UNITED STATES — May 7, 2019 — The record Midwest flooding that began in March continues to devastate the region as last week’s round of spring storms inundated Mississippi River towns and parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, killing at least four people. The National Weather Service issued flood warnings along the Mississippi River as rising water forced residents to shore up levees with sandbags, according to the Associated Press.
Last week’s flooding claimed the lives of two kayakers who were paddling in an overflowing southwest Missouri creek and got caught in an effect called a hydraulic that is difficult to escape. Also in southwest Missouri, a camper was killed by floodwaters from another overflowing creek, the AP reported. A 2-year-old was also killed in northern Indiana when his mother drove into floodwaters covering a road.
According to National Weather Service Meteorologist Gregg Gallina, the spring rains are typical for the Midwest, but they follow an atypical winter of heavy snow accumulation that melted rapidly in March, overflowing rivers and flooding river towns. “In terms of thunderstorms and where they’re placed, this is actually a fairly typical springtime pattern,’’ Gallina said, according to USA Today. “The problem is that, because of the wet winter, these kinds of rainfalls will exacerbate any of the flooding along the main stem rivers.’’
For example, in Davenport, Iowa, the Mississippi reached a record height of 22.7 feet on Thursday, and the river at the Quad Cities has been at or above major flood stage for 41 days, according to the AP. Parts of downtown Davenport are already flooded, and with more rain in the forecast this week, Davenport and other towns along the river and throughout the central Plains and Midwest are at risk for additional flash flooding, USA Today reported.
After the initial flooding in March, AccuWeather estimated that the total damage and economic loss resulting from the spring floods would total $12.5 billion. This estimate was based on the damages from early flooding, as well as forecasted continued flooding throughout the spring and additional expected damages. AccuWeather’s estimate includes structural damages to homes and businesses and their contents, as well as infrastructure damages, contaminated wells, farming losses, and other economic impacts such as lost work hours and health issues. One of the top economic concerns is crop losses as farmers have lost stored crops and have had to delay spring planting until the floods abate, which could affect yields this season, according to USA Today and other sources.
At this point, AccuWeather’s prediction that the flooding would continue to cause damages through the spring appears correct as forecasters expect this week’s slow-moving storm to drop 1-3 inches of rain across a wide swath of the Midwest stretching from Kansas to Michigan, according to USA Today. Though the rainfall totals of this storm may not seem particularly high, the already drenched soil and swollen rivers of the region mean that even moderate rainfall can result in dangerous and costly flash flooding. Forecasters warn that flood conditions could continue to plague the Midwest into June.