Iowans are being reminded about the dangers of flooding as this weekend wraps up Flood Safety Awareness Week. Jeff Zogg, senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service, says the long drought may have pushed the flood risks out of our heads.
“It’s hard to imagine what floods can do since it’s been so dry recently, but people need to keep in mind, flooding is the #1 killer of all severe weather across the United States, on average,” Zogg says. “Flooding kills more people than tornadoes or any kind of severe thunderstorm activity. It’s definitely something to be reckoned with.”
Zogg says the heavy rains Iowa had earlier this month, along with the warm weather, pushed some rivers beyond their banks, with flooding in Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids.
“The combination of rainfall and snow melt that we had, because the soil was frozen in many areas, it was almost total runoff, so that allowed all of that rain and snow melt to go into the rivers and push the rivers up to levels we haven’t seen in quite some time and definitely break up that ice and start carrying that downstream.”
Zogg says Iowa’s risk of flooding this spring is hovering between normal and below-normal, due to the prolonged drought. “If the rains do start falling this spring, the timing is everything,” Zogg says. “If the soil does manage to thaw out before the rains fall, a lot of that will soak in. As we saw a little over a week ago, if we get that rainfall on frozen soil, it will run off and that will increase the flood threat. The greatest threat of flooding is mainly east of Interstate 35 across the eastern part of Iowa.”
For more on flood safety, visit: www.floodsafety.noaa.gov
By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City