Part of the cause of the Missouri River flooding in western Iowa is the deep snow pack in the Rocky Mountains. John Lawson is the Wyoming Area Manager for the Great Plains Region of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The office manages reservoirs and dams far upriver from the Missouri and Lawson says the scene for the current flooding was set months ago.

“We started getting a snow pack building way above average early on, even as early as February and it continued on until we finally got to record heights of snow pack,” he says. Snow pack refers to the amount of water contained in the snow, and while the bureau’s records on snow pack only date back to the early 1980s, Lawson says people have been measuring river flows for much longer.

He says, “We are forecasting inflows into our reservoir system that you would have to go back to somewhere around 1917 to find the kind of flows that we’re talking about and that we’re predicting that we’re going to get over the next 30 to 45 days.” While Iowa’s already seen temperatures topping off in the 90s and even above 100-degrees, Lawson says the record snow pack in Wyoming hasn’t melted much yet.

“We’re about 327% above average with regard to water content in the snow,” Lawson says. “We are dealing with a very unusual situation. Actually, it’s a situation we have no records of to judge by.” Lawson says the bureau has been releasing water from reservoirs upstream in anticipation of the melting snow. Iowans along the Missouri River are being warned the flooding could last for many weeks, even months.

By Josh Mackey, KOGA, Ogallala, NE