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Red River at Grand Forks-EGF has 50-50 chance of second highest flood

The Red River has a 50-50 chance of rising above 51.1 feet at Grand Forks and East Grand Forks -- the second-highest on record -- this spring, according to the National Weather Service's latest spring flood outlook.

GRAPHIC: 2011 flood outlook

The Red River has a 50-50 chance of rising above 51.1 feet at Grand Forks and East Grand Forks -- the second-highest on record -- this spring, according to the National Weather Service's latest spring flood outlook.

The new forecast is more than a foot above the 50-foot level listed two weeks ago. The record is 54.35 feet in 1997.

Warm temperatures over the past week have contributed to melting throughout the basin. However, much of that moisture remains in the snowpack, according to Greg Gust, meteorologist in charge at the weather service's Grand Forks office.

Here are some major points, according to the weather service's latest outlook:

-- All points along the Red River have a better than 90 percent risk of major flooding.

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-- Fargo and Oslo, Minn., have a better than 20 percent risk of meeting or exceeding their 2009 floods of record. In 2009, Fargo hit 40.84 ft, while Oslo hit 38.19 ft.

-- With mainstem Red River flows now expected to be slightly higher overall, the risk for 2009-scale flooding near Grand Forks has risen from about 60 percent to about 80 percent.

-- The risk for reaching or exceeding the 1997 flood of record for Halstad, Minn., and Grand Forks remains roughly 10 to 12 percent. The 1997 record crest is 40.74 feet in Halstad and 54.35 feet in Grand Forks.

-- Hendrum, Minn., on the Wild Rice River, stands a 20 percent risk of exceeding its 1997 flood of record of 33.85 ft.

-- Highlanding, Minn., on the Red Lake River, has a better than 70 percent risk of breaking it's 2009 flood of record (13.64 ft) largely due to high levels on the Red Lakes.

-- Neche, N.D., on the Pembina River, and Grafton, on the Park River, could experience levels near those of 2009. Grafton has a 25 percent risk of exceeding its 1950 flood of record of 16.52 ft.

-- "Warm temperatures this past week have helped to melt some of the existing snowpack and even to evaporate or sublimate some of the snowpack moisture, leading to a loss of from one-tenth to one-quarter of an inch of moisture," Gust said. "So, overall net moisture gains since January have been quite low."

However, tough conditions remain throughout the region.

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"Our snowpack has become quite dense, compacted, and in some places soil is exposed," Gust said, adding that tough outlook conditions persist throughout the valley, including:

-- High snow water content. The actual moisture from the snow is still present either in the dense snow, in the near soil layer or in ditches. "It has not gone away," Gust said.

-- High soil moisture. Soils that were very wet last fall are still frozen and very saturated.

-- High base streamflows. River and lake levels (though frozen at the surface) have remained near winter season records.

The weather service indicates wintery conditions are on the return, with a colder and snowier than normal pattern expected for the later part of February and beyond.

With La Nina conditions expected to continue in the Pacific through early summer, an active weather pattern should persist well through the typical March-April snowmelt runoff period, according to the weather service.

The following locations have a near-50-percent or greater chance for reaching or exceeding major flood stage: Valley City, Lisbon, Kindred, Grafton and Neche in North Dakota; and Climax, Crookston and High Landing in Minnesota.

A better-than-even chance of moderate flooding exists at Enderlin, Mapleton, Hillsboro, Minto and Walhalla in North Dakota; and at Sabin, Hawley, Dilworth, Twin Valley, Shelly, Alvarado and Roseau in Minnesota.

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

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