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Fort Wayne Could See Spring Flooding After Record Snows

February 8, 2014

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

A part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control project on the St. Joseph River in Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — After rough winter, Fort Wayne may need to brace itself for more trouble this spring. This winter's record snowfall is fueling concerns that Indiana's second-largest city could see destructive spring flooding if heavy rains quickly melt away the region's snow cover.

During a similar scenario in March 1982, severe flooding brought the city national attention and President Ronald Reagan helped in sandbagging efforts during a visit to the city.

But city officials said Fort Wayne is now better equipped to weather the results of spring snow runoff thanks to several flood-control projects installed since 1982. Those include the completion of more than 10 miles of dikes along the city's three rivers and construction of a new channel along several miles of the Maumee River that has increased the river's capacity.

(MORE: How Much Has it Warmed Where You Live?)

"We're in a totally different state now in Fort Wayne," Bob Kennedy, Fort Wayne's director of public works, told The News-Sentinel

The National Weather Service says more than 2 1/2 feet of snow fell last month on Fort Wayne, making it the city's snowiest month on record.

Much of January's record 30.3 inches of snow has melted away, but many locations in northeast Indiana now have a foot or more of snow and lingering frigid readings has kept it from melting. That snowpack includes a record 6.2-inch snowfall for the date that Fort Wayne saw Wednesday.

Officials said the region's snowpack holds the frozen equivalent of 2-4 inches of rain.

Kennedy said the best scenario for the melting of the region's snowpack would be a series of sunny days in the 30s and 40s and no heavy rains.

The worst circumstance would be for much warmer air to arrive with heavy rains, perhaps a series of thunderstorms that would combine to inundate local rivers and streams with runoff.

MORE: Winter Storm Orion's Wrath

A police official looks around during a snowy day in Evanston, Ill., Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)


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