The weather across the region lately has been warmer and wetter than normal and it has the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shifting gears to anticipate higher water on the Missouri River.
John Remus, chief of the Corps’ Missouri River Basin Water Management Division, says they’re preparing for the season ahead.
“Flood risk management remains our primary consideration as we move into 2019,” Remus says. “Runoff above Sioux City in 2018 was approximately 167% above average and floodwater stored in the annual flood control zones of the reservoirs is being evacuated in preparation for the 2019 runoff season.”
While the Corps is dedicated to preventing flooding, Remus says the results of Mother Nature’s actions often can’t be controlled.
“It’s important to understand that floods can and will occur regardless of basin or system conditions,” Remus says, “including ice-induced flooding during the winter and flooding due to spring and summer thunderstorms, particularly along the lower Missouri River.”
Corps meteorologist Chuck McWilliams, from the Hydrologic Engineering Branch in Omaha, says the weather conditions at this early stage of the winter are atypical.
“Bottom line, as anyone can attest who’s been outside anywhere in the Missouri River basin, it’s been a very mild last several weeks with temperatures well above average,” McWilliams says. “In many cases, when there has been precipitation, particularly in the lower part of the basin, we’ve been looking at rainfall as opposed to snow and in some of those places where they have seen snow, it hasn’t persisted for very long.”
Releases of water from Gavins Point Dam were raised last week to 24,000 cubic feet per second (CFS). The average flow is between 12-and-17,000 CFS.
Remus says the higher releases will provide additional hydropower generation during the winter, which is one of the peak power demand periods. They’ll also benefit municipal and industrial water intakes below Gavins Point, which can be impacted by low water levels when there’s a lot of ice.