Missouri River 2020 spring runoff in top ten heaviest years

The flood outlook for the Missouri River is not as high as it was last year, but the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Kansas City District says it’s worse than normal.

Colonel Bill Hannan’s characterization of the spring flood outlook on the Missouri River is brief.

“Not great,” said Hannon, during an interview with Brownfield Ag News Tuesday. The expectation, according to Hannan, is for 36 million acre-feet of runoff into the Missouri River. A normal year, he said, is about 20 million to 23 million acre-feet. This year is among the top ten runoff years in Missouri River history, said Hannan, but nowhere near the 2019 runoff of 61 million acre-feet. There’s some good news for this year, said Hannan.

“We had a somewhat mild winter and we are able to moderately kind of thaw particularly through the Plains snowpack, which allowed that to melt into the rivers and allowed us to control it better than last year,” said Hannan.    

Another issue is that monthly precipitation averages are regularly exceeded, said Jud Kneuven, USACE Kansas City District Emergency Management Chief.

“It’s been higher than normal,” Kneuven told Brownfield, “and that dates back to before March of last year; I think we’ve only had one or two months in that period where we did not exceed the average precipitation amount per month.”

The vulnerability, according to Colonel Hannan, is if there’s a repeat of last year’s bomb cyclone that was not able to be caught by the Missouri River system’s upstream reservoirs.

“That’s what we’re really at risk for this year is if we have a heavy rain event that we’re not able to capture the runoff or that rain in our reservoirs,” said Colonel Hannan. “That would put us at a high risk for flooding.”

AUDIO: Col. Bill Hannan
AUDIO: Jud Kneuven

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