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March 24th, 2008
Current Major Flooding in U.S. a Sign of Things to Come

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Major floods striking America’s heartland this week offer a preview of the spring seasonal outlook, according to NOAA’s National Weather Service.
Several factors will contribute to above-average flood conditions,
including record rainfall in some states and snow packs, which are
melting and causing rivers and streams to crest over their banks. This
week, more than 250 communities in a dozen states are experiencing flood conditions.

The science supporting
NOAA’s short-term forecasts allows for a high level of certainty.
National Weather Service forecasters highlighted potential for the
current major flood event a week in advance and began working with
emergency managers to prepare local communities for the impending
danger. 

“We expect rains and melting snow to bring more
flooding this spring,” said Vickie Nadolski, deputy director of NOAA’s
National Weather Service. “Americans should be on high alert to flood
conditions in your communities. Arm yourselves with information about
how to stay safe during a flood and do not attempt to drive on flooded
roadways – remember to always turn around, don’t drown.”

Nadolski
called on local emergency management officials to continue preparations
for a wet spring and focus on public education to ensure heightened
awareness of the potential for dangerous local conditions. 

Spring Flood Outlook

Flood risk map.

+ High Resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Above-normal
flood potential is evident in much of the Mississippi River basin, the
Ohio River basin, the lower Missouri River basin, Pennsylvania, New
Jersey, most of New York, all of New England, and portions of the West,
including Colorado and Idaho:

  • Heavy
    winter snow combined with recent rain indicates parts of Wisconsin and
    Illinois should see minor to moderate flooding, with as much as a 20 to
    30 percent chance of major flooding on some rivers in southern
    Wisconsin and northern Illinois.
  • Current
    snow depth in some areas of upstate New York and New England is more
    than a foot greater than usual for this time of the year, which
    increases flood potential in the Connecticut River Valley.
  • Locations
    in the mountains of Colorado and Idaho have 150 to 200 percent of
    average water contained in snowpack leading to a higher than normal
    flood potential.

Snowfall has been normal
or above normal across most of the West this winter; however,
preexisting dryness in many areas will prevent most flooding in this
region. Runoff from snow pack is expected to significantly improve
stream flows compared to last year for the West.

Spring Drought Outlook

U.S. Seasonal drought outlook map.

+ High Resolution (Credit: NOAA)

The
drought outlook indicates continued general improvement in the
Southeast, although some reservoirs are unlikely to recover before
summer.  Winter precipitation chipped away at both the western and
southeastern drought. On the U.S. Drought Monitor, extreme drought
coverage dropped from nearly 50 percent in mid-December to less than 20
percent in the Southeast for March.

  • Overall,
    the Southeast had near-average rainfall during the winter with some
    areas wetter than average. Nevertheless, lingering water supply
    concerns and water restrictions continue in parts of the region.
  • Drought
    is expected to continue in parts of the southern Plains despite some
    recent heavy rain. Parts of Texas received less than 25 percent of
    normal rainfall in the winter, leading 165 counties to enact burn bans
    by mid-March. Seasonal forecasts for warmth and dryness suggest drought
    will expand northward and westward this spring.

During
the spring season, weather can change quickly – from drought to
flooding to severe weather, including outbreaks of tornadoes. People
can stay abreast of day-to-day weather fluctuations, as well as
lifesaving advisories, watches and warnings, by purchasing a NOAA Weather Radio All-Hazards receiver and visiting www.weather.gov.

The
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S.
Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and
national safety through the prediction and research of weather and
climate-related events and information service delivery for
transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our
nation’s coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global
Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS),
NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and
the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is
as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.



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