River levels appear headed down this morning after many waterways in eastern and central Iowa swelled near or beyond flood stage. Maren Stoflet, a hydrologist at the National Weather Service office in the Quad Cities, says the surge was caused by a couple of factors. 

“It was the rainfall that fell on the snowpack which caused that to melt pretty rapidly and then the additional rainfall that ran off, so those things combined caused rivers to rise in and of itself,” she says. “That, combined with any ice pack on the river, caused some local problems.”

The Rock River in the Quad Cities went beyond flood stage and some residents on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities were evacuated this weekend. “It looks the locations that saw flooding as far as eastern Iowa would have been the Iowa River and also the Skunk River,” Stoflet says.

Craig Cogil, a senior forecaster at the National Weather Service office in suburban Des Moines, says the amount of snow and the warm temperatures this weekend combined to cause the flooding, and it was exacerbated by the ice.

“The rivers that at least here in central Iowa caused the most problems (were) that Raccoon River — we had some ice jamming that began out by Van Meter and worked its way down into West Des Moines — and then also the Chariton River down by Chariton,” he says. “Both had higher waters due to the ice jamming.”

Jeff Reese, the hydrologist at the National Weather Service office in suburban Omaha, monitors river levels in western Iowa. “We have had a lot of erratic gauge readings which is common when you have cold conditions out there, specifically sometimes the antennae draws ice on it and that gives you faulty readings or sometimes you just lose the data altogether,” Reese says. “But as far as flooding episodes, nothing to speak of (in western Iowa) so far, though.”

Stoflet, the hydrologist monitoring the eastern third of Iowa, says a lot of Iowa rivers that were flooding have started to fall already this morning. “Not every single one of the points, but for the most part most things have crested,” she says.

Stoflet urges Iowans to check rising river levels at all times of year, even in December. “And when we have these…rainfall events on top of snow, just be aware of how quickly the rivers may rise and take action as need be,” she says.

Cogill, the senior forecaster based in Des Moines, predicts fairer weather throughout the state for the next few days.

“It looks like the weather most of this week should be relatively calm across the state, generally dry weather. The only threat for snow will be on New Year’s Day, primarily in the northeast half of the state, and much of that will be quite light as well,” Cogil says. “Otherwise, pretty good travel weather this week.”