Roller coaster temperatures raising flood concerns

Increased runoff from snow melt and recent rain trigger River Flood Warning
Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 5:49 PM CST
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PEORIA (Heart of Illinois ABC) - When temperatures were in the fifties earlier this week, it melted a lot of the snow. That coupled with the rain on Tuesday creates runoff.

Plus, rainfall on frozen ground* will lead to efficient runoff. Much of it ending up in the Illinois River triggering a flood warning Tuesday.

Edward Shimon, NWS Warning Coordinator Meteorologist, said “This time of year we usually don’t see a lot of snow melt right in February, usually it’s more in the March time frame. Having a flood warning this early for flooding is a little early in terms of when we get rainfall, February isn’t a big rainfall month.”

The warning means the river is reaching a point it could escape its banks. Shimon added, “You’re not going to need to have anybody leave their homes because the river is rising. That is usually for levels when we get into moderate and major flood levels. So this is just going to be affecting low-lying areas near the river.”

It’s something nearby farmers also feel. Patrick Kirchhofer, Peoria County Farm Bureau Manager, said, “With the melting snow combined with rainfall that we had, we had an increase in runoff so the water wasn’t able to percolate into the soil profile like it normally would whenever there is a thaw.”

And this is all before the spring thaw that sends a lot of ice melt down stream.

Farmers favor a slow melt, meaning a gradual warming into spring, so all the snow doesn’t melt at once like it did Sunday and Monday. Snow pack is helpful as well, because it insulates the ground and doesn’t allow for the freeze to go as deep.

Granted, farmers still like a hard freeze, as it helps break up the soil underneath for their end-of-fall treatments to penetrate deeper along with the water.

When runoff is limited, it can benefit farmers, help mitigate river flooding, and lessen water pollution. Water pollution occurs from runoff as water from land moves to the streams and rivers, it can pick up trash, pesticides, and more.

The National Weather Service is scheduled to release it annual spring flood outlook next week.

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