Rapid melting of snowpack is the culprit of the rapid rise in river levels. According to AgDay, river levels near Clinton, Iowa reached a low of 8.9 feet on January 2, 2022. Those levels are expected to hit 20.6 feet this week, which is above flood stage.
McGregor, Iowa is expected to see a floodwater crest just one foot under the all-time record-high set back in 1965.
“We still see significant moderate to major flooding in the Upper Mississippi Basin, roughly from the Minneapolis St. Paul area all the way downstream to the Quad Cities in Illinois and Iowa and then even a little bit south of that,” says Rippey. “The good news there in the upper Midwest is a lot of this water is working its way through the system. The Mississippi River crest just passed Lacrosse, Wisconsin, and it was an impressive crest. They’re almost four feet above flood stage, and the third highest water level on record behind only the floods of April 1965 and April 2001.”
Rippey says the latest outlook for the river at Lock and Dam 15, spanning Rock Island, Illinois, to Davenport, Iowa, shows an expected flood crest near 21.6 feet, which is 6.6 feet above flood stage, by early next week. He says if the river does crest at the expected 21.6 feet on May 1 or May 2, it would be just over one foot below the record set on May 2, 2019.
21.6 feet would also beat the current seventh highest river level ever at that gauge, which was 21.49 feet on June 16, 2008.
“But again, a lot of that’s due to snow melt a lot of it’s working its way through the system. And we’ve got a diminishing flood threat as we head into May,” says Rippey.
While the flood threat may subside along the upper Mississippi River in May, there are other waterways in the U.S. also seeing high river levels and potential flooding.
“Other basins that we’re looking at flooding the Red River Valley of the North, that’s a northward flowing river, we’ve got the crest that will be approaching the Canadian border within a few more days,” says Rippey. “We’ve also seen some moderate to major flooding in the James River Basin and eastern South Dakota. But there again, we see the flood threat diminishing over the next several days.”
Rippey says unless the U.S. sees an extremely stormy weather pattern in May, he thinks the worst of the flooding may subside over the next couple of weeks across the upper Midwest.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation on Monday for 10 counties in the state. The declaration will allow state resources to be used to help with flooding and damage.
As flooding occurs, it creates high water tables for fertile soils along the Mississippi River. However, AgriTalk host Chip Flory doesn’t see it being a driving force of possible acreage changes this year for farmers.
“Yes, there’s some farm ground that we’re not going to be able to get to. There’s no question about that. But for the most part, it’s got to get really high further downstream to create some issues, and they’re managing the water as best they can,” says Flory. “But we’re looking at the third highest crest that we’ve ever seen in the Upper Mississippi so that it is a major event and how they manage that water downstream later, that’s when it could really become an issue. So, I’m not, I’m not downplaying it. I’m it is going to be an issue, but it’s not an issue in the upper Midwest.”
The other fallout from flooding is the impact on barge traffic. Garrett Toay, owner of AgTraderTalk says normally, the flooding would be a major hurdle for barge freight. This year is different. He says as export demand sinks, that barge traffic isn’t in high demand.
“We don’t have the export demand,” says Toay. “In fact, we’re barge freight has been in steady decline. It’s impacting the mid Mississippi and up. I saw reports today that we’re going to have the Mississippi closed until May 14. If we had an export program, this would be a major problem.”
Toay points out barge freight has been under pressure for three to four weeks, with prices trading lower because there’s virtually nothing moving.
“We’re not seeing a huge demand pull, and even this week, there’s talk that we’re at the point now where the barge freight lines are going to start tying down barges to the tune of 500 to 1500 barges because we just don’t need them,” says Toay.
U.S. Soybean Transportation Coalition says the bigger impact of the flooding this year may be on fertilizer shipments heading northbound.