Mississippi River experiences record low levels

Via Flickr

Grace Smith | November 1, 2022

Central U.S. is experiencing the region’s worst drought in a decade, dropping the Mississippi River to record low levels in October. According to the National Weather Service, the river dropped 10.75 feet by the end of October, which is the lowest level ever documented in Memphis, Tennessee. This surpasses the previous low of minus 10.7 feet in 1988

The Mississippi River makes up 41 percent of the U.S. and drains water from 32 states. Many states in the Mississippi Basin are experiencing extreme droughts throughout June and September, including Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.

In Cairo, Illinois, water levels are the lowest they have been since 1901. The Tennessee Valley Agency said it would add more water from two dams to even out the river’s low levels. “To help stabilize commercial navigation conditions on the lower Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, we are scheduling special water releases from Kentucky Dam on the Tennessee River and Barkley Dam on the Cumberland River to help low river level impacts,” the agency wrote in a Facebook post. 

Through drought in central U.S. and the low levels of the Mississippi River, artifacts and land emerge. Citizens can now walk to Tower Rock, an island normally surrounded by the river and only accessible by boat. In addition, an old riverboat casino — The Diamond Lady — that was running in 1990 but sank in 2021 has submerged in Memphis, Tennessee because of the river’s low levels.

Major flooding on Mississippi River likely again this spring

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Most of the Iowa/Mississippi River boundary can expect to see moderate flooding this spring (via NWS). 

Julia Poska | February 20, 2020

Iowa communities along the Mississippi River will most likely see major flooding this spring.

A National Weather Service flood outlook released last week shows an over 50% chance of extensive inundation all along the state’s eastern boundary. Probability of moderate flooding is at 95% in most areas. Western Iowa faces lower, but still significant risk.

Heavy precipitation in 2019, still-saturated soils and heavy snowpack to the north contribute to the elevated flood risk.

Radio Iowa reported that Gov. Kim Reynolds said official are coordinating with local emergency management teams. Reynolds said the Army Corps of Engineers is releasing water already to make room for melted snow to the north.

Last summer’s Mississippi River flooding was the longest in recorded history, lasting nearly 200 days. A coalition of river city mayors estimated damage to be over $2 billion along the length of the river.

You can find 2020 flood outlook data at specific Iowa sites using the interactive feature at this NWS page. 

Disastrous forecast realized in Davenport flood

Davenport flooding in 2011 (flickr).

Julia Poska|May 2, 2019

The Quad Cities have been preparing since the National Weather Service reported earlier this year a 95 percent chance of pronounced flooding in the area through May. As of Tuesday, their temporary barriers had been in place for 48 days. This week, their preparations proved insufficient.

Tuesday afternoon, Mississippi River floodwaters suddenly rushed into Davenport when HESCO Barriers — military grade defense boxes used to make temporary walls — succumbed to the force of the water. Officials saw early signs, the Quad City Times and Dispatch-Argus reported, and began urging people in some areas to evacuate when the temporary levees began breaking around 3:30 pm. The HESCO barriers had never been tested in waters above 21.5 feet, but as of 4:30 pm the Mississippi was at 21.87 feet, heading quickly to the expected 22.4 foot crest.

Not everyone received or took seriously the evacuation warnings, and many had to be rescued by boat after the fact. Once the water came rushing in, there was little time to take action. No serious injuries were reported.

The Weather Channel reported that floodwater began to recede Wednesday morning, and that at their peak levels surpassed 6 feet in some areas. A new expected crest of 22.7 feet is expected later today, which could surpass the 22.6 foot record set in 1993.

Scott County officials and Gov. Kim Reynolds are hoping President Trump’s earlier disaster declaration for western Iowa will extend into the Quad Cities area, local media reported.



Flood watch continues across Iowa; the latest in your part of the state

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Check the Iowa Flood Information System for current alert statuses. 

Julia Poska | March 14, 2019

While Iowans rejoiced over spring-like weather this week after a long, brutal winter, flooding caused by rapid snowmelt and heavy rains has threatened communities across the state.

Iowa weather services have been reporting higher-than-average risks for major flooding this spring since late February, and many outlooks have only increased within the last week, according to the Des Moines Register. The risk is most pronounced along the Mississippi River, where a Quad Cities survey found the risk of flooding through May to be 95 percent last week. The National Weather Service says flooding in the Quad Cities could break records.

The National Weather Service issued a flood watch Wednesday morning that will last until at least this evening across most of the state. In some areas the watch will extend into next week. Below is information on flooding and alerts throughout the state as of this morning.


  • Major flood stage was reached in Waterloo, Maquoketa and DeWitt as of Thursday morning. Moderate flood stage was reached in many areas Wednesday, including Kalona, Atkins and Augusta (IFIS).
  • Yesterday, Cedar Rapids expected a “moderate flood stage” when the Cedar River crests early next week. Officials said this should be fairly insignificant for residents. The city had already reached moderate flood stage as of Wednesday night (Gazette/IFIS).
  • An ice jam raised alarm in Ottumwa Wednesday morning, though it only caused minor agricultural flooding (Des Moines Register).


  • Squaw Creek in Ames reached major flood stage Wednesday afternoon. As of Thursday morning, all areas were at or below moderate levels (IFIS).
  • An ice jam collapsed a bridge in Johnston Wednesday evening. The trail leading to the bridge had been closed prior to the collapse (Des Moines Register).
  • Des Moines Public Works closed parts of George Flagg Parkway and Fleur Avenue. These could remain closed for days (WHOtv).
  • An ice jam in the Raccoon River flooded rural communities in Dallas County (Des Moines Register).


