Rapid snowmelt, heavy rain, high soil moisture and elevated frost depths set the stage for record flooding across much of the Great Plains and Midwest this year.
With above-average spring rain likely for many flood-stricken areas, the historic flood threat will continue, expand and worsen over the coming months, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's U.S. Spring Outlook issued Thursday.
Nearly two-thirds of the Lower 48 states face an elevated risk for flooding through May, with the potential for major or moderate flooding in 25 states, including Wisconsin.
Above-average spring precipitation is favored across much of the country, including southern Wisconsin, according to the Climate Prediction Center outlook released Thursday.
“The extensive flooding we’ve seen in the past two weeks will continue through May and become more dire and may be exacerbated in the coming weeks as the water flows downstream,” said Ed Clark, director of NOAA’s National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities.”
While the snow has melted across southern Wisconsin, there are still areas across the Badger State with half a foot of snow on the ground. With predominately mild temperatures expected over the next week, the snowpack to our north will start to erode.
The snowmelt in Wisconsin, and across Minnesota and the Dakotas, could worsen flood conditions over the next few weeks as that water flows downstream into rivers with already full banks across the Upper Midwest.
The areas of greatest risk for moderate to major flooding include the upper, middle and lower Mississippi River basins, including the main stem Mississippi River, Red River of the North, the Great Lakes, eastern Missouri River, lower Ohio, lower Cumberland and Tennessee River basins, according to forecasters.
Dry conditions should persist across southern Wisconsin through Saturday, before rain chances return to the forecast on Sunday.
However, all signs point to flooding being a nearly-constant threat for months to come in Wisconsin.