Looking ahead: Spring flooding predictions

Published: Jan. 23, 2020 at 7:33 PM CST
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If you escaped last year untouched by any flooding, consider yourself lucky.

2019 marked the wettest year on record for the state of South Dakota.

Though we're in the thick of winter, experts are already looking ahead.

“Where we're sitting right now and where we came from last fall, as wet as things are, even if we have normal precipitation and a normal melt, we're gonna see worse flooding than we normally would,” says Mike Gillespie, a Hydrologist for the National Weather Service.

It's tough to predict exactly what the flooding could look like this Spring.

The severity is dictated by a number of variables.

“We really don't have any kind of storage for any water once we start seeing snowmelt, as far as how much snow is gonna be out there as once it starts to melt, what the water content of that snow is, how fast it's gonna melt. There's still a lot of variables out there that we don't know and we won't know for the next couple of months.”

There are current factors that can help us get a better idea for this Spring.

Sioux Falls is currently running above average on the snowpack for this date.

“We're looking at say 1 to 3 inches of water in the snowpack around i-90. Some areas up North, Flandreau, Brookings, Madison you might have 3 to 5 inches of water already in the snowpack up there.”

Many rivers, lakes, and streams that reached above normal or record-breaking levels in the Falls froze there.

Come this Spring, we'll be forced to face their wrath.

“It's gonna be starting out the year at above flood stage. So, obviously we're gonna be having flooding out there. The Big Sioux it's not above flood levels anywhere but it is above normal. All across the Northern Plains though... had a very wet year last year and has started out with quite a bit of snow through the first half of winter."