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The Missouri River is moving so fast it could fill some local lakes in less than an hour

Seeing how fast the river flow can fill various bodies of water
Posted at 6:11 PM, Jun 27, 2024

With the flooding along the Missouri River, the Missouri River is racing at a very fast rate. This can be seen by just looking at the river as the water rushes past. You might be wondering how much water is flowing through the river. Some of these answers may surprise you, and do not worry, the math/numbers will be sparse in this article.

On average, the Missouri River flows by Omaha at around 37,000 cubic feet per second. What does that mean? Simple conversions show that 1 cubic feet = 7.48 gallons of water. Thus, the Missouri River pushes about 276,779 gallons of water per second, math for "a lot". For context, the average swimming pool holds between 10,000 and 30,000 gallons of water depending on its size.

The number above is for an average day on the Missouri River, how about with this flooding? River gauges show the flow along the Missouri flowing at 143,000 cubic feet, which is over 100,000 more than normal! To convert that to gallons, just over 1 million gallons of water per second flowing along the Missouri River at Omaha!

Now let's experiment. What if somehow we were to use the Missouri River as a hose to fill up various bodies of water? Let's start with a baseline, an Olympic-sized swimming pool. It would take about half a second to fill one up!

Let's get larger. How about some of the lakes in the Omaha metro? To fill Lake Zorinsky to the brim, it would take roughly 15 minutes to do so! For Lake Manawa, about 27 minutes.

What about the city of Omaha itself? To fill the entire city with one foot of water would take about 8 hours to do so! How about the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area (Douglas, Sarpy, Dodge, Saunders, and Cass Counties in Nebraska; Pottawattamie, Harrison, and Mills Counties in Iowa) with one foot of water? It would take roughly 10 days to fill eight counties with 1 foot of water!

Lake McConaughy, Lake Red Rock, and the Lake of the Ozarks are the largest lakes in Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri respectively. These lakes are huge, so how long to fill them up? It would take about 5 to 6 days to fill each one up.

Let's get even larger while still staying realistic. Lake Mead in the southwest US can hold trillions of gallons of water. How long would it take to fill the entire reservoir to the brim? With the current flow of the Missouri River, it would take about 3.5 months to fill it.

However you slice it, the current on the Missouri River is FAST! Therefore, you should not get in the water under any circumstances, as you could be swept away by the current very easily.