Drought Risk Intensifies Across U.S. as Flood Threat Recedes

The U.S. won’t face major flooding risks for the first time in three years, but the threat of more widespread drought is intensifying after minimal winter rain and snow.

Moderate to minor flooding is likely to occur in part of the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys, as well as along the Eastern Seaboard from North Carolina to Florida, according to the National Weather Service.

“In recent years much of the nation has experienced widespread, historic flooding,” Mary Erickson, deputy director of the weather service, said on a call with reporters.

Less rain and snow have left river levels close to normal and triggered widespread drought across the contiguous 48 states, which brings its own costly impacts. Since 1980, 28 major droughts have cost the U.S. close to $259 billion, while 33 floods have led to $151 billion in losses, according to the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Information website.

While there has been moderate flooding along parts of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, there won’t likely be a repeat of last year, when the Bonnet Carre Spillway was opened upstream from New Orleans to help divert rising water. That was the third straight year that the spillway had to be opened.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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