A frigid weekend will stall an already-slow spring thaw process, according to a Thursday, March 19, briefing from the National Weather Service in Grand Forks. But as the river in the Red River Basin south of Fargo-Moorhead rises to action levels, warning coordination meteorologist Gregory Gust said it's not too early to monitor river levels in preparation for spring flooding.
"For now, things are behaving well," Gust said. "This is a good, even melt process."
Action stages have been reached near White Rock Dam near the North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota border. Open-water flow will continue this week and rise to additional thaw and runoff conditions next week. Near Grand Forks, the Red River was running at 17.89 feet Thursday afternoon. The flood stage begins at 28 feet.
Temperatures are expected to remain normal or near-normal over the next few weeks, but, in the immediately upcoming days, the temperature is expected to stay below freezing. Even once temperatures begin to rise in the next week, little to no runoff is expected, and light, mixed precipitation is possible later next week.
Current projections estimate there is a 50% to 75% chance the river will flow at about 25 to about 41 feet during the first week of April. There is a 90% chance minor flooding will begin the second week of April, and a 90% chance of moderate flooding the week after. Higher-than-expected precipitation will likely put the higher-risk categories into play, Gust said.
Overall flood projections have changed very little since previous outlooks. Major flooding is still expected in the Grand Forks region, and emergency officials are continuing to prepare for a Top 10 or a Top 5 flood, with the northern basin expected to receive the most significant flooding, Gust said.
As the region prepares, the NWS reminded residents that it only takes six inches of fast-moving water to knock people off their feet, and cars can be moved in as little as two feet of water. The NWS also reminded residents to never drive into flood waters.
About 90% of all U.S. natural disasters declared by the president involve flooding, which can be caused by heavy rain, rapid snow melt, ice jamming, levee overtopping, dam failure or wastewater systems, according to NWS.
To understand an area's flood risk, visit www.fema.gov/flood/zones. Flood insurance must be purchased separately from home insurance, and it takes a flood insurance policy 30 days to take effect after it is purchased. If conditions are favorable for flooding, a flood watch will be issued to indicate to residents that it's time to prepare for a flood. If a flood warning is issued, it means a flood is imminent or occurring, and residents should act.