The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has projected that spring flooding in the North Central, Northeast and Midwest sections of the United States will worsen during April. A spring flood outlook released by NOAA stated that nearly half of the U.S. is at above average risk for severe flooding. Many areas in the risk regions are already experiencing flooding. Heavy rains and saturation in the areas will combine with spring thaws of a snowpack that is the highest in 60 years to produce serious flooding conditions.
Several rivers and lakes are at risk, including the Mississippi River from Minnesota through Wisconsin and south to St. Louis. In addition, the U.S. Spring Flood Risk and National Hydrologic Assessment places flooding risk at other rivers and lakes in the risk area: “Other areas of the Midwest primed for major flooding include Devils Lake in North Dakota, the Milk River in Northeastern Montana, the James and Big Sioux Rivers in South Dakota, the Minnesota River, and the Mississippi River from its headwaters near St. Paul, Minnesota, downstream to St. Louis.”
In my own region of southern Illinois, many areas have seen extreme flooding — including flooding of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Harrah’s Casino in Metropolis, Ill., was closed for several days due to high flood stage and other areas such as Elizabethtown and Cairo are experiencing flooding around the Ohio. The ferry at Cave-in-Rock, Ill., in Hardin County is currently closed due to high water on the Ohio River. The ferry transports drivers between Illinois Route 1 and Kentucky Route 91.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website Ready.gov states that 90 percent of all natural disasters in the United States involve flooding. In order to prepare for the high risk of flooding, three steps are encouraged on the Ready.gov website: “Get a kit, make a plan and be informed about your flood risk.”
FEMA encourages anyone living in a flood-prone area to prepare an emergency kit that includes prescription medications, non-perishable food, first aid supplies, flashlights and batteries, bottled water, important papers and more. Making a plan includes planning with your family what to do in the event of an emergency and with the risk of spring flooding in mind, making specific flooding emergency plans. Such plans include what to do if family members are separated, what to do about pets and purchasing flood insurance for your home. Being informed of flood risk means paying attention to flood watches and warnings in your area and understanding the differences in terms regarding watches and warnings for floods and flash floods.
FEMA’s Read.gov site provides comprehensive information for preparing your home and family for flooding. In light of the current threat risk for spring flooding, taking the time to check out the website and follow the recommendations is a wise choice.
Tamara L. Morris developed a special interest in weather issues and natural disasters after a tornado swept through her hometown in 1982. She is certified as a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) member and has served locally in this capacity after a rare derecho struck her area in 2009. Tamara is a trained Skywarn Stormspotter through the National Weather Service and has received interpretive training regarding the New Madrid Seismic Zone through EarthScope–a program of the National Science Foundation. She researches and writes about earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes and other natural phenomena.