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Chances for Missouri River flooding?

02/22/2012 @ 1:47pm

After experiencing the largest volume of floodwaters in 2011 since record keeping started in the nineteenth century, will the Missouri River flood similarly this spring? 

With 1.4 million acres of farmland susceptible, that question, on the minds of many farmers, is certainly one up for discussion but tough to answer.

Drier than Normal

In a conference call with numerous U.S. Army Corps of Engineers experts, the general consensus was that any flooding in 2012 would be sparked by rainfall compared to last year's source of snowmelt.

Because of a drier than normal Midwest winter, the conditions for flooding have been diminished, Army Corps officials say.

Snowpack in the upper mountainous areas of the Missouri River Basin is below normal, according to Ross Wolford, Missouri River Basin forecast center spokesperson. "No flooding is seen in the Basin, due to snowmelt, based on current conditions. However, things could change with a few months to go and spring rains coming around the corner," Wolford says. 

In fact, history shows that Missouri River flooding has occurred each of the last 25 years somewhere along the Basin.

As a result, the government is putting millions of dollars toward fixing levees along the Missouri River. 

Col. Anthony Hofmann, commander and district engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District, says the resources have been allotted to repair broken levees.

"From Rulo, Nebraska to the mouth of the Mississippi River in St. Louis, Missouri, 3,000 of the 5,000 levee structures were damaged. The value of repairs totals $19.0 million. But, we have been given the sufficient resources and now it's time for us to fix the levees," Col. Hofmann says.

The mild winter weather has allowed the government to get a head start on fixing damaged levees. "It's been a good start for construction. The favorable weather is promising. That is on our side and we are taking advantage of that as much as we can," Col. Hofmann says.

Below the Dams

One of the hardest hit areas of the Missouri River flooding includes a span from Plattsmouth, Nebraska to St. Louis, Missouri, Corps officials say. It's that area that is the most difficult to defend against major flooding, Jody Farhat, Army Corps of Engineers Chief of the Missouri River Basin Water Management, says.

"This area is at greater risk of flooding since our ability to affect peak stages diminishes as we move downstream. If we get a heavy rainfall event in central Missouri, we have less ability to reduce those peak stages. The farther below the dams we go, the less we can control," Farhat says.

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