River flooding a big concern for the upcoming spring

The National Weather Service in the Quad Cities will release the first spring flood outlook this Thursday, outlining what will likely be a busier season on area rivers as this wild winter continues on.

An impressive amount of snow remains on the ground to the north of the Quad Cities and within this snowfall is quite a bit of water. On average in parts of Wisconsin, this snow contains three or more inches of liquid water. Should all of that snow melt rapidly in the coming weeks, our area rivers will begin to rise rapidly. Closer to home our snowpack here contains between one to two inches of water equivalent, and even a rapid melting of that combined with spring rains could lead to problems.

The amount of moisture that we experienced before the ground even froze was impressive, with the months of November and December racking up a rainfall surplus. Even during the extremely cold months of January and February we still managed to squeeze out an impressive one inch surplus of moisture, and the active pattern shows no signs of slowing down just yet as February rolls on.

The main things we'll need to watch in the next month or two will be the threat for ice jams as the spring thaw arrives, and the rate at which that warmth arrives. If we see a dramatically quick warmup, this will further increase the runoff from the existing snowpack into area rivers. Heavy spring rains will also compound the flooding issues because the ground was already saturated to begin with, and the water has nowhere else to go but directly from the surface of the soil into the river.

Many area rivers have been running higher recently thanks to some ice action and that will still remain a possibility in the coming days as our temperatures remain cold through the end of February.  We'll dig into some of the highlights once that report is released later this week. If you have interests along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, you'll want to stay updated regarding this forecast.

Meteorologist Andrew Stutzke

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