Louisiana can expect minor flooding this spring driven by normal rainfall, but residents should feel slightly cooler than normal temperatures, according to an outlook released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday.
The story is different for people in the Northeast, where areas have received record snowfall this winter with more forecasted on the way.
“Tomorrow is the official start of spring, but it won’t feel like it for some people,” said Jon Gottschalck, chief of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center Operational Prediction Branch.
For Louisiana, the forecast calls for normal temperatures in the next three months with a possibility of more rain than normal. This fits with forecasts resulting from the formation of a weak El Niño weather pattern announced earlier this month. El Niño years usually mean cooler and wetter springs for Louisiana.
Minor flooding could occur with local rainfall, but also from water coming down the Mississippi River, like the river rise now occurring.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans announced the activation of the first phase of flood response procedures. Although water levels are rising, it’s not expected to get to levels experienced in 2011 when the river crested at 44.8 feet in Baton Rouge. This current rise of water in the Mississippi River looks to crest at 35.5 feet on March 30, just above flood stage, before waters will start to fall again.
The flood stage is the level of water that would overflow a river’s banks if it wasn’t for man-built levees.
The lowest point in the levees in Baton Rouge is about 47 feet.
The crest, or the highest level waters reach before starting to recede, will hit 14 feet in New Orleans on March 31.
Flood stage in New Orleans is 17 feet and levees protect up to 20 feet.
The Corps opened an overbank structure at Old River on Thursday because water levels are expected to get up to 52 feet at the Knox Landing gauge.
The Corps learned from flooding in 2011 that opening the overbank flood area will help relieve pressure on the auxiliary and low-sill structures at Old River by allowing water to flow through three structures instead of two, according to the Corps.
The overbank structure was last opened in 2013 for 16 days.
Elsewhere in the country, the late start of the El Niño means it’s too late to bring any significant rainfall to California, which will be entering a fourth year of drought, Gottschalck said. A warmer than normal winter in other western states may result in drought also growing in Oregon and western Washington, he said.
A very different story is seen on the East Coast, where heavy snowfall has blanketed much of the Northeast this winter and brought a record snowfall of 108.6 inches to Boston this winter. This snow means that if temperatures rise fast enough and there is significant rainfall, rivers in the Northeast could face moderate flooding, said Mary Mullusky, acting chief of NOAA’s Hydrologic Services Division.
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