New snow will impact flood outlookThe chances of spring flooding for cities along the Red River will likely increase slightly because of snowfall Monday and Tuesday, said a National Weather Service hydrologist. A new spring flood outlook will be released Friday morning.
By: Ryan Johnson, Grand Forks Herald
The chances of spring flooding for cities along the Red River will likely increase slightly because of snowfall Monday and Tuesday, said a National Weather Service hydrologist.
Mike Lukes said NWS officials were adding the new precipitation numbers to a forecast model Wednesday and today. A new spring flood outlook will be released Friday morning.
The previous outlook, released Feb. 27, put the chances of Grand Forks reaching major flood stage of 46 feet at 72 percent. There was a 90 percent chance of the river rising to 44.8 feet.
The likelihood of it climbing to 47.6 feet was 50 percent, and there was a 10 percent chance the river would crest at 50.3 feet.
A record crest of 54.35 feet was recorded April 22, 1997. The $417 million flood protection system put in place after that flood is designed to protect Grand Forks up to 57 feet and East Grand Forks to 58 feet.
The exact impact of this week’s precipitation on the new outlook is hard to estimate before forecast models are completed, Lukes said.
Grand Forks saw 5 inches of new snowfall earlier this week, with a total of 49.7 inches so far this winter.
But the worst of the storm went south and east of the city.
Moorhead recorded 10.1 inches of snow, and other areas in the southern Red River Valley also received considerable snowfall.
Lukes said those areas will be impacted the most in the spring flooding, even though they are upstream of Grand Forks.
“Since we are downstream, we have a little more channel capacity to carry that water,” he said. “It could carry a bit more water without significantly rising as fast as Fargo.”
The last flood outlook said there was a 98 percent chance the Red River in Fargo would reach major flood stage of 30 feet.
Lukes said this new snowfall’s impact in Fargo will most likely increase crest levels at the least likely end of the outlook. Previous numbers put the chances of the river reaching about 41 feet in the city at 2 percent, but this number now may increase to 42 feet.
These forecasts are based on 58 years of past data, he said, but the real levels of flooding will largely depend on the spring thaw season.
“Basically, how you melt the snow and if there’s any additional precipitation will affect the actual flood,” he said.
Grand Forks officials declared a state of emergency Wednesday. But Kevin Dean, a public information officer for the city, said the declaration basically was the first step in a standard process.
“In order to be able to get any type of state or federal resources that we may need to tap, we would first have to declare an emergency,” he said.
Dean said the city has done this many years in the past, but Wednesday’s announcement may worry residents more this year.
“When you hear projections in excess of 47 to 50 feet, it certainly grabs peoples’ attention,” he said.
The city has learned a lot of lessons from the 1997 flood, he said, and now, officials want to be “proactive rather than reactive.”
Some people may consider the declaration a bit early, he said. But because of the 14 miles of flood protection in the city, providing additional protection if forecasts suddenly change will take longer than it did in 1997.
“It’s not meant to alarm anybody,” he said. “We are simply trying to be open and honest about what we’re doing and letting people know that we’re taking all the steps necessary to provide the best protection for them that we can.”
Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.