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Flood forecast looks normal for now but could change

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Spring thaw progress for Red River of the north...

     In general, warmer temperatures late last week produced widespread warming and/or melting of area snowpack with some localized runoff evident in the southern red river basin.               Somewhat cooler temperatures from the weekend into the middle of this week have slowed or stalled any melt and runoff processes.

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     Current status of basin snowpack:

     n Headwaters and southern third of Red River Valley:

Snow cover is largely absent over the landscape upstream /south/ of Fargo into the tri-state border area and Lake Traverse drainage.

     Ditch networks and smaller streams are showing intermittent stretches of open water flow... With daytime thaw and nighttime freeze, conditions still keeping some culverts slow or plugged.

     Some streams and tributaries did show a brief response to warmer temperatures early in the week due to localized snowmelt runoff but have since diminished. The larger tributaries and mainstem Red River are showing patchy open water along the river banks and are slowly gaining water.

     From near stream runoff. Otherwise these systems are not yet showing large scale ice breakup or open flow.

     n Middle third of the Red River Valley: Patchy but slight snow cover remains over the central valley between Grand Forks and Fargo. Most ditches and smaller streams are partially filled with snow as are most shelter belts.

     Fields are generally 50 percent or greater snow free due to thaw and wind action. The larger tributaries and mainstem Red River are still quite frozen with some areas showing evidence of very localized snowmelt runoff and some pooling water at edges of thick river channel ice.

     n Northern third of Red River Valley: North and east from Grand Forks the amount of surface snowcover rapidly increases to over 50 percent with moderate snowpack showing in ditches and field shelterbelts.

     North and east from Oslo is showing over 75 percent snowcover and more significant snowpack in ditches and shelterbelts. Streams and rivers are still ice and snow-covered with little or no melt water showing in their channels or in contributing ditches.

     Bad news 1 - snow is on the way for the north basin. Widespread accumulating light rain or snow is expected from late afternoon across northeast ND...into early evening across northwest Mn...becoming widespread and accumulating snowfall overnight and on Friday. Though heavy snowfall is possible...the overall moisture gain should stay well within seasonal normals and not significantlyalter the current snowmelt flood risks for these areas.

     Bad news 2 - a big cool down is expected for the coming weekend.

     Following the storm passage on Friday...temperatures are expected to drop well below seasonal normals with high temperatures generally staying below the thaw point through next Tuesday.

     Bad news 3 - a generally cooler than normal pattern is expected from late march into April...with temperatures for April expected to average 2 to 4 degrees below long term normals.

     The good news - slightly stormier/wetter/snowier  than normal conditions are expected to last into early April.

     But overall weather patterns do not currently suggest any widespread heavy snow next week.

     Also .the risk for significantly heavy/above normal

precipitation through April appears low.

     So given the current state of the snowpack and river ice and with expectations of a continued slow/delayed thaw cycle, theonditional risks for spring snowmelt flooding are considered well within the probabilistic values released on March 6 and very near historical normals.   Thus no updates to the probabilistic hydrologic outlooks are expected at this time. Actual 7-day deterministic  flood forecasts for river locations will be issued     once the snowmelt thaw cycle begins in earnest and we     expect a river forecast location to be in flood within      the 7-day forecast period.

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Sarah Smith
Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.
(218) 732-3364
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