Flood Outlook Looks Rosy for Eastern North Dakota

March 31, 2008

Flood fighter Dave Rogness said he usually gets restless at the end of March, when the National Weather Service releases its second set of river level predictions for eastern North Dakota.

“This is the one we watch to really get a sense of where we’re at,” said Rogness, emergency management coordinator for Cass County. “I would say it’s looking pretty positive.”

Figures released by the weather service show less than a 10 percent chance of major flooding and less than a 25 percent chance of moderate flooding in the Red River Valley. There’s a fair chance of minor flooding, said Mike Lukes, weather service hydrologist in Grand Forks.

Minor flooding “doesn’t threaten life or property but it can cause problems in the area,” Lukes said.

“So far the outlook looks good,” he said.

Lukes said reasons for an optimistic forecast include the low moisture content in the soils before winter, mostly below average snow totals, and slow runoffs with temperatures above freezing during the day and below freezing at night.

“We’ll be OK as long as we don’t get widespread heavy rains,” he said. “I think we can handle an inch or two.”

The Red River in Fargo has a flood stage of 18 feet. There’s a 10 percent chance the river will reach 29.5 feet, which is near the mark that calls for a temporary dike in downtown Fargo.

“There are some minor increases from a month ago, but these numbers aren’t anything to be concerned about,” Rogness said.

The Red River in Grand Forks has a flood stage of 28 feet. There’s a 10 percent chance the river will go to 43 feet. The Red crested a shade under 48 feet in 2006, forcing some bridge closings but causing little damage.

“The numbers we have for Grand Forks don’t alarm people because we’re protected pretty high,” Lukes said.

The weather service takes into account precipitation totals and temperatures from the years 1949-2004 when making its predictions, Lukes said.

“The range of river height predictions narrows down the closer we get to the event,” he said. “The lenses get a little less smoky.”

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