The National Weather Service has released the first of its three spring flood forecasts.

David Pearson is a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Omaha. He says the outlook is “grim” for western Iowans who live along the Missouri River below Sioux City. The soil in the Missouri River basin is saturated.

“The ability for rain to soak in is limited and that just leads to more run-off, more water going into the rivers — which then, in turn, leads to more flooding potential,” he says.

For the second year in a row, the risk of major flooding along the Mississippi River on the eastern side of Iowa is high. National Weather Service Hydrologist Jessica Brooks says there’s more snow is on the ground in Minnesota and Wisconsin than there was at this time last year.

“A lot of the Mississippi is very close to a 95 percentile for major flood stage, so we have pretty high confidence that we’re going to be nearing or even exceeding even major flood stage along much of the Mississippi River,” she says.

More flood projections will be released in late February and mid-March.

Yesterday, Governor Kim Reynolds signed legislation that sets aside $21 million in state money for flood-related projects.

(By Iowa Public Radio’s Katie Peikes and WVIK’s Michelle O’Neil)