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OUTLOOK: Chance of major flooding in much of Red River Valley increases

The chance of major flooding this spring is increasing throughout much of the Red River Valley, according to the latest spring flood outlook issued Friday by the National Weather Service.

Flood outlook

The chance of major flooding this spring is increasing throughout much of the Red River Valley, according to the latest spring flood outlook issued Friday by the National Weather Service.

In Fargo and some smaller communities in the southern Red River Valley, the risk of reaching major flood stage of 30 feet is as high as 98 percent.

In Grand Forks, the risk of reaching major flood stage of 46 feet is 73 percent.

Meanwhile, people along the Red River at Drayton, N.D., are facing an 88 percent chance of reaching major flood stage of 42 feet.

In Grafton, N.D., the chance of the Park River reaching major flood stage of 14.5 feet is 86 percent.


"The magnitude and extent of spring 2010 flooding will likely be similar to that experienced during the spring of 2009," the outlook states, citing three main factors -- excessive rainfall last fall, the amount of water in the current snowpack and the prospects for additional moisture through the spring melt period.

"With this latest outlook, we see that major flooding is likely for most locations on the mainstem of the Red River of the North and for many locations on its North Dakota tributaries, especially across southeastern North Dakota" said Mark Frazier, meteorologist in charge of the weather service's Grand Forks office.

While the flood risk has increased in many communities since the last weather service spring flood outlook was released three weeks ago, officials say it's too early to start worrying.

"Now, we're looking at higher probabilities than we did last year because of snowpack in some areas, especially in southeastern North Dakota," said Greg Gust, warning coordination meteorologist with the weather service in Grand Forks.

"We encourage people across the Red River Valley to be systematically preparing for the spring flood season," Frazier said.

Fargo-Moorhead has a 25 percent chance of reaching the record flood of 2009, Gust said, adding that it means there's a 75 percent chance it will not reach that level.

"That's still a significant chance," he said. "There's so much snow in the system. That's a very significant, telling feature."

He said actual flood forecasts cannot be made until the snow and ice begin to melt and the rivers begin flowing freely.


He also indicated that weather patterns point to cooler and wetter weather as spring approaches, with perhaps less-than-normal precipitation in the next two weeks. The next significant snowfall is projected for early March.

The outlook lists the following probabilities for major flooding, followed by the probability as of Jan. 29 in parentheses, and major flood stage:

- Wahpeton, N.D.: 55 percent (26 percent), 14 feet.

- Fargo: 96 percent (86), 30 feet.

- Halstad, Minn.: 75 percent (11), 40 feet.

- Grand Forks: 73 percent (45), 46 feet.

- Oslo, Minn.: 72 percent (45), 36 feet.

- Drayton, N.D.: 88 percent (63), 42 feet.


- Pembina, N.D.: 55 percent (41), 52 feet.

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

- Climax (Sand Hill River): 21 percent (16), 30 feet.

- Crookston (Red Lake): 4 percent (4), 25 feet.

- Near Warren, Minn. (Snake): 6 percent (1), 848 feet above sea level.

- Hallock, Minn. (Two Rivers): 13 percent (6), 810 feet above sea level.

- Roseau, Minn. (Roseau): 18 percent (4), 19 feet.

Here is the chance along major tributaries in North Dakota:


- Hillsboro (Goose): 27 percent (14), 16 feet.

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

- Grafton (Park): 86 percent (68), 14.5 feet.

- Walhalla (Pembina): 1 percent (1), 18 feet.

- Neche (Pembina): 63 percent (11), 21.5 feet.

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