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Chances Of Major Flooding Drop Along Mississippi River, But Risk Is Still Above Normal

Kate Payne
IPR file
Muscatine was one of many Mississippi River communities to see flooding in 2019.

The risk of major flooding this spring is above normal along the Mississippi River, but it looks better than it did a couple weeks ago according to a new flood outlook released Thursday by the National Weather Service.
The weather service says the probability of getting to major flood stage has decreased “substantially." The risk of major flooding projected for a flood gauge in Keithsburg, Ill. has dropped from 94 percent to a 59 percent chance, for example, the weather service said.

Jessica Brooks, a service hydrologist with the National Weather Service in the Quad Cities, said snow has been melting and moving down the Mississippi River, which has brought the flood risk down.

“That gets it out of the system and we’re starting from, maybe not square one, but maybe square two, because there is still some snow up in Minnesota and Wisconsin,” Brooks said, “but the aerial extent of that is much less.”

Recent dry weather has also helped bring the flood risk down, but it remains elevated because of very wet soil in much of the Upper Missouri River Basin. Brooks said there is still a lot of uncertainty as to how much the river will rise.

“What we’re hoping is we can get all that water through the system with minimal impacts and let the river fall down a bit before we get into our peak rainfall season here in April and May,” Brooks said.

Brooks said she is expecting the river to start climbing steadily over the next week. It could rise above flood stage in some areas by the end of March. 

During a National Weather Service call on Thursday, Corey Loveland with the North Central River Forecast Center called the Mississippi River from Dubuque to Burlington a "primary area of concern."

"Our primary area of concern is Mississippi River from Dubuque down to Burlington for major flooding there, and then downstream, mostly a moderate flooding risk, greater than 50 percent chance of that happening, basically from Keokuk, Iowa down to St. Louis," Loveland said. 

Loveland said there's also concern about the Iowa River at Marengo in Iowa County, where there is a greater than 50 percent chance of moderate flooding expected.

Katie Peikes is IPR's agriculture reporter