Moisture from the snow will help with some drought recovery

DES MOINES — A state expert says the snow this month is going to be a help after months of drought.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources hydrologist Tim Hall says there are some indications melting snow will provide some help for depleted soil moisture. “The numbers I’ve seen suggest that the ground frost is not particularly deep in the state because the really cold weather we just came through happened after we had a pretty decent snow cover on the ground, which tends to insulate the soil a little bit,” he says.

Hall the ground is often frozen in January and there isn’t any seeping into the subsoil. “So if we were to have a rapid melt off, most of the snow would end up in runoff off the top of the ground. So that’s not the best for soil moisture replenishment,” he says.

Hall says the snow melt will be beneficial one way or another. “That moisture is going to go somewhere, and right now whether it goes into the soil or goes into the streams, either one is a good thing for the state of Iowa,” Hall says.

Snow runoff will help bring the water levels back up in rivers, streams and lakes. “Those communities that are working hard to keep up with their water demand, this will be helpful,” he says. “Now it still is the time of the year when there isn’t a lot of water demand, so we’ll just keep sticking water into the system and hopefully we can save it up to the growing season next year.”

Hall says there could be some flooding if the snow melts rapidly, but he says the drought has created a lot of capacity in lakes and rivers. “If you recall about a year ago, we were sitting on record snowpack in Minnesota in Wisconsin. And that snow melted off and we had flooding on the Mississippi River in late spring of last year. But because the overall Midwest has been so dry, that flooding came and went and the Mississippi River was back in low flow conditions by summer,” he says.

Hall says that something could happen this year in Iowa if the runoff happens quickly.