Forecasters keeping close eye on river, spring flood conditions

Published 8:49 pm Friday, November 15, 2019

Predictions of above-average rain and snowfall in the upper Mississippi River and Missouri River basins have some forecasters predicting a significant spring flood season for those areas.

And that could have an affect the lower reaches of the Mississippi River, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service Office in Jackson said.

“I think they (weather forecasters) were talking about the ability of the snowpack to build this year, which could end up creating some flooding situations for them and for us eventually, but for them, it could be pretty bad up there,” hydrologist Marty Pope said.

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“Right now the outlook shows “pretty heavy stuff (precipitation) in the Missouri and upper Mississippi River Basin this time, but that does not necessarily mean we’ll have an above normal (flood) season as of now on the Mississippi River,” he said. “It just gives us a higher probability that we will have something like that.

“It just increases our chances of having a fairly decent spring flood season, maybe slightly above normal spring flood season for right now.”

The lower Mississippi River Valley has had an above-average flood season for the past four years, Pope said, and that is expected to continue with high flows with the possibility for a moderate flood or below.

“Everything is going to depend on what we get across the Ohio Valley and the Tennessee Valley,” he said.

He said the normal level for the Mississippi this time of year is 10.2 feet; the present level is 34.5 feet.

“We’re well above normal for right now,” Pope said. “We’re sitting pretty high right now.”

He said the river will fall to about 28 feet, and then go back up the next 25 days, but remain lower than 34 feet.

“What I’m hoping is that we will get a really good freeze up there (in the northern part of the basin) and allow the river to really fall on out. Usually this time of year, you get that really cold blast of air up there and that will allow everything to freeze up there and allow the river to drop down.

“We never got that last year; it didn’t freeze up until the river was high,” he said.

Presently, he said, the upper Mississippi River and the Missouri River valleys are going to expect above-normal precipitation that could lead to more of a snowpack, “but right now, everything over the Ohio Valley and Tennessee Valley is normal chances as of now.

“The Ohio Valley itself is either above normal or right near normal. We’ll still have a heightened chance of moderate type flooding along the river like we had this year, maybe less. Of course, everything is depending on the spring rains and the (snow) melt cycle,” he said. “We still have to watch out right now, because the river’s high and it’s susceptible to going back up again, but luckily we’re on a fall.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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