When the news reports a particularly full riverbed or flooding, it’s usually very temporary. A few days, perhaps a week, and then it’s over, the water levels recede, and life goes back to normal. But what happens when the water levels don’t recede, and life can’t go back to normal along the riverbank?
This South Dakota river is experiencing just that. The James River, which flows into the Missouri River at the border of Nebraska and South Dakota, has been at a “flood level” for over 365 days now. Experts are now concerned about what happens when spring rains come into the area, raising the levels even more.
At the end of March 2019, something called a bomb cyclone ripped through the plains area, causing widespread destruction and dumping a ton of rain, snow, and ice on the area. Named Winter Storm Ulmer, it caused record-breaking flooding in the plains, along with breaking low-pressure records for a bomb cyclone.
#GOESEast got a closer look at the #bombogenesis developing over the Central U.S. during this morning’s sunrise. A bombogenesis occurs when a mid-latitude cyclone rapidly (or explosively) intensifies over a 24-hour period. Find out more: https://t.co/svMy2rP6aq pic.twitter.com/pjO6TvnAJo
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) March 13, 2019
During Winter Storm Ulmer, wind gusts were as high as 97 miles per hour in some areas, shattering previous records, and over 500 miles of the interstate across several states was closed for days while the storm was ongoing.
Despite this being a year ago, the area has never recovered.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has given the James River a 50% higher chance of flooding than a normal spring, and the long-term look at the river is grim. It is almost certain that parts of the James River will flood, and badly, in 2020.
It’s not just spring rains, which are expected to blanket the area in a layer of water. It is also a sizeable snowpack that will melt, bringing cold water to the river itself. As of April 2020, snow is still falling in the area, and experts think that 2020 will follow the same trend as the previous year. 2019 was the wettest year on record for the Dakotas, and the winter was also wetter-than-average.
The James River flows into the Mississippi River, and eventually ends at the Gulf of Mexico. Right now, the hardest-flooded areas are at the low lying points, in rural or agricultural areas, but as the water in the river increases, that will change.
Residents are recommended to start preparing now for the wet spring season, and do all that they can do help minimize water damage.