Record levels in the Iowa and Cedar Rivers raise concern for spring flooding

The Cedar River and Iowa River set record levels this winter for streamflow (the amount of water flowing), for the Iowa River as measured at the Iowa City, Marengo and Wapello gauges.

 The streamflow data for the Iowa River at Iowa City (black line) is compared against historical records (the top of the blue line) — Image courtesy of USGS Waterwatch

The streamflow data for the Iowa River at Iowa City (black line) exceeded historical records (the top of the blue line) in December and January — image courtesy of USGS Waterwatch

Based on current conditions, service hydrologist and meteorologist Jessica Brooks of the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Davenport said the “abnormally wet fall and early winter,” which saturated soils then quickly filled streams and rivers, have raised concerns about flooding. After the wettest December on record in Iowa, freezing temps set in, causing the wet earth to lock in a high amount of moisture that will be released when it thaws.

“These conditions could lead to an enhanced risk for flooding this spring,” Brooks said. “We’re definitely concerned about how spring is going to look. There’s definitely a higher than normal chance for spring flooding.”

December was the wettest month on record in the the U.S. and the city of Des Moines set a record with 5.44 inches of precipitation. Its previous record, set in 1931, was 3.72 inches. In early January, the Mississippi River set a record crest from St. Louis southward.

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