Updated:  March 21, 2013

Spring Flood and Water Resource Outlook

This spring flood and water resource outlook is for the North Platte Hydrologic Service Area (HSA), which covers western and north central Nebraska.  The river basins include, the North and South Platte Rivers and the initial portion of the Platte River in the eastern panhandle and western Nebraska, Frenchman Creek in southwest Nebraska, the Loup and Dismal Rivers in the sandhills of Nebraska, and portions of the Elkhorn and Niobrara Rivers in north central Nebraska.

You can find the Probabalistic Hydrologic Outlook for the North Platte, NE Hydrologic Warning Area here.

Current Flooding and Spring Flood Potential

No flooding is occurring as of March 21, 2012.  To obtain the latest watches, warnings, statements, and advisories at any time, go to: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/hazards/lbf.

At this time, chances for flooding over the next several months due to snowmelt is low.  However, if further significant snow occurs yet this season the potential for flooding due to snowmelt may change, primarily in small creeks and streams.  The flood potential due to ice jams is low as rivers and streams in the area are ice free and warming temperatures through the remainder of the month will make these chances less likely.  The flood potential for flooding from reservoir releases is around normal.  This potential will vary based on the amount of water that is released due to downstream demands later this spring and summer.  The potential for rainfall induced flash flooding is not quantifiable, as this type of flooding is most likely to occur during the spring and summer months.

Current Streamflow

Rivers and streams across much of western and north central Nebraska have been running below to near normal for this time of year.  There continues to be impact from the drought on streamflows in portions of the North Platte and Republican River basins.  In the Republican River basin, several small streams and creeks having dried up and many locations are measuring streamflows between 6 and 10 percent of normal.  Meanwhile, rivers and streams across the sandhills are observing flows closer to normal levels.  Below is a map showing how the current streamflow compares to historical streamflows with blue colors signifying above normal conditions, green colors meaning near normal, and oranges and reds being below normal.  Click on the image to go to the USGS webpage for specifics on streamflow in your area.

Image courtesy of the USGS

Ground Water

Ground water levels vary across western and north central Nebraska. Much of the panhandle and southwest Nebraska are observing levels well below normal, with many sites below 25 percent of normal. A few locations in this area were nearing record low levels. In other parts of the area, much of the sandhills have seen ground water levels recharge, with levels increasing to near normal.

Image courtesy of the USGS

Mountain Snowpack and Inflows into the North and South Platte Rivers

As of early March, snowpack in the source regions of the North and South Platte Rivers was below normal.  In the North Platte River basin, snow water equivalent averaged near 75 percent of normal, while snow water equivalent in the South Platte River basin averaged near 65 percent of normal.

As the mountain snowpack is below normal in most places, spring snowmelt runoff into the North and South Platte Rivers is forecast to be below normal.  This will lead to near or below normal chances for flooding along the South Platte River and much of the North Platte River.  However, there does remain chances for flooding due to reservoir releases downstream of Lake McConaughy this spring and early summer, which will depend on demands downstream.

NRCS data: Plot courtesy of the University of Wyoming

Snow Cover and Liquid Water Content

As of March 21st, western and north central Nebraska was snow free, however potential winter storms could bring additional snow to the area through the last week of March.

After a dry start to the winter season in October and November, precipitation has picked up across the area.  Near normal precipitation fell in both December and January, with near or above normal precipitation in February.  However, December through February are the driest months of the year so even above normal precipitation leaves total values below normal for much of the area.  Much of the western half of the forecast area has saw a fast start to March precipitation due to the storm system that moved through the area on the 9th-11th. 


According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, all of western and north central Nebraska remains in exceptional drough, which has been the case since October 2012. 

Image courtesy of the US Drought Monitor

Soil Conditions and Frost Depths

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, soil moisture conditions are well below average, at less than 10 percent of normal.  Although there have been a few snow events recently, soils remain extremely dry across the area.  Frost depths are minimal, with most locations are reporting less than a foot of frost in the ground.

Current Reservoir Data along the North Platte River

Normal operations are ongoing at area dams and reservoirs along the North Platte River for this time of year.  With little or no flows coming from these reservoirs, levels have stayed fairly steady.

Lake McConaughy Elevation over the past Month
Courtesy of Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District Data

 Current CNPPID Reservoir Elevation and Platte River Flow Data


Current Reservoir Data for the Wyoming Reservoir System

Seminoe Reservoir   Pathfinder Reservoir
Glendo Reservoir   Guernsey Reservoir

 courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation

 Precipitation and Temperature Outlook

According to the Climate Prediction Center, the 8 to 14 day outlook for western and north central Nebraska indicates equal chances for below, near, or above normal temperatures and below normal chances for precipitation.

8 to 14 day Temperature Outlook 8 to 14 day Precipitation Outlook

The three month outlook for April, May, and June indicates above normal temperatures for all of western and north central Nebraska.  In terms of precipitation, there are equal chances of above, near, or below normal precipitation.

Three Month Temperature Outlook
(April, May, June)

Three Month Precipitation Outlook
(April, May, June)

Questions or Comments

If you have questions or comments about this spring flood and water resource outlook please contact:

Jessica Brooks
Hydrologic Program Leader
National Weather Service
5250 E. Lee Bird Drive
North Platte, NE 69101
Email: jessica.brooks@noaa.gov

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