Weather Service says Iowa at risk for flooding, 1st Ld-Writethru, IA

Associated Press

DES MOINES  — Iowa is at risk for significant flooding this spring, the National Weather Service says.

At some of the highest risk for flooding are cities along the Des Moines River from the Minnesota border to the Des Moines area, including Estherville, Algona, Fort Dodge and Des Moines. At risk for moderate flooding are areas along the Mississippi River from the Quad Cities south.

Other parts of eastern Iowa have a minor to moderate flood risk, while most of central and northwest Iowa will be at high risk.

The weather service's spring flood outlook comes as some eastern Iowa cities are still rebuilding from the floods of 2008, which caused an estimated $10 billion in damage statewide.


The predictions are based on the state receiving normal amounts of precipitation this spring, said Brad Small of the National Weather Service's Des Moines office. The predictions cover February through April.

Factors contributing to the flood risk include above-normal soil moisture and river flows statewide, Small said. Another factor is the snowpack, which ranges from 1 to 4 inches across the state, with the highest amounts in the northwest.

"The best-case scenario is that we melt the snow gradually and have below-normal precipitation heading into the spring," Small said. "The worst-case scenario is we warm up quickly and get heavy rains coincident with each other."

The floods of 2008 were the result of heavy precipitation in late spring.

National Weather Service meteorologist Rod Donavon said communities most at risk for flooding should monitor forecasts and prepare for high water.

"Unlike 2008, now we know the moisture is in place," Donavon said. "It's not going to occur overnight."

Polk County Emergency Management Director A.J. Mumm said county officials are doing everything they can to prepare. He said that his office is accessing available resources and that the public should do the same, whether that involves buying insurance or making emergency plans.

"All the ingredients are there for (2008-level flooding), but there is time for things to work themselves out," Mumm said.


Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said there is reason to be worried, particularly since his city is still recovering from the 2008 floods, which put about 1,000 city blocks under water.

"It's very easy to be extremely concerned," Corbett said. "It's still so fresh in everyone's mind."

The mayor said he is scheduling public meetings this month and in March to collect as much information as possible.

"Knowing the forecast certainly helps us from a planning aspect," said Corbett, adding that developing a solid plan is his top priority. "In 2008, people felt there was not ample notice. With ample notice, they could have saved more important items."

The National Weather Service will publish an updated flood forecast Feb. 19.

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