Iowa Flood Center says heavy snowfall may increase risk of spring flooding

Published: Feb. 18, 2019 at 9:27 PM CST
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Cedar Rapids is nearing 2008 levels for snowfall, which has a lot of people worried about spring flooding. It's about a foot less than this time in 2008, but is still one of the highest on record.

Iowa Flood Center Associate Director Nathan Young said snowfall, temperature and rainfall are all major drivers to cause flooding. There's also still a lot of winter left, though.

"It's really going to be dependent on how quickly things warm up and how quickly the snow melts, how quickly the ground thaws and then of course how much rainfall we get early in the Spring," said Young.

With above-average soil moisture levels across the state, Young said more snow melt can get into area rivers, potentially causing flooding.

"If the soil moisture is high, the soil doesn't have as much ability to take in moisture from the surface," said Young. "So, it runs off the surface directly into streams and causes flooding further downstream."

But there's still a huge chance it won't be as severe as 2008 because a dry spell in the Spring could even things out.

The flood center said even though snowfall totals are close to 2008, that wasn't actually a huge part of what made it as bad as it was.

"We've had a very wet winter but some of the research we've done here indicated the timing of the snowmelt relative to the rainfall we received," said Young. "The snow melt was not really a significant factor in terms of what happened in 2008. It was really the early summer, fall events that we experienced "

The Flood Center said, all in all, it could still go either way.

"Anytime we have heavy snow pack it's good to be cautious, pay close attention to the weather so we can anticipate and respond to any events that might develop," said Young.

The National Weather Service will conduct their spring forecast on Thursday, which will hopefully answer some more of these questions when it comes to potential flooding.