Spring Snowmelt Information and Flood Outlook


Rivers Precipitation Snowfall Snowpack Temperatures/Outlooks Drought

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 River Conditions and Spring Flood Potential

This outlook is for the NWS Hastings Hydrologic Service Area. In south central Nebraska this outlook includes the Platte, Loup, Little Blue and Republican Rivers and their tributaries. In north central Kansas, the Solomon River and its tributaries are included.

Many rivers in south central Nebraska have been running above normal this winter due to the increased precipitation since last fall. Elevated river levels have been most notable within the Platte and Loup River Basins as water flow from ice free areas to the west converges with the ice covered areas to the east. This elevated flow is expected to continue on the Platte River downstream of Grand Island, NE and throughout much of the Loup River Basin. While the risk for flooding due to snowmelt is low, flooding concerns due to ice action and ice jamming remains a possibility well into March on the lower Loup and Platte Rivers. The Loup River tends to be the most troublesome river for ice jams, especially downstream of St. Paul. Flooding may also result if additional heavy snow or rain were to occur through mid-March. Rocky Mountain snowpack is generally below normal and is not expected to add enough flow to the Platte River to cause flooding.

With the ice jam potential, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency has asked residents along those rivers who have been previously affected by spring flooding due to ice jams to be aware of river conditions and alert to the potential of evacuations if it becomes necessary. The worst ice jam conditions are expected to be in the Lower Loup River Basin from Genoa downstream, and the Lower Platte River Basin from Columbus downstream. Visit the Nebraska Ice Reporting Page for current river ice information.

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Risk of Minor Flooding (%) Risk of Moderate Flooding (%) Risk of Major Flooding (%)

For more flood forecast information throughout the Missouri River Basin, log onto the Missouri River Basin Forecast Center website.

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Water equivalent precipitation (i.e., mostly melted snow) since December 1, 2009 ranged from well above normal east of U.S. Highway 281 to near normal or even below normal to the west. Snowfall drove most of the heavier precipitation amounts in south central Nebraska. In December, over 2.50" of precipitation was recorded at Osceola, Nebraska. That amount was over three times the normal December precipitation. There were many locations with at least two times the normal amount of precipitation in December. Precipitation let up considerably in January, with most locations near or slightly below normal. Similar conditions have prevailed so far in February.

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Nebraska: 90-Day Precipitation - Departure from Normal (Inches)
Kansas: 90-Day Precipitation - Departure from Normal (Inches)
 Nebraska: 90-Day Precipitation - Percent of Normal (%)
Kansas: 90-Day Precipitation - Percent of Normal (%)

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Snowfall has varied widely across south central Nebraska and north central Kansas this winter. While some areas have experienced heavy snowfall, including a record breaking December, other locations have had normal to below normal amounts of snow to date. Areas northeast of a line from Loup City, Nebraska to Mankato, Kansas have experienced the heaviest snowfall. Osceola has measured almost 50 inches of snow for the season with several inches likely to be on the ground for a few more weeks.


Total Seasonal Snowfall through February 18, 2010
Osceola, NE 49.0'"
Grand Island, NE 40.1"
Hastings, NE 39.7"
Loup City, NE 38.0"
Ord, NE 32.0"
Hebron, NE 27.7"
Holdrege, NE 21.6"
Kearney, NE 16.2"
7 miles NW Oxford 12.3"
Mankato, KS 31.0"
Lebanon, KS 24.9"
Beloit, KS 19.7"
Lovewell Dam, KS 18.6"
Smith Center, KS 16.7"
Phillipsburg, KS 15.6"
Logan, KS 14.0"
Plainville, KS 11.6"
Damar, KS 11.5"

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Rocky Mountain Snowpack

Despite heavy snow on parts of the Central Plains, snowpack in the headwaters of the Missouri River Basin is slightly below normal. Current snowpack is running about 80 to 100 percent of normal in southern Wyoming and north central Colorado. Runoff from Rocky Mountain snow flows into the South and North Platte River Basins. The runoff will not be sufficient to cause any flooding on the Platte River in south central Nebraska. 

