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Minor flooding underway on the Mississippi River

May 15, 2024   The Hawk Eye

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The National Weather Service says minor flooding is happening on the Mississippi River at Burlington, a change from spring 2023 when the water reached 20 feet.


“The river is currently under a flood warning and is forecast to crest around 15 feet (minor flood stage) tonight (Tuesday), and remain around 15 feet before beginning a slow fall over the weekend,” said Rich Kinney, a meteorologist with the NWS of the Quad Cities.


“The primary impact at 15 feet is flooding of some agricultural land,” said Kinney.


With the current outlook, the city will be able to take a breather from seasonal flooding.


“I do not have concern about where we are at today,” said Nick MacGregor, city public works director.


“Obviously things can change and it can happen relatively quickly,” he noted, however, “I have seen no outlook that shows anything of concern.”


The rise in water levels is a result of recent heavy rains in the Mississippi and tributary basins.


“This differs from last year where the flooding was caused by snow pack and rain events in Minnesota and Wisconsin,” said MacGregor.


The Mississippi River crested at 20 feet at Burlington on May 4, 2023, requiring flood barriers and cleanup by city workers. A record level of 25.7 feet was reached on June 17, 2008.


After this weekend’s crest of 15.10 feet, water levels are expected to slowly recede to 14 feet after Tuesday.


The NWS determines flood risk by examining seasonal temperatures and precipitation, snow cover, frost depth, soil moisture, drought conditions and stream flow along the Upper Mississippi River Valley.


Additionally, streamflows are largely normal to below normal.


“The risk level on most of the area’s tributaries has remained the same below normal risk, due to the fact that the current simulations have been looking at the threat caused by spring rainfall, since there is no local snowpack,” the NWS said in its third Spring Flood Outlook in March.


Water creeped up to the riverfront last year requiring flood barriers, but presently, according to MacGregor, “We will not have to do anything for flood protection.”


“At 16 feet we have a storm sewer valve we need to close and then another at 18 feet. This involves taking down some stormwater pumps to have during rain events as we disconnect the storm sewer from the river. At 18 feet we need to use Hesco barriers south of the Auditorium to ring a storm mixing chamber that equalizes with the river height. At 19 feet we insert the panels in the gaps in the wall,” he explained.


The NWS lists 135 historic crests, dating back to 1880 (15.80 feet). The lowest crest noted was 7.7 feet on July 5, 1931.


As for weather in the upcoming months, we may have lots of opportunities to soak in the sunshine.


“Probabilities are leaning slightly toward above normal temps through the summer. For precipitation, there is no strong climate signal. In other words, equal chances of above normal, near normal, or below normal precipitation,” said Kinney.


The Farmers’ Almanac Summer Weather Forecast 2024 calls for “a warm, hot, and muggy summer for most of the nation.”


Areas in the North Central region (that includes Iowa) “are predicted to see a seesaw of summer temperatures with an overall warm season, but with occasional cold Canadian air blowing in,” the Almanac says.