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River flood risk continues to increase, now likely this spring

There is now a 70% probability that the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities will meet or exceed the major flood stage between now and the end of May.

MOLINE, Ill. — An unusually mild winter continues in the Quad Cities and that spells trouble for the upcoming spring season, now less than a week away. The National Weather Service in the Quad Cities says the risk for river flooding in the coming weeks continues to grow. 

The biggest change from the first outlook issued in early February revolves around our recent heavy rain and additional snowfall to the north, along with current river levels. 

It's been no secret that this winter has been easy, especially in terms of snowfall. What we've lacked in snow has been more than made up in terms of rainfall, completely erasing drought conditions throughout much of the Quad Cities region. 

Credit: WQAD

The latest drought monitor, released on Feb. 23, shows that now 60% of the region is free from drought conditions, while extreme southeast Iowa continues to see some lingering drought, even moderate drought in spots. 

Chief Meteorologist James Zahara points out that many of our hometowns have picked up quite a bit of rain since the start of Meteorological Winter on Dec. 1, 2022. Here in the Quad Cities, we're running around an inch and a half above the average for the same time frame, while our northern hometowns are running an impressive two inches ahead. This has not only wiped out the drought, but it has also loaded the soil with water. 

Credit: WQAD

Soil moisture is one of the variables that has changed since the first outlook. With the mild winter, the frost depth remained shallow, allowing some water to penetrate the surface of the ground. This has kept soil moisture above normal values for this time of year, meaning any additional heavy rainfall in the next 3-4 weeks will likely runoff and head right for area creeks, streams, and eventually, rivers. 

The recent rains have also elevated ongoing river levels, with the Mississippi River in Rock Island running around two feet higher than the historical average level for this time in February. 

Credit: WQAD

Combining all of these factors together you'll see listed above the probability that the Mississippi River here in the Quad Cities exceeds various stages, including an impressive 70% probability that the river will meet or exceed major flood stage between now and the end of May. Curious about the probability of reaching the historic crest-stage of 22.7 feet set back in 2019? That's about 15% as of right now. 

Here's a quick summary of other rivers throughout the Quad Cities and the associated flood risk:

Rock River near Moline & Joslin - Probability of meeting or exceeding the following stages:

  • Minor: 60%
  • Moderate: 40%
  • Major: 20%

Wapsipinnicon River near DeWitt - Probability of meeting or exceeding the following stages:

  • Minor: 80%
  • Moderate: 70%
  • Major: 35%

Cedar River near Conesville - Probability of meeting or exceeding the following stages:

  • Minor: 60%
  • Moderate: 20%
  • Major: 8%

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