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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999

FROM VOLUME 12, NUMBER 4, APRIL 1999

NEWS...
Northwest Flood Risk


Item #d99apr45

On Mar. 17, 1999, the National Weather Service issued its annual flood outlook, which was the subject of NOAA Press Release 99-20. This annual spring outlook compiles information provided by the National Weather Service’s nationwide network of River Forecast Centers and Weather Forecast Offices. Weather Service hydrologists and meteorologists work with federal, state, and local agencies to gather data on snow, streamflow, soil moisture, and river and ice measurements. The data are then combined with rainfall data and short- and long-term weather forecasts to determine the likelihood of flooding throughout the United States.

This year’s outlook says that there is greater-than-average potential for flooding this spring in Oregon and Washington east of the Cascades because of snowmelt from the heavy winter snows in the Pacific Northwest. Other areas with heightened flood potential are in Idaho and adjacent streams in Oregon and Montana, North Dakota’s Red River Basin (which suffered record floods in 1997), and Devil’s Lake in North Dakota (a closed drainage system that has steadily risen since 1993), according to the Weather Service’s Hydrologic Information Center, which issued the report. In contrast, dryer-than-average conditions this spring may result in water concerns for southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, southern Utah, western Texas, and Hawaii. The rest of the nation will see conditions typical of an average spring.

Caution was urged by the Weather Service because each year the nation experiences an average of 100 flood-related fatalities, and flash flooding, common in late spring and summer, causes more than three-quarters of those fatalities. In the United States, more people die in floods than from any other weather-related cause, and flood losses total $4.5 billion dollars a year.

Flood potential can be monitored through the National Weather Service’s Hydrologic Information Center Website at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/oh/hic/nho/index.shtml.

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