy rain storms that kicked off the massive 2011 flooding were very unusual.

“We can’t give any kind of a long-range outlook to say that something like that kind of storm in Montana in 2011 could or couldn’t happen again, but from a climatological perspective, that was a freakishly large storm where you had 50% of your annual rainfall in one event,” Todey says. “People need to understand that about how bizarre that precipitation event really was.”

Farhat says the only areas that may see some minor flooding this year are downstream in Kansas and Missouri.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton