High flooding risk from snow melt

    There are few winters in recorded history that have been as snowy as this one. And all that snow will have to drain somewhere.

    Another foot of snow is on its way to the Delaware Valley, making this one of the snowiest winters on record. All that snow has to go somewhere. WHYY’s health and science reporter Kerry Grens reports on what happens when the snow melts.


     In parts of the country where four feet of snow pack is common, residents call the melt the mud season. Whether the Delaware Valley gets its own mud season depends on how much temperatures rise the next few weeks.

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    Keith Arneson is a meteorologist at Rutgers University.

    Arneson: If it’s a gradual melting there won’t be any problem absorbing that. If we get, say, a week from now, a major rain event, a noreaster but it’s warmer and it’s rain, in combination with the snow on the ground, there certainly could be flooding issues.

    Arneson says there’s no way to predict yet how wet the next few weeks will be.

    The shore has a higher chance of flooding because the ground there is already saturated. Tony Pratt is Delaware’s shoreline manager.

    Pratt: Basically three large storms are going to be spilling into the wetlands of the state, the streams of the state all at the same time. The possibility of flooding later on this winter when all of this becomes liquid again is very high.

    The good news for crops in the region is that they will have high soil moisture going into the growing season. We humans may be unaccustomed to it in this region, but Arneson says plants are well suited to deal with snow pack.

    Arneson: Snow is actually a pretty good insulator so it’s better for root systems of plants to have a good layer of snow because if you get really cold temperatures it does act somewhat as a blanket and protects the root systems.

    And the cold weather is expected to continue. Forecasters predict about a foot of snow to fall on the area by Thursday.

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