With high temperatures expected in the 60s across a wide section of Iowa Thursday, the state’s climatologist says the winter warm-up could help reduce the state’s flood risk later in the season. Harry Hillaker says the sooner all of the existing snow melts, the better. Hillaker says the risk of flooding increases significantly if snowpack is still present by early March.

“Once we get to that point in the season, it’s almost certain things are going to warm up quickly, the longer days, and whatever snow is left will melt rapidly,” Hillaker says. Also, he says there’s a very good chance of having additional rainfall on top of that snowmelt, creating more runoff. He says central, southwest and west-central Iowa, which have the least snowpack, could see most of it melt this week.

Hillaker says this warm-up is the first big break of its kind from the cold Iowa’s had since around New Year’s Eve. “Since then, we haven’t had much more than a few hours here and there where temperatures have been much above freezing to melt the snow,” he says, “but this week has helped turn that around.” He notes that we’re making substantial progress at getting rid of snow around the state.

Hillaker says the more snow that’s gone before next month, the lower the risk of flooding from heavy runoff this spring. He adds there’s a good chance Iowa will see more snowfall before winter is over.