NOAA 2001-035
Contact: Curtis Carey


Winter snow storms in the Northeast and Midwest have set the stage for potential flooding while drought conditions in the Northwest and water shortages in the Southeast will linger despite spring rains, NOAA scientists at the Commerce Department said today.

"A major concern is the impact of continued dry conditions on salmon stocks and hydroelectric energy production in the Northwest," said Scott Gudes, NOAA's acting administrator. "Current conditions are so extreme that portions of the Columbia River Basin may register river flow volume at its lowest since 1977."

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Jack Kelly, director of the weather service, said, "You had the coldest November and December on record in parts of the country, drought conditions in the Northwest and Florida, major snowstorms which crippled parts of the nation; that equals a winter to remember."

Kelly said, "The spring outlook presents forecasters with two concerns -- drought and floods. "Heavy snows in the Northeast and Midwest now make some of those states vulnerable to floods if the snow pack melts too quickly. The water shortage in the Southeast is expected to remain. The Northwest will see above-normal precipitation, but the spring rainfall will be too little too late to replenish water resources there."

"U.S. Geological Survey stream-gauges and other monitoring systems show
record-breaking dryness in many parts of the United States, particularly the Pacific Northwest, western North Carolina, and parts of Florida," said USGS Director Chip Groat. "As we move towards the drier months of summer, USGS will continue to provide information on droughts, floods, and other water conditions to NOAA and the weather service in support of their important mission."

For Spring 2001, the nation can expect:

  • In the South, frequent rains since November in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, have eliminated drought conditions. If these areas get additional significant rain, flooding is likely because streams are already running high;
  • In the Western Great Lakes region (Wisconsin, eastern Minnesota, and Upper Michigan) and in the Northeast, there is a potential for a wet spring. In the Northeast, snow from this month's Nor'easter has heightened flooding concerns along the Connecticut and Merrimack river basins in New England, where at least 10-12 inches of water is stored in the snow pack— twice the normal amount. Above-normal snowmelt flooding is possible across the region;
  • Near normal average temperature conditions are expected for the 3 month period in the Mid-Atlantic region (60 degrees) and central United States (60s), including the Ohio, Tennessee (70s) and Mid- and Southern Mississippi Valleys (75), and most of the Plains states (60 degrees);
  • The Midwest (55-60 degrees) is expected to have a normal spring. However, the weather service is closely watching the snow melt in many areas including Minnesota and the Dakotas for potential flooding. The region received above average snowfall this winter creating a likelihood for spring flooding if the snow pack melts too quickly.
  • In the Southeast, including Florida, the weather service is forecasting a warm and relatively dry spring. Severe drought conditions have sparked wildfires in Florida, however, mid to late-March rains and season rains, which typically return by June, could provide some relief. Long term deficits will likely continue to impact water supplies;
  • In the Southwest, expect above-normal temperatures; but normal precipitation.

Though above-normal precipitation is forecast for parts of the Northwest, it will not be enough to offset the impact of already low precipitation levels and the resulting thin snow pack;

Near normal precipitation conditions expected over Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico leaving most of Hawaii and southern Puerto Rico in persistent dryness. Alaska has been relatively warm with below-normal snowpack. This spring above normal temperatures are expected for northern Alaska while the southern extremes should be cool.

"NOAA's recent climate initiatives and technology improvements have resulted in gains in the accuracy of long-term seasonal forecasts and short-term severe weather prediction, " Gudes said. "NOAA's climate and weather forecast services are vital since $1 trillion of the U.S. economy is weather sensitive with most of the major economic sectors including energy, agriculture, transportation, construction, and water resources affected."

To read the complete Spring 2001 Outlook, visit: The outlook will be updated on April 12 at 3 p.m EST.