OMAHA | No one wants to see a repeat of the 2011 Missouri River flood.

Despite above-normal snowpack in the mountains that feed the Missouri River Basin, chances of a repeat are slim, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official said Tuesday.

Jody Farhat, chief of the corps' Water Management Division in Omaha, said three conditions combined to cause the massive flood three years ago: mountain snowpack, plains snowpack and spring precipitation that all were above normal levels.

"Currently, only one of those conditions exists today, the high mountain snowpack, so a repeat of the 2011 flood is unlikely," Farhat said during the corps' monthly Missouri River Basin Outlook teleconference.

In a Monday news release, the corps announced it had raised the 2014 runoff forecast to 30.6 million acre-feet, 121 percent of the normal 25.2 MAF. Runoff in 2011 was 61 MAF.

Mountain snowpack levels are 127 percent to 135 percent of normal. Farhat said current snowpack is at the same level as it was at this time in 2011, but far below the level at which it peaked.

Comparisons to 2011 were common throughout the call, as media and other officials continually asked "what if" questions concerning precipitation and other factors.

Dakota Dunes Community Improvement District manager Jeff Dooley, who listened in on the teleconference, said those types of questions need to be asked. He said the corps shares information more widely than it did three years ago, enabling him to better answer Dunes residents asking him about flooding potential.

"What I try to do is tell them the facts I have. I don't speculate," Dooley said.

Dooley keeps in contact with other officials to stay informed of river conditions elsewhere.

"There's so much more communication now," he said. "I don't think we would be caught by surprise."

At this point, that is not a concern. Because of the 2012 drought, the three largest reservoirs -- Fort Peck in Montana, Garrison in North Dakota and Oahe in South Dakota -- are 5-11 feet below desired operating levels. Overall storage in the Missouri River reservoirs is currently 50.9 MAF, well below the desired level of 56.1 MAF. The reservoirs also have an additional 16.3 MAF of flood control storage.

"We do not expect the reservoir system to completely fill this year," Farhat said. "We're not anticipating the need to evacuate any flood water this year."

Localized flooding typical of the spring is still likely, said Scott Dummer, development and operations hydrologist with the National Weather Service Missouri Basin River Forecast Center.

"It happens quite often," Dummer said.

Dummer said minor to moderate flooding can be caused by runoff from spring thunderstorms. Such floods last up to a week and might cover fields and a few roads but not cause serious, widespread damage.

Siouxlanders can expect to see the Missouri River rise soon as the corps increases releases from Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, S.D., to supply water for the navigation channel downstream. Releases on Tuesday were 14,000 cubic feet per second. Beginning March 17, releases will increase and by March 21 will reach 28,000 cfs, where they will remain for the rest of the month.

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Load comments