Summer floods threaten record levels as rain predicted

WASHINGTON Wed Jul 6, 2011 10:36pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With rivers still running above flood stage and soils saturated, forecasters predicted on Wednesday this summer flooding season could rival the worst in United States history.

In the "Great Flood of 1993," record-breaking floods from April to August cost more than $25 billion in damages in at least nine states.

But due to current high water levels and soaked soil, just a small amount of rain could trigger more flooding in areas that have already seen record flooding this 2011 season, the National Weather Service reported Wednesday.

These factors indicate the flooding threat will continue through the summer, and potentially rival the flood of nearly two decades ago.

"There is nowhere for any additional water to go," Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's NWS Jack Hayes said in the NOAA statement. "While unusual for this time of year, all signs point to the flood threat continuing."

NOAA's Climate Prediction Service has forecasted above-average rain in already-vulnerable areas of the upper Midwest and Northern Plans in the next two weeks, and for much of the region in monthly outlooks.

Rising temperatures over the Rockies will add to the flood threat, releasing water from the remaining snowpack.

The highest flood risk areas include rivers of the North Central region in North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa; the Lower Missouri River regions from the Nebraska and South Dakota border through Missouri to the Mississippi River; tributaries to the Lower Mississippi in North Dakota; the lower Ohio River Valley; and the East and West of Rockies, including Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana and Utah.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is currently providing federal disaster assistance to Missouri, North Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska Montana and South Dakota.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

(Ccorrects time element of flood reference in 4th paragraph to two decades ago)