COLUMBIA, Mo. – The stage is set for more spring flooding in Missouri, said University of Missouri Extension climatologist Pat Guinan. “A lot will depend on the weather patterns that set up over the region in the next few weeks,” he said.
Missouri farmers, still reeling from 2019 weather woes, face a greater than 50% chance of moderate flooding on mainstream rivers and their tributaries again, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts for the Midwest and Missouri River basin.
Specifically, a moderate flood risk extends along the Mississippi River bordering Missouri as well as its tributaries north of St. Louis. A moderate flood risk also extends along the Missouri River and its tributaries from Rulo, Nebraska, to the mouth at St. Louis.
Extremely wet soil conditions this past winter laid the groundwork for another troubled growing season in the agricultural world, Guinan said.
This was the third consecutive wet winter in Missouri, he said. It also ranked as the 19th-wettest winter in National Weather Service’s 125 years of records.
“Unusually wet conditions have prevailed since the beginning of 2019, with 10 of 14 months recording above average precipitation,” said Guinan.
Missouri kicked off 2020 with high soil moisture levels across a large portion of the Mississippi and Missouri river basins.
Wet soil conditions from 2019 pushed stream flows well above normal, leaving little capacity in the system to absorb additional water. In addition to wet soils, snowmelt kept river and lake levels high.
Farm fields across Missouri remain saturated or near-saturated. Even normal precipitation could lead to delays accessing fields.
Heavy rains could severely affect spring fieldwork and planting as well as prevent needed nitrogen applications to wheat, according to MU Extension agronomists Greg Luce and Bill Wiebold. They traveled the state last year to assess flood damage and offer extension resources to farmers.
The degree of flooding potential depends in part on spring temperatures, which affect the speed of ice melting across the upper Midwest. To date, fluctuating temperatures have created an ideal slow melt, Guinan said.
The preliminary annual statewide precipitation average for Missouri in 2019 was 53.81 inches, making it the seventh-wettest year on record, Guinan says.
Weather gauges from Missouri Mesonet, National Weather Service and the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRAHS) volunteer network recorded more than 80 inches of rainfall in 2019 in parts of McDonald and Newton counties, and more than 70 inches in several other southwestern Missouri counties and the Bootheel. The extreme wetness carried over into this year.
MU Extension offers flood resources for farmers and ranchers. Visit extension2.missouri.edu/programs/flood-resources.