PIERRE, S.D. -- Snowpack in the Upper Plains is already higher than it was last year at this time, which could lead to more flooding in 2020.
That's according to federal officials, who provided an update on the Missouri River Basin during a conference call Tuesday, Jan. 7. Still, Doug Kluck, a climatologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said some of that snowpack has receded due to above normal temperatures in the region.
"There was some ice break up due to those warmer temperatures, but that certainly won't last within the outlook," Kluck warned.
Kevin Low, a hydrologist with National Weather Service, said snowpack in the Rocky Mountains, which drains into the Missouri River, is at about 40 percent of the seasonal peak and is normal for this time of year.
"As I always say in January, it's still early and much can change and will change," Low added.
Low's early prognosis, which he emphasized is subject to change, notes that mountain runoff volumes should be normal to slightly above average. Plains snowpack in eastern South Dakota and North Dakota have liquid values that range from a half inch to 3 inches, he said.
Some areas along the James River in the Dakotas are experiencing their 300th day of consecutive flooding conditions.
"Records with respect to longevity are being broken along the James River," Low said.
Soil conditions remain extremely wet and saturated throughout most of the Missouri River basin and some areas are likely to see on-again, off-again flooding along tributaries in lower portions of the basin during the next three months.
An official flood outlook from the National Weather Service is expected to be released on Feb. 13, Low said.
John Remus, the chief of Missouri River Basin Water Management for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Missouri River flows above Sioux City, Iowa, were the second highest they've ever been on record at about 6 million acre feet.
U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, said "flooding of the Missouri River and its tributaries will continue to be a concern this spring unless the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers makes changes now to allow more room for snowmelt."
Rounds, who lives in Fort Pierre along the Missouri River, made the statement on his Facebook page Tuesday, Jan. 8.
"Governor Kristi Noem and I sent a letter to the Corps last month requesting they increase releases at Gavins Point Dam to help prevent this exact problem. We're going to continue talking to them throughout the season," Rounds said.
Audio and slides from Monday's presentation can be found at https://www.nwd.usace.army.mil/Media/News-Releases/Article/2052078/corps-continues-preparing-reservoir-system-for-2020-runoff-season/.