Fox News Weather Center

Midwest River Flooding to Overwhelm Unprotected Farm Land Into July

Following two months of excessive rainfall and more rain in the offing in the coming days, flooding problems will continue along some of the major rivers in the Midwest into July.

In portions of Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, rainfall since May 1, 2015, has been twice that of normal.

In a number of cases, the rainfall has topped the 1-foot mark.

Rainfall Departure From Average Spanning May to Late June

Actual (Through June 24)
Average (Normal)
St. Joseph, Mo.
Peoria, Ill.
Fort Wayne, Ind.
St. Louis, Mo.
Lansing, Mich.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Flooding has occurred along some of the streams and rivers that do not have levee protection such as the Illinois, Des Moines and Mississippi to name a few in recent weeks. Water levels have reached major flood stage along these rivers and in some cases waters are within a few feet of record stage.

The rainfall alone has collected and flooded low-lying areas of farmland in parts of these states.

Aside from the obvious, the excessive rainfall over the past two months can affect barge traffic along some stretches of the rivers and potentially wipe out individual farms in low-lying areas.

According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Jim Andrews, barge operations can be negatively affected due to high flow rates.

"The fast-moving, high water can prevent the use of multiple tows by a singe vessel and some of the docking areas could be flooded from high river levels," Andrews said.

Episodes of high and fast-moving water can change the shape of the river bottom as well.

According to AccuWeather Senior Agricultural Meteorologist Dale Mohler, the persistent heavy rain, wet soil and flooding has prevented a small percentage of crops from being planted.

"It could take weeks until flooding has receded and fields dry out for planting operations, and in some cases that may be too late to plant a crop this year," Mohler said.

While the overall percentage of flooded farmland on the Plains and Midwest is relatively small from a national impact standpoint this year and when compared to other years of major flooding, conditions could be disastrous for some individual farms this year.

"While most crops can take being flooded for a few days, anything longer could cause the crop to rot, be subject to mildew and disease," Mohler said.

How prone to flood damage a crop is depends, in part on the size of the crop. A small bushy crop, such as soybeans, may sustain more damage or failure, than a tall crop, such as corn.

Moving forward, for this weekend into July, there is some good news in terms of the amount of rain and stream and river flooding.

"It appears that while episodes of rain may continue to be rather frequent in parts of the Plains and Midwest, most areas should receive only a few tenths of an inch with each episode instead of a few inches during each round," Mohler said.

The last doses of widespread heavy rain will push east of the Midwest by the later part of the weekend as a major rainstorm finishes up in the Northeast.

However, the damage has already been done. Some farms or portions of fields may stay under water for weeks.

"Generally the larger the river, the longer it takes for the flooding cycle to run its course," Andrews said.

While flooding along the Wabash, Kankakee, Iowa, Des Moines and Iroquois rivers will ease and cease in the coming days, flooding along the Illinois, lower Ohio and middle and Mississippi rivers may take weeks to diminish.

"Enough rain could fall on the Ohio Basin to bring rises along part of the Ohio River during the next week or so," Andrews said. "The gradual surge of water likely along the lower Mississippi River could take a month or so to reach the New Orleans."

People along the lower Mississippi River will have time to take action if necessary.