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Published January 24, 2014, 11:31 AM

Moderate spring flood risk is forecast for much of Red River Valley

The risk of major flooding is low this spring in the Red River Valley, according to the initial spring flood outlook released today by the National Weather Service.

By: Herald Staff Reports, Grand Forks Herald

The risk of major flooding is low this spring in the Red River Valley, according to the initial spring flood outlook released today by the National Weather Service.

“But, there’s a lot of winter yet to unfold,” the weather service outlook said in the report.

It’s also unlikely the valley will see an early thaw.

Here are details of the report:

A minor to moderate flood potential is indicated for most North Dakota and Minnesota tributaries.

A moderate flood potential is indicated for the majority of the Red River mainstem.

A roughly 1-foot-to-1.5-foot rise would be expected on the Devils Lake. That would bring the lake to an elevation of 1,453.3 to 1,453.8 feet. The lake reached a record-high elevation of 1,454.3 feet in 2011.

Among the main factors considered in the spring flood outlook are:

Soil moisture and stream flow conditions across the Red River and Devils Lake Basins are running mainly within the seasonal normal ranges, between 25 to 75 percent of seasonally adjusted historical values, with these notable exceptions:

Soil moistures for areas south and southwest from the Fargo-Moorhead area, in the North Dakota Wild Rice watershed, are running higher than normal, better than the 90th percentile. That’s the result of carryover from heavy summer and fall rains.

Stream flows on the Sheyenne River, below Baldhill Dam, and the Otter Tail River, below Orwell Dam, are somewhat high due to planned seasonal drawdown releases.

Snowpack is very near long-term normal levels, ranging from 8 inches in the far south to near 2 feet in the far north and northeast. The snowpack is highest along the U.S.-Canadian border to Lake of the Woods.

Snow water equivalent is somewhat less than long-term normal conditions, largely because of the much colder and drier winter air masses experienced during the current winter period. Water content is running from 1 to 1.5 inches in the southern basin (south of Halstad, Minn.), and from 2 to 3 inches north. Some 3-inch-or-greater snow water equivalents have been measured across upland areas of north-central Minnesota.

The short-term weather forecasts calls for continued below-normal temperatures with above-normal precipitation through Feb. 6.

The weather service said the current weather pattern — below-normal temperatures and near-normal precipitation — likely will continue through February, March and into April. That should result in near to above-normal snowfall, since colder air has less moisture and produces somewhat fluffier snow.

The next spring flood outlooks will be issued Feb. 20 and March 6.

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