SPRING FLOOD OUTLOOK
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
MISSOURI BASIN RIVER FORECAST CENTER
PLEASANT HILL, MO
March 09, 2022
NARRATIVE PART 1 OF 1
ATTN WFO'S SERVED BY MBRFC.
This Spring Flood Outlook is not for public release until Thursday,
10 March 2022.
This Spring Outlook is for the Missouri River drainage which includes
rivers in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North and South Dakota,
Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri.
SPRING FLOOD OUTLOOK
Flood risk this Spring within the Missouri River basin is generally
To provide context, a normal risk indicates that a location that
typically experiences Spring time flooding is likely to see
flooding again this year. However, a normal risk for flooding does
not necessarily mean that a location is expected to flood. For those
locations which do not typically experience flooding, a normal risk
simply indicates that flooding is again not expected this year. By
the same token, a reduced risk of flooding does not necessarily
mean that flooding is not expected. A good example is the Platte
River in northwest Missouri. Normally there is a 86 percent chance
for flooding during the Spring. This year the likelihood has been
reduced by 35%, down to 51%. The Platte River in Missouri will
still likely experience flooding, although the risk has been
significntly reduced. In a similar fashion, an increased risk
does not necessarily indicate flooding is likely.
Mountain snowpack overall is generally near-to-below normal.
Therefore, widespread, significant flooding in the mountainous west
is not likely due to mountain snowmelt alone. Current Water Supply
Forecasts produced by the National Weather Service project lower
than average April-September runoff volumes for the mountainous west.
More information regarding current Water Supply Forecasts can be
accessed at weather.gov/mbrfc/water
The only appreciable plains snowpack is found in eastern North
Dakota and extreme northeastern South Dakota. Highest reports
of snow water equivalent in this area are upwards of 3.5 inches in
the headwaters of the James River basin.
Water Year 2021, extending from October 2020 through September
2021, was the 17th driest in the 126 year record for the Missouri
River basin. So far, Calendar Year 2022 is the 6th driest on record.
As far as temperatures go, the 3-month period extending December
2021 through February 2022 has been the 30th warmest December
through February on record.
The mild and dry conditions this winter are thought to have
precluded the development of a deeply frozen ground condition.
Frost depths are indeed impressive in some regions, however reports
indicate that the ground remains workable in most areas. Therefore
soils, while indeed cold, are thought capable to absorb some of any
future runoff produced by plains snowmelt, rain-on-snow, or rain
events this Spring. The Dakotas may be the exception to this
generalized assumption. Precipitation received in October,
December, and January benefited soil moisture, especially in the
eastern portion of North Dakota and the extreme northeastern corner
of South Dakota. It is possible that the available soil moisture in
in this area of the Dakotas may have been able to produce a deeply
frozen ground condition. If this is the case, runoff generated by
future springtime plains snowmelt, rain-on-snow, and/or rain events
would be dramatically increased, as the soil infiltration capacity
would be curtailed.
Dry and mild conditions have also resulted in an overall lower than
normal ice jam break up flood risk for the 2021-2022 season. That
is not to say that ice jam flood risk is nonexistent. Elevated
stages due to river ice action have already been reported this
season along the Middle Loup and North Platte Rivers in Nebraska,
the Jefferson and Gallatin Rivers in Montana, and the Wind River in
Wyoming. Impacts thus far have been minor and localized. Ice jam
induced flooding will remain possible in the northern and western
portions of the basin for the next few weeks. Please note, the
probabilistic quantifications that form the basis for this Spring
Flood Outlook can not take into account the presence of river ice.
Springtime flooding in the lower one-third of the basin, including
southeastern Nebraska, southern Iowa, eastern Kansas, and the state
of Missouri, is driven by typical thunderstorm activity. Flooding
is projected to occur again this Spring in this region of the
basin. Minor flooding due to convective activity has already
occurred within the Gasconade River basin located in the Missouri
Ozarks. This demonstrates that flooding can, and does occur, any
time of the year within the Missouri River basin.
The following state by state flood potential discussions are based
on long-range probabilistic river outlooks developed this week.
Again, it must be stressed, these outlooks do not take into account
the presence of river ice.
In South Dakota, the Columbia to Stratford reach of the James River
is expected to see minor to moderate level flooding.
In Iowa, the upper reach of the Little Sioux River could possibly
see minor flooding.
In Kansas, Stranger Creek is expected to have moderate flooding,
while the Marais des Cygnes and Little Osage Rivers are expected
to have minor flooding.
In the state of Missouri, the Grand, Crooked, Blackwater, Moreau,
Tarkio, and South Grand Rivers will experience moderate level
flooding. Wakenda, Petite Saline, and Big Creeks will also have
moderate flooding. The Chariton, Lamine, Big Piney, Gasconade,
Little Osage, Sac, Marmaton and Platte Rivers are all likely to see
minor level flooding, as are Moniteau and Roubidoux Creeks.
