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Will the Snows of '10 Become the Floods of '10?

posted on February 18, 2010 at 6:16 PM

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 Much of Iowa has seen excessive amounts of snowfall this winter– with the western part of the state at twice as much and the northwest corner about three times as much snow as usual.

The storms have nearly busted the snow-removal budgets of many communities.  And recovering from storm damage -- from downed trees and power lines to collapsed rooftops – is estimated to cost millions of dollars statewide.

To help with storm recovery costs, Governor Chet Culver has asked President Obama to declare 27 Iowa counties federal disaster areas.  This aid is sought as Iowans still face more winter to come.

And with the current and future snow expected – there are concerns by many that when the snow of 2010 melts, they may have to relive the "floods of 2008".


Can this ….. turn into this? In a post "2008 flood" era, a year where statewide, nine Iowa rivers crested at record levels, parts of many cities laid underwater, crop damage totaled more than one million acres, and loss of livestock was in the thousands …most Iowans may be a little skittish about the weather these days. With much of the state buried under record levels of snow, many expect the worst when it comes to speculation about this year's potential for flooding. And with good reason.

Jeff Johnson, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, National Weather Service: "I think at this point we're pretty--pretty sure that we're going probably see some flooding. It is a question of how bad."

But unlike 2008,  Jeff Johnson of the National Weather Service says the flooding focus is less on Eastern Iowa and more on the Central and Western part of the state.

Jeff Johnson, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, National Weather Service: "If and if you look at snow cover across particularly the Des Moines Basin which is northwest Iowa, parts of the upper Cedar in Iowa which is north central and then over in the Missouri Basin the Boyer river over in the northwest section of the state. We're running considerable above normal as far as snow cover and in turn the amount of liquid in that snow pack, which we call you know the equivalent water potential in that, in that snow pack is extremely high."

This winter finds many cities already over budget on their snow removal and dipping into their road use fund. With so many snowfalls, some residents aren't keeping up with shoveling ... and are being fined. For example, in Des Moines, the number of sidewalk shoveling fines by mid-February totaled more than 750. That's more than double the number of tickets issued last year.

Iowans are dealing with damage from ice dams at their rooflines … fences collapsed under the weight of snow … and possible flat tires from not being able to dodge the multiple potholes many of which were caused from the freezing and thawing of roads. Is there any "good" weather news to hope for in the near future? Well, Jeff Johnson says, that depends. He has both a good news and bad news scenario.

Jeff Johnson, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, National Weather Service: "What we're going to have to see to get out of this without having a major flood would be a slow melt, gradual warm up, and no heavy precipitation in March. Worse case scenario, if you flip that over, would be stay cold and snowy into March and then have a rapid warm up and couple that with heavy rainfall, then we're in trouble."

Johnson says neither scenario can be determined until closer to the end of winter ... which is still over a month away.

Jeff Johnson, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, National Weather Service, Johnston, Iowa: "Another thing to point out to your viewers is that March is the snowiest month in the state on average. So we have that, that climatological peak snow month to go through."

Tags: floods Iowa snow