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Flood outlook: 86% chance of major Red flooding at F-M, 45% at GF-EGF

The National Weather Service's latest spring flood outlook indicates an 86 percent chance of major flooding along the Red River at Fargo and other areas in the southern Red River Valley this year.

Spring flood probability projections for Red River at GF-EGF
National Weather Service flood probability projections for Red River at Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. (National Weather Service graphic)

The National Weather Service's latest spring flood outlook indicates an 86 percent chance of major flooding along the Red River at Fargo and other areas in the southern Red River Valley this year.

The outlook lists a 45 percent chance of major flooding in Grand Forks and Oslo, Minn., but a 63 percent chance in Drayton, N.D.

Grafton, N.D., on the Park River, has a 68 percent chance of major flooding.

Major flood stage in Grand Forks is 46 feet, compared with 30 feet in Fargo.

Some of the conditions present this year, especially in the southern valley, resemble those in 2006 and 2009, the latter a record flood in Fargo-Moorhead.


But the flood threat eases as it moves north. And the potential threat is greater on the North Dakota side of the border than in northwestern Minnesota.

"We are just passing the midwinter point now," said Greg Gust, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.

The outlook, released Friday, combines snowfall, moisture content and other factors gleaned from precipitation this winter, and combines it with long-term weather patterns over the past 60 years.

Snow depths range from 8 to 14 inches across the northern Red River Valley to 14 to 20 inches across the southern Red River Valley. Similar snow depths exist in the Devils Lake Basin.

Snow water contents generally range from 4 to 5 inches across portions of the southern Red River Valley and generally 2 to 4 inches elsewhere. These conditions are comparable to the midwinter values of 2009, the weather service reported.

The amount of water in the snowpack is comparable to the midwinter of 2009, according to the outlook. Amounts generally range from 4 to 5 inches in the southern Red River Valley to 2 to 4 inches elsewhere.

The southern Red River basin was wetter than normal last fall, but below the record levels set in 2008 that contributed to last spring's record flood. Still, river base flows "remain well above normal" right now, the weather service said.

Frost depths generally range from 18 to 24 inches across the basin.


"These are about half as deep as this time in 2009, but just as solid," Gust said. "Snowpack and snow water equivalent are now nearly the same as this time in 2009, also quite similar to 2006."

The weather service does not issue crest predictions until after the snow and ice begin to melt and water is moving in the valley.

"Right now, we have a chance of reaching levels of the 2006 or 2009 floods," Gust said. "But that doesn't mean we'll get flooding of that significance."

He said the early outlook provides residents and community leaders information to prepare for possible conditions. Heavy spring rain or a fast thaw would contribute to the flood threat.

"We're sitting on the same keg of dynamite as last year," Gust said. "We could be drier than last year in March and April, and that would reduce the threat. But the risk is there."

Other areas with a high probability of major flooding include: Abercrombie, N.D., at 96 percent; Lisbon, N.D., 77 percent; West Fargo, N.D., 85 percent; Harwood, N.D., 95 percent.

To make room for spring runoff from the snowmelt, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also announced Friday that it will draw down reservoir levels to their maximum levels at Lake Ashtabula, Lake Traverse, Orwell Reservoir and Homme Reservoir.

The outlook lists the following probabilities for major flooding, followed by major flood stage, for particular places:


- Wahpeton, N.D.: 26 percent, 14 feet.

- Fargo: 86 percent, 30 feet.

- Halstad, Minn.: 11 percent, 40 feet.

- Grand Forks: 45 percent, 46 feet.

- Oslo, Minn.: 45 percent, 36 feet.

- Drayton, N.D.: 63 percent, 42 feet.

- Pembina, N.D.: 41 percent, 52 feet.

Here is the chance of major flooding along tributaries in Minnesota:

- Climax: 16 percent, 30 feet.

- Crookston: 4 percent, 25 feet.

- Near Warren: 1 percent, 848 feet above sea level.

- Hallock: 6 percent, 810 feet above sea level.

- Roseau: 4 percent, 19 feet, 19 feet.

Here is the chance along major tributaries in North Dakota:

- Hillsboro (Goose): 14 percent, 16 feet.

- Minto (Forest): 1 percent, 11 feet.

- Grafton (Park): 68 percent, 14.5 feet.

- Walhalla (Pembina): 1 percent.

- Neche (Pembina): 11 percent.

Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or send e-mail to kbonham@gfherald.com .

Fargo area precipitation summary - 9-1-09 to 1-31-10
This National Weather Service graphic shows the cumulative precipitation from September 2009 through January 2010 versus September 2008 through January 2009. While still quite a bit above normal, note how the cumulative precipitation total is below the previous years record pace.

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