Moderate flooding in the Ohio River Valley and lower Mississippi River, and worsening drought in the southern and central Plains, Southwest and California: That’s what forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are predicting for the spring.
“Flooding that began in mid-February is still ongoing for parts of the middle and lower Mississippi Valley and is forecast to continue for at least the next few weeks,” Thomas Graziano, director of NOAA’s Office of Water Prediction, said in a news release on NOAA’s spring weather outlook.
In addition, NOAA said that while it’s still too early to determine final spring flooding potential across the Western U.S., “substantial snowpack” in the Northern Rockies is likely to cause parts of Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming and Utah to experience snowmelt flooding in the spring. “The duration and intensity of flooding will depend on future precipitation and temperatures,” NOAA said.
NOAA said that through May, there also is likely to be moderate flooding in the lower Mississippi Valley, parts of the Ohio River Basin, the Illinois River Basin, and in parts of the lower Missouri River Basin.
USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey said on a NOAA teleconference with reporters Thursday morning that “the evidence is pointing to a wet spring, especially in some of the northern reaches of the Midwest.” The wet weather, coupled with wet soils, may lead to “local if not regional planting delays in the Midwest to the Mid-South,” he said.
But Rippey also noted that late planting also occurred last year across much of the Corn Belt and there was still a record corn crop produced. “We can’t get too excited about planting delays at this point,” he said.
Drought continues to be a problem in much of the lower 48 states, NOAA said. “More than a quarter of the country is currently experiencing drought from Southern California into the Southwest, the northern and southern High Plains, and parts of the Southeast,” NOAA said. “Drought is likely to persist in most of these areas and potentially expand by late June.”
The winter wheat crop in the Southern Plains has been hit especially hard. The most affected have been growers in the Okahoma Panhandle, northern Texas around Amarillo and Lubbock, western Kansas and southeastern Colorado.
For some growers in those areas, lack of rain since October has meant the total loss of their crop, while others need rain in the next week or so before it’s too late for them.
Much of the West and South is expected to receive below-average precipitation through June, in an area “extending from California to the south-central Plains, including Texas and parts of Oklahoma,” NOAA said.
“Drought is likely to worsen or develop across much of the Southwest quadrant of the contiguous United States this spring,” NOAA said. “Pockets of drought are predicted to continue in the Southeast and Oregon.”
In northern California, NOAA said that drought development should be limited despite the below-average snowpack “due to the 2016-17 wet season, most reservoir levels currently near average, and precipitation during the latter half of March.”
Other areas, however, are expected to recover from drought-like conditions. “Drought improvement should occur in the northern Plains and lower Missouri Valley where above-average precipitation is expected during a normally wet time of year,” NOAA said.
NOAA experts anticipate above-average temperatures for most of the U.S., with the “greatest likelihood of above-average temperatures” extending from the Southwest across Texas and the Gulf Coast.
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