As this latest Outlook covers early June, the Missouri River
downstream of Kansas City to the mouth is likely to see episodic,
on-again off-again minor flooding over the next 3 months. Again,
this is due to thunderstorm activity that commonly occurs in this
These projections of river stages are based on current observed
states of streamflow, soil moisture, and snowpack, coupled with
future precipitation and temperature patterns and anticipated
operational hydrologic changes such as reservoir releases and canal
diversions. "Outlooks" are provided for long-range (weeks to months)
projections based on climatological patterns of precipitation and
temperature. "Forecasts" are provided for short-term (days)
projections based on forecast patterns of precipitation and
temperature. The uncertainty of these products varies from
season to season and location to location. The uncertainty of
forecasts tend be less than the uncertainty of outlooks due to
their shorter lead time.
Users of these products are encouraged to contact their nearest
National Weather Service Forecast Office for continued updates of
meteorological conditions which can have significant impacts on
flood preparedness planning and flood fighting activities.
For additional quantitative information please refer to AHPS products
for probabilistic outlooks of potential flooding. Refer to short-term
flood forecasts and products, if any are currently issued, for
information about ongoing or near-term anticipated flooding.
This is the last scheduled Spring Outlook of the season. Should
significant changes occur subsequent to this Outlook, additional
Outlooks can be released to update expected conditions.
Additional river information, including the monthly Water Supply
Outlook, can be accessed at the following URL:
Current Snow Conditions
The conditions listed below are based on observations and model
data as of Wednesday morning, March 9th.
Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming Plains
Snow depths of 1 to 3 inches are being reported across the plains
of Montana, northern Wyoming, and Colorado with water equivalents
generally less than 0.5 inches. Higher snow depths of 3 to 6 are
being reported across the plains of southern Wyoming with water
equivalents generally less than 1.0 inch.
Snowpack conditions in the mountainous areas of the basin are generally
near to below normal. In Montana, the Jefferson, Musselshell, Missouri
headwaters, Sun, Teton, and Marais River basins are reporting a near
normal snowpack (85-110%). The St. Mary and Milk basins are reporting
a near normal snowpack (100-110%). In Wyoming, the Tongue, Bighorn,
Powder, Wind, and Yellowstone River basins are reporting a below
normal snowpack (80-95%). The higher elevations of the North Platte
River basin are reporting a near normal snowpack (90-100%). In
Colorado, the higher elevations of the South Platte River basin are
also reporting a near normal snowpack (95-105%).
Snow depths of 5 to 12 inches are being reported across eastern North
Dakota with water equivalents in the 1.0-3.5 inch range. Snow depths
of 1 to 5 inches are being reported across the remainder of North
Dakota with water equivalents less than 1.0 inch.
The Black Hills in South Dakota have 5 to 10 inches of snow depth
with water equivalents in the 0.5-2.0 inch range. Snow depths
of 2 to 6 inches with water equivalents generally in the 0.5-1.5 inch
range are being reported across the extreme northeastern corner of the
state. The remainder of the state has 1 to 3 inches of snow
with water equivalents less than 0.5 inches.
Snow depths of 1 to 3 inches are being reported across extreme southern
Iowa with water equivalents generally less than 0.3 inches.
Little to no snow is being reported across the remainder of Iowa.
Snow depths of 2 to 4 inches are being reported across the western half
of Nebraska with water equivalents generally less than 0.5 inches.
Little to no snow is being reported across the eastern half of Nebraska.
Snow depths of 2 to 4 inches are being reported across the northern half
of Missouri with water equivalents generally less than 0.5 inches.
Little to no snow is being reported across the southern half of Missouri.
Snow depths of 1 to 2 inches are being reported across Kansas with water
equivalents less than 0.5 inches.
Current Soil Moisture Conditions
The US Drought Monitor indicates that much of the Missouri River basin
is experiencing below normal soil moisture conditions. Extreme to
exceptional drought is indicated across much of Montana. Moderate to
extreme drought is indicated across Wyoming, western Dakotas, western
Nebraska, and western Kansas. Abnormally dry to moderate drought is
indicated across much of the remainder of the Missouri River basin.
Isolated frost depth reports suggest that soils across Montana, Wyoming,
South Dakota, and North Dakota have frost penetration ranging from 1-4 feet.
Frost depths of less than 1 foot are being reported across Nebraska, Iowa,
Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri.
Current River Conditions
A large majority of rivers across the northern half of the Missouri River basin
are iced over. Generally, river levels across the basin are currently running
near to below normal, or estimated to be so if the rivers are frozen. The
exception is across southern Missouri where rivers are running near to above
A summary of river flow conditions at selected river stations for
March 9th follows:
Long Term Current
Mean (CFS) (CFS)
James River - Huron, SD 210 60 (EST)
Big Sioux River - Akron, IA 950 450 (EST)
Platte River - Louisville, NE 8350 7620
Kansas River - Desoto, KS 3440 1840
Gasconade River - Jerome, MO 2470 8290
Missouri River - Omaha, NE 19600 14800
Missouri River - Rulo, NE 30200 24400
Missouri River - St. Joseph, MO 35200 25600
Missouri River - Waverly, MO 42200 32500
Missouri River - Hermann, MO 70500 50600