April and May flooding expected again for Michiana, but it should be minor

NOW: April and May flooding expected again for Michiana, but it should be minor

Spring across Michiana signals the return of many things: flowers and trees blooming again, temperatures warming (theoretically), and thunderstorms flashing across the sky once more.

And for northern Indiana and southwestern Michigan, the spring season also means flooding. 

NOAA forecasters are once again predicting widespread flooding during April and May. Ongoing rainfall, very wet soil and a likelihood of above-normal rainfall this spring contribute to this flooding forecast. 

However, this time around, forecasters don’t expect it to be as severe or prolonged overall as the historic floods in 2019.


The greatest risk for major flood conditions includes the upper and middle Mississippi River basins, the Missouri River basin and the Red River of the North. 

Michiana is included in the one-third of the country with a risk of minor flooding. After two consecutive years of near-record spring rainfall in 2018 and 2019, this forecast departure in 2020 is a welcome one. You can find spring rainfall in South Bend for the last five years in the graphic below.

The National Weather Service defines minor flooding as flooding “with minimal or no property damage, but possibly some public threat,” such as inundation of roads. You can see the NWS levels of flooding below.

National Weather Service, NOAA

Back in our Spring Precipitation Outlook, we told you Michiana’s risk for heavy rain and flooding during the month of March was low. 

Below-normal precipitation backed up our prediction, with a little more than 2 inches of rain falling last month.

However, even with two straight months of below-normal precipitation, soil moisture remains high across Michiana. All of the region is at least in the 80th percentile for soil moisture heading into April, according to the Climate Prediction Center.

Additionally, a dry March didn’t stop the heavy rain and flooding in 2018 and 2019. March rainfall was fairly close to normal during those years.

The Climate Prediction Center is split in regards to April precipitation. Most of our area has an equal chance of experiencing above-normal or below-normal rainfall this month.

Climate Prediction Center

However, the three month outlook has a bullseye of above-normal precipitation right over Michiana. This outlook is for the months of April, May and June.

Climate Prediction Center

What these outlooks are suggesting is while Michiana has avoided heavy rain and flooding so far this spring, we can’t let our guard down. As storm season really ramps up over the next few months, flooding may be just around the corner.

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