NOAA: Louisiana can expect warm, dry spring

Louisiana can look forward to a drier and warmer than normal spring with the possibility of minor flooding, according to the U.S. Spring Outlook released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“This year’s outlook is a mixed bag of drought, flooding and warm weather,” said Laura Furgione, deputy director of NOAA’s National Weather Service.

The outlook covers the months of April, May and June and looks at things like snow pack, soil moisture, water levels in rivers, ocean temperatures and more to come up with probabilities of what the weather conditions in the country will be in the near future, Furgione said.

The outlook is released, she said, to help communities and businesses around the country get a better idea of how to prepare for weather-related events.

The report found that the melting of late winter snow on frozen ground could result in some flooding in the upper Mississippi River basin. Flooding in the upper Mississippi River doesn’t contribute much to river levels as it flows through Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

But, the NOAA outlook states that the Ohio River basin, which heavily influences Mississippi River levels in south Louisiana, has already had minor flooding this year, so minor flooding is possible for the lower Mississippi River basin.

The National Weather Service’s River Forecast Center’s 28-day river forecast shows Mississippi River levels will rise until March 30 to about 27 feet before gradually falling to 13.5 feet by April 17 in Baton Rouge. The flood stage at Baton Rouge is 35 feet which generally means the point where the river would overflow it’s banks if there were no levees lining the river.

For New Orleans, the forecast shows a similar bump in water levels to 10.3 feet on March 28 and then a gradual fall of river levels to 5.8 feet on April 17. Flood stage is 17 feet in New Orleans.

In temperature, Louisiana joins much of the continental United States in expecting above normal temperatures for the next three months, Furgione said.

However, Louisiana is looking much better than last year when it comes to drought. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 41 percent of the state that was classified as abnormally dry or worse in March 2012. This March, only 15.6 percent of the state was abnormally dry or worse. In addition, so far this March there isn’t any area in Louisiana that is classified as being in severe or extreme drought, but there were small areas that fit those classifications last year.

There are large areas of drought across the country, primarily in the central part of the continental United States stretching from California to the Mississippi River. That drought means there will be increased risk of fires, Furgione said.

“We’re already seeing some fires breaking out in Oklahoma,” she said.