Wet 2009 raises risk of St. Louis floods next year

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis got a foot more rain than usual this year, making 2009 its fifth wettest on record and raising the risk of spring floods, forecasters said Monday.

St. Louis has had 50.84 inches of rain this year -- 12.4 inches more than usual. A record 12.38 inches of rain fell in October, a month when the city usually gets less than 3 inches.

The National Weather Service is watching precipitation and river levels closely since there's usually more rain in the spring, and that, combined with melting snow, could cause flooding.

"We'll have to see how future weather systems play out, with [local] rain and areas of impact throughout the Mississippi Basin," Weather Service meteorologist Julie Phillipson said.

There's already minor flooding along the Mississippi River at Grafton and Chester, Ill., Phillipson said. But the Missouri River is well within its banks from Columbia going east.

In the months leading up to the Midwest's Great Flood of 1993, melting snow and thunderstorms that dumped heavy rain into the Mississippi River Basin raised river levels, she said.

Iowa and Minnesota, upriver from St. Louis, got snow this month, but it's still too early to tell what effect that will have down river in the coming months.

"There are so many different variables," Phillipson said, citing rain and snow storms, and the propensity for precipitation to run off into the river if it can't soak into frozen ground. "We're not quite through the winter yet. We'll have to see what happens."

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