National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Outlook Valid
Spring 2020

Last Updated
February 13, 2020


Based on current conditions, the risk of flooding is near average to above average. The greatest risk of flooding is in the Rock and Fox River basins.

 

The spring flood outlook is updated each February and March. Next scheduled updates Feb 27 and Mar 12.

Risk Factors for Spring Flooding

 

To determine the relative risk of spring flooding, numerous factors are considered including snow cover, soil moisture, and current river conditions. A significant snow cover with high water content can increase the chances of flooding once warmer weather melts the snow. Elevated soil moisture conditions reduce the amount of rainfall that is soaked up by the ground and increase the amount of water that then runs off into area streams. Above average river levels reduce the river rise required to reach flood stage, while below average river levels would require an increased amount of river rise to reach flood stage.


 

Spring Flood Risk Factors

 

Here is a general overview of spring flood risk factors across northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana river basins.

Risk Factor Current Condition Effect on Flood Risk
Fall/Winter River Levels Above to Much Above Average Increase
Fall/Winter Soil Moisture Above to Much Above Average Increase
Winter Precipitation (Snow Cover) Below Average Decrease
Winter Temperatures (Frost Depth) Above Average Decrease
Spring Precipitation Unknown -
Spring Temperatures (Snow Melt) Unknown -


Valid February 12, 2020.

 

Current Snow Cover and Snow Water Equivalent

 

Modeled snow cover (below, left) across the area ranges from near 0 inches to near 8 inches, which contains 0 inches to 1 inch of water equivalent (below, right). The deepest snow cover was in far northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. The majority of the area had snow water equivalent values of less than 1 inch.

Current Modeled Snow DepthCurrent snow water equivalent

Valid February 12, 2020. Click here for the latest midwest snow analysis information.

 

Current Soil Moisture and Frost Depth

 

Modeled soil moisture values across the area (below) range from slightly above average to much above average, with the highest values in far northern Illinois and south central Wisconsin. In far northwestern Indiana, soil moisture values range from the 90th to 95th percentile for mid February while widespread areas of values increase to the 99th percentile in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Frost depth ranged from 0 to 10 inches across area river basins, with most areas at 3-5 inches.

Valid February 12, 2020. Click here for the latest soil moisture information from the Climate Prediction Center.

 

Current River Conditions

 

River levels across the area (below) ranged from near average to above average. The highest river levels were in the Rock River basin in northern Illinois.

USGS streamflow conditions for the United States

River ice spotters report generally ice-free conditions across area rivers. Cold temperatures in the near future may cause an increase in river ice cover. River ice may still cause ice jams this spring, but confidence is low as of this outlook.

Valid February 11, 2020. Click here for the latest streamflow conditions from the USGS.

 

Spring Weather Outlook

 

The long term (next couple months) outlook from the Climate Prediction Center indicates near equal changes of below average, near average, or above average temperatures and precipitation.

Although snow cover, soil moisture, and recent river levels can provide some indication of the relative risk of spring flooding, any weather system that produces heavy rainfall could cause flooding. Spring flood outlooks are not able to assess the risk of flooding due to heavy rainfall more than a week or so in advance.

 

Detailed Flood Outlook

 

Click here for the detailed Spring Flood Outlook which includes tables with probabilities of flooding along area rivers. Relative flood risk can also be viewed on the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (AHPS) page for our area.

Temperature
 

Temperatures for Winter 2019-2020 (through January) averaged about 6.0F above the climatic average in northeast Illinois.

*Temperatures for the entire winter of 2019-2020, and the graphic, will be updated in March.

December January February Temperature Anomaly

Precipitation
 

Precipitation for Winter 2019-2020 through January averaged about 0.8 inches above the climatic average in northeast Illinois.

*Precipitation for the entire winter of 2019-2020, and the graphic, will be updated in March.

December January February Precipitation Anomaly

Snowfall
 

The first measurable snowfall (>0.1 inches) across northeast Illinois generally occurred in mid-October. The first measurable snow in northwest Indiana generally occurred in early November. As of February 12, 2020, the season-to-date snowfall ranged from 10 to 30 inches across the area, with the highest totals (over 20 inches) to the northwest. Observed snowfall ranges from much below the climatic average in northwest Indiana to slightly above average (100-125%) in some portions of western and northwestern Illinois.

Heavy river ice conditions in January caused ice jams leading to minor flood impacts in a few areas.

Winter 2018/2019 first snowfallObserved season-to-date snowfallObserved season-to-date snowfall anomaly

Temperature
 

Temperatures were generally below the climatic average across northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana during Fall 2019. Temperatures trended more toward below average values when moving from southeast to northwest. Almost all areas experienced temperatures about 1-2F below average.

September October November Temperature Anomaly

Precipitation
 

Precipitation was generally above the climatic average across northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana during Fall 2019. Precipitation was heaviest to the northwest near the Illinois/Wisconsin/Iowa border. Portions of northwest Indiana experienced precipitation about 125-150% of average while north central and northwest Illinois experienced precipitation greater than 200% of average.

September October November Precipitation Anomaly