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Rocky Mountain Snowpack (last updated February 1, 2010)

Western U.S. Snowpack Missouri River Basin Snowpack

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Temperatures since December 1, 2009 have been well below normal for most locations in south central Nebraska and north central Kansas, especially along and east of U.S. Highway 281.  Average temperatures in December were 6 to 9 degrees below normal across the region. The first part of January was even colder, with many locations averaging 15 to 25 degrees below normal. Temperatures moderated for the rest of January with some areas (mainly west of U.S. Highway 281) actually much above normal the last half of January. So far, February has been colder than normal for most areas, including almost 7 degrees below normal at Osceola.

Average Temperatures and Departure from Normal at Selected Cities Since 12/1/2009
City December Average Temperature/Departure January Average Temperature/Departure February Average Temperature/Departure (through 2/18/09)
Grand Island, NE 18.3 degrees / 7.3 below normal 20.0 degrees / 2.4 below normal  24.6 degrees / 2.1 below normal
Hastings, NE 18.6 degrees / 8.1 below normal 20.6 degrees / 3.0 below normal  24.8 degrees / 3.4 below  normal
Kearney, NE 19.1 degrees / 6.8 below normal 22.5 degrees / 0.1 above normal 26.5 degrees / 0.2 above normal
Hebron, NE 19.0 degrees / 8.3 below normal 18.7 degrees / 4.6 below normal 23.7 degrees / 0.7 below normal
Osceola, NE 17.6 degrees / 8.2 below normal 16.7 degrees / 5.9 below normal 19.9 degrees / 6.9 below normal
Plainville, KS
21.5 degrees / 8.0 below normal 25.7 degrees / 0.6 below normal 29.3 degrees / 0.9 below normal
Smith Center, KS
21.2 degrees / 8.6 below normal 24.2 degrees / 2.6 below normal 27.9 degrees / 3.4 below normal


30 to 90 Day Outlook: Near to Slightly Below Normal Temperatures. Near to Slightly Above Normal Precipitation.

Temperatures in the coming 6 to 14 days will be near to slightly colder than normal. There are signs some moderation in temperatures may occur the first week of March.

The 30-day temperature outlook depicts near normal to slightly below normal conditions for the area. Southern sections of the Central Plains are more likely to experience cooler than normal weather. An active southern stream storm due to El Nino conditions will give an enhanced chance for wetter than normal conditions through mid-late March. Above normal precipitation would accumulate both in the form of rain and snow. Snow is more likely if temperatures are cooler than normal. On average, March is one of the snowiest months.

The 90-day temperature and precipitation outlooks call for near to slightly below normal temperatures and near to slightly above normal precipitation for the region. Again, southern sections of the area are more likely to experience a deviation from normal climatological conditions, thanks mostly to an active southern storm track through early spring.

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8 to 14 Day Temperature Outlook 30-Day Temperature Outlook
30-Day Precipitation Outlook

Local 3-Month Temperature Outlook 90-Day Temperature Outlook 90-Day Precipitation Outlook


ENSO Alert Status: El Nino Advisory

El Nino conditions are forecast through the first part of the spring. El Nino basically means temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean are running above normal compared to historical averages. El Nino is episodic and occurs every 3 to 8 years with varying intensity. This El Nino began during the 2nd half of 2009. The impact of El Nino on global weather patterns is widespread, yet predictability of those impacts on Nebraska and Kansas is less known. At this time, the El Nino conditions are forecast to abate or weaken dramatically by the middle of Spring with ocean temperatures returning to closer to normal conditions by June.

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Pacific Ocean Sea Surface Temperature Information  
NOAA El Nino/La Nina HomePage

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Drought Information

 In its latest report, the U.S. Drought Monitor depicted no drought conditions in Kansas or Nebraska. In general, drought conditions are not expected to affect south central Nebraska or north central Kansas through at least the middle part of the spring. Soil moisture profiles are above normal at most locations and well above normal over the eastern part of south central Nebraska. Should the next couple of months offer limited moisture; the area more susceptible to drought will be western parts of south central Nebraska and north central Kansas.

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U.S. Drought Monitor
Seasonal Drought Outlook
Short Term Drought Indicators Long Term Drought Indicators

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  For more climate related information, check out the following websites:

 This page last updated Friday, February 19, 2010


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