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Flood risk on Mississippi above average for this time of year

NEAR THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER, Minn. (FOX 47) -- Spring time flooding is inevitable, especially for those living near the Mississippi River. This year though, flood risk levels are higher than normal for this time of year.

In the middle of a Minnesota February, the spring thaw might seem like eons away. But, for National Weather Service Hydrologist John Wetenkamp, it's important to look ahead.

"This is pretty normal," Wetenkamp said. "We start looking at the spring flood outlook...we start discussing that early to mid February."

What isn't normal, is where those spring flooding risk factors on the Mississippi are currently sitting.

"This year we're seeing an above normal risk for flooding," Wetenkamp said. "Especially on the main stream of the Mississippi River."

Wetenkamp isn't the only one.

"We're just waiting for the other shoe to drop," U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Paul District Emergency Management Chief Phil White said.

The Army Corps of Engineers is also keeping a close eye on the river.

"What we try to do is to continue to work with NWS and National Weather Service to try to, as they get more of a 90 percentile likelihood, is where we will put our resources."

While Wetenkamp says the main threat is the main channel of the Mississippi -- and not tributary rivers -- he says those above average predictions, boil down to three factors.

First, deep snow pact.

"It's a liquid equilivant of three to six inches," Wetenkamp said. "Higher in some places."

Wet soil.

"The ground is really wet right now, even when it thaws, all that snow melt is going to run off," Wetenkamp said.

And high river stream levels, from heavy rain last summer and fall.

"If you put it in a percentile, it ranges in the 90th percentile," Wetenkamp said. "Certainly in the upper end of what has been observed historically across the region, that's really one of the biggest concerns this year."

Officials urge those at risk -- to stay in the know.

"Last year if you had flooding, then you're likely to be seeing flooding again this year," Wetenkamp said. "So watch your forecast closely."

For a closer look at the flood predictions, the National Weather Service in LaCrosse will release its first Spring Flood Outlook on Feb. 27 and another on Mar. 12.

Another thing to be aware of, is flood insurance. FOX 47 is told that it can take up to 90 days to be put in effect.

Beret Leone

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