  • Western Iowa was hit worst of all. As of Thursday morning, eight communities from north to south were at major flood stage (IFIS).
  • The Boyer River in Hogan and the West Nishnabotna River near Avoca reached major flood stage Wednesday afternoon. A Red Cross station was set up in Avoca for those displaced from homes (kwbe/IFIS).
  • Underwood in Pottawattamie County lost function of its sewer lift system Wednesday. Residents were asked to stop flushing toilets temporarily (kwbe).
  • Harrison County Emergency Management ordered a partial evacuation of Missouri Valley Wednesday night. As of 9:20pm, 2,600 people were underwater (Des Moines Register).
  • Several roads have been closed as well. Check 511ia.org for current closures. 

Take care around even shallowly flooded areas, especially when driving. Remember that while newly-purchased flood insurance takes 30 days to go into effect (and will therefore not help you this week), Iowa’s flood season has only just begun.

Visit the Iowa Flood Information System to monitor current flood alerts, stream levels and rainfall forecasts for your area.

National Weather Service Director to visit Iowa City

Dr. Louis W. Uccellini  earned his PhD in meteorology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has served as Director of the National Weather Service since 2013. (NOAA)
Dr. Louis W. Uccellini holds a PhD in meteorology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has served as Director of the National Weather Service since 2013. (NOAA)

Nick Fetty | October 14, 2014

National Weather Service (NWS) Director Louis W. Uccellini is will give a public seminar about how communities can better handle severe weather during his stop in Iowa City this week.

The presentation – “Building a Weather-Ready Nation: Advancing the NWS Hydrology Program” – will examine ways the NWS is building a network to better prepare communities for a range of natural disasters from drought and flooding to winter storms and hurricanes.

This will be followed up by a presentation from Don Cline, acting director of NWS Office of Hydrologic Development, entitled “Environmental Intelligence: Water 1.0 – The National Water Center and the Transformation of NOAA’s Water Prediction Services.” Cline will focus on how the NWS along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are working with the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Sciences, Inc. – which includes the University of Iowa as well as Iowa State University – to develop a water prediction network.

This two-part presentation is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. on October 15 in the Lehman Ballroom at Hotel Vitro and is open to the public. The two presentations will be followed up by a question and answer session with Dr. Uccellini and Dr. Cline.

Uccellini, Cline, and other members of the NWS will also visit the Iowa Flood Center (IFC) while on campus. NWS representatives will meet with staff from the IFC to discuss ways the two organizations can work together to better serve Iowa and the rest of the country.

Seminar Details

What: “Building a Weather-Ready Nation: Advancing the NWS Hydrology Program” presented by Louis W.Uccellini.

“Environmental Intelligence: Water 1.0 — The National Water Center and the Transformation of NOAA’s Water Prediction Services” presented by Don Cline.

When: Wednesday, Oct. 15, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Where: Hotel Vetro, Lehman Ballroom, 201 South Linn St., Iowa City.

For now, flood forecast good news

The Iowa River in Iowa City, Iowa.
The Iowa River in Iowa City, Iowa.

The National Weather Service issued its first flood potential outlook of the year last week.

Below are locations along the Iowa River and the probability that flooding will occur between now and May 26:

  • Iowa City: Minor flooding, less than 5 percent; moderate flooding, less than 5 percent; major flooding, less than 5 percent
  • Lone Tree: Minor flooding, 18 percent; moderate flooding, 12 percent; major flooding, less than 5 percent
  • Marengo: Minor flooding, 58 percent; moderate flooding, 35 percent; major flooding, less than 5 percent

However, experts are closely watching the frost depth of the ground as spring rains near.

For the full story, click here.

Iowa’s Push for National Flood Center

Photo by greghauenstein; Flickr

Congressman Dave Loebsack has proposed a plan that will create a institution, much like the University of Iowa Flood Center, that will bring together academic institutions and federal agencies. The goal of the National Flood Center would be to better understand flooding and possibly prevent damage.  Continue reading

Wapsipinicon River Behavior Baffles Forecasters

Photo by J. Stephen Conn; Flickr


While Independence avoided the predicted flood damage, areas around Anamosa through the De Witt area are still experiencing dangerous water levels.

Resources are being shifted from Independence to the areas that are seeing some of the worst record levels in history. Many homes near Anamosa have already been evacuated and are covered in water.

Thursday morning’s flood warning from the forecasters was ambiguous:

“There remains a great deal of uncertainty about why the river has not responded as previously expected considering the 4 to 7 inches of rain that fell on saturated ground Monday night.”

To read more about the Wapsi flood concerns, click here.

Iowa City officials monitor Iowa River levels and take precautionary measures

Photo by Jerry Huddleston; Flickr

 The National Weather Service has announced that there could be a potential flood along the Iowa River later this week or next week based on heavy rain fall this week.

Continue reading

Iowa prepares for first winter storm of the season

Photo by iowa_spirit_walker, Flickr
Photo by iowa_spirit_walker, Flickr

The state’s first winter storm of the season is expected to hit Iowa on Wednesday afternoon, and will likely bring strong winds and heavy snowfall in parts of the state.

National Weather Service meteorologist Keven Skow said some areas of the state are expected to receive several inches, and the snow will likely stay on the ground due to sub-freezing temperatures throughout the rest of the week.

“If it falls, it will probably be on the ground through Christmas,” Skow said.

For more information, read the full article at the Des Moines Register.