U.S. still expecting major Red River flood this spring
Despite recent dry spell, major flood likely from Fargo to Canadian border, forecasters say
U.S. forecasters are still expecting major flooding this spring along the Red River from Fargo, N.D., to the Canadian border, with the severity of the deluge dependent on weather over the next two months.
A recent dry spell in North Dakota and Minnesota has not diminished the potential for what the U.S. National Weather Service calls a "top-five flood" along the American portion of the Red River Valley, service hydrologist Amanda Lee told reporters Thursday morning.
"The good news is we haven't had a whole lot of change over the last few weeks," Lee said at a news conference in Grand Forks, N.D.
"The bad news is, the stuff that already happened — the precipitation that fell in the fall and winter — is already there."
Lee said there is a very good chance the Red will crest this spring at a level that would require Grand Forks to close its floodwall, and require Fargo to build dikes.
Several factors have led to this forecast. Soil moisture throughout the Red River Valley in the U.S. was high at freeze-up, while rivers and streams were running at or near record levels at the start of the winter, Lee said.
The depth of the snowpack is also above normal south of the border, although it's not as deep closer to Canada, Lee said. The moisture content of the snowpack is closer to average, she added.
On the plus side, frost has not penetrated as deeply as usual into the soil in the northern U.S., which means the ground may be able to absorb more runoff this spring, Lee said.
The final two factors that determine the severity of a flood are still up in the air. They include how quickly the snowpack thaws, and whether any heavy rain falls during the spring melt period, Lee said.
To date, Grand Forks has experienced its wettest fall and winter ever, while Fargo has recorded its third-highest precipitation during the same period, she said.
Manitoba's first flood forecast is due out later this month.