Hydrologists predict an “average” flood risk in much of the Missouri River Basin this spring, in large part due to dry conditions, as much of the region is experiencing moderate to severe drought.

Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center, says soils in the basin are dry and have a lot of room to take in water from rain and melting snow, which lowers the flood risk. Fuchs says, “Think of them as a big sponge, that when they are dry and there’s room in that profile for moisture to get in, any type of rain that hits them is going to get soaked in.”

Parts of northwest Iowa are shown to be in severe and extreme drought in this week’s map from the U.S. Drought Monitor. Fuchs says the ground will be able to take in moisture from runoff, but if those soils aren’t replenished, plants aren’t going to have the moisture deep enough in the soil to tap into and grow.

“It’s kind of a balancing game of getting that moisture into the soil so plants can utilize it if it does get dry and drought starts developing,” Fuchs says. “And if you don’t have that, what you end up seeing is the impact of that drought really taking off more so in a hurry than if that moisture was there.”

Fuchs says he expects the drought to persist in the High Plains through June. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting no major flooding across the country for the first time in three years.

(By Katie Peikes, Iowa Public Radio)