By Becca Habegger, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
The Mississippi River in Dubuque Sunday afternoon
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- Water-saturated soil and heavy snow accumulation in Wisconsin and Minnesota mean Mississippi River flooding.
"It's guaranteed that it's going to happen at this point," National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Pierce said.
A graph at the NWS station in Davenport showed a 98 percent chance of at least minor flooding at the majority of measuring points along the Mississippi River, from Dubuque to Keokuk. Chances for moderate flooding ranged from 98 percent to 78 percent, and there was even strong possibilities of major flooding at certain measuring points on that stretch of the river.
"The main contributors that are going to add to the Mississippi River flood are going to be the Minnesota and Wisconsin Rivers," Pierce said, "and those are major tributaries that are going to have an awful lot of snowmelt that happens on them."
He said near-record snowfall in Wisconsin and Minnesota - plus a very wet autumn saturating those states' soil with moisture - will result in a lot of snowmelt going right into the Mississippi River.
"The main stem Mississippi has an enhanced risk of a moderate to major flood on it during spring snow melt. We had a very wet fall up across Minnesota and Wisconsin and early winter, and soil moisture is much above normal, if not at record levels. They also have an above-normal snowpack going on up there, which has an awful lot of water content in it, and they are also now currently getting another snowstorm up there, adding to the already-heavy snowpack that they have," he said.
"The absolute worst possible scenario would be to have a rapid warm-up and then to have heavy rain falling on top of the snowpack up north and melt it all within a matter of days," Pierce said. "We are hoping that does not happen."
As for the recent heavy snowfalls in Minnesota and Wisconsin, he said, "the fact that we're getting more snow up north is not going to help the situation at all."
He said the snowpack up there is already at 7 to 14 inches, and the snowfall on top of that will only increase the potential for flooding.
Sunday's rain in Iowa also contributed to the rising of other rivers. The Wapsipinicon River was at a minor flood stage near De Witt in Clinton County.
"The Wapsipinicon does have its headwaters up in Minnesota. The Maquoketa: northern Iowa. The Cedar and the Iowa do have their origins up in southern Minnesota, so all those tributaries have a slightly-elevated risk of minor flooding going right now, but not nearly the extent as the Mississippi," Pierce said.
He said the best snowmelt scenario would be a gradual one, without added rain or snowfall in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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