While a soggy spring is forecast across the eastern half of the country this year, almost the entire nation should bask in unusual warmth from April through June.
Overall, federal forecasters predict widespread flooding this spring in 23 states from the northern Plains all the way south to the Gulf Coast. The most significant flood potential is expected in parts of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.
The forecast was released Thursday by flood experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In total, about 128 million people should see some level of flooding this spring, according to Ed Clark, the director of NOAA's National Water Center. He said that 1.2 million people live where "major" flooding is possible, mainly in the Upper Midwest and northern Plains.
Major flooding means extensive inundation of structures and roads, which will lead to "significant evacuations of people ... to higher elevations."
Although the flooding should reach major to moderate levels in many areas, forecasters do not expect the flooding to be as severe or prolonged overall as the historic floods in 2019.
NOAA said that with soil moisture already at high levels across much of the central U.S. – and many rivers running high in the central and eastern U.S. – any heavy local rainfall could trigger flooding in these high-risk areas.
"We've already seen flooding in the Southeast due to heavy rain in February and March," said Mary Erickson, deputy director of the National Weather Service on a conference call with reporters Thursday morning.
"Any heavy rainfall could trigger additional flooding," she said.
Erickson warned that flooding is an underrated killer and is responsible for nearly 100 deaths per year in the U.S., about half of which are in vehicles.
As for temperatures, a warm spring is predicted for much of the country:
For the months of April through June, NOAA said that "warmer-than-average temperatures are expected from coast-to-coast with the greatest chances in northern Alaska, across the central Great Basin southward into the Gulf States, into the Southeast and portions of the mid-Atlantic."
— NOAA (@NOAA) March 19, 2020
No part of the country is forecast to see below-average temperatures this spring.
In a spring weather forecast also released Thursday, AccuWeather agreed with NOAA about the near-universal warmth expected for the next three months: “There is almost no part of the country that we are predicting to be below normal in any of the three months, which is unusual,” AccuWeather founder and CEO Joel N. Myers said.
“This may be a first," he said.
Finally, some good news: Spring starts Thursday – the earliest it's been in 124 years
As for how the warmer-than-average spring might affect the spread of the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the jury is out. "It is not yet known whether weather and temperature impact the spread of COVID-19," the CDC said on its website.
NOAA said flooding will be exacerbated in the eastern half of the country because of a prediction of a wet spring. According to NOAA, "above-average precipitation is favored from the northern Plains south through the lower Mississippi Valley across to the East Coast." The Midwest is the region that's most likely to see above-normal rainfall this spring.
While the eastern half of the country will see a damp spring, the opposite will be true for much of the drought-plagued western U.S., NOAA predicted.
"Drought conditions are expected to persist and expand throughout California in the months ahead, and drought is likely to persist in the central and southern Rocky Mountains, the southern Plains, southern Texas and portions of the Pacific Northwest," NOAA said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Spring flood forecast: Floods may affect 128 million in 23 states