Recent Snow Increases Flood Threat in North Dakota and Minnesota

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Release date: 
March 16, 1999
Release Number: 
HQ-99-069

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The National Weather Service (NWS) reports last week's snowstorm has added to the spring flood threat in parts of North Dakota and Minnesota. The North Central River Forecast (NCRF) area, which includes the Devil's Lake Basin in North Dakota, Red Lake River Basin in Minnesota and the Red River basin along the border of North Dakota and Minnesota is the area of chief concern.

Forecasters indicate major flooding is possible for points along the Red River from Grand Forks, ND, north to the Canadian border, moderate to major flooding for the Red Lake River basin in Minn. and for the Sheyenne River from Lisbon, Minn., to the confluence of the Red River. Severe flooding is anticipated in the Devil's Lake Basin in North Dakota, which is forecast to exceed last year's record lake level of 1444.7 ft. Mean Sea Level (MSL).

The situation is being closely monitored and, although it could become a major flood event, forecasters do not think conditions will result in anything as severe as the 1997 Red River flooding. Precipitation averages for March were pushed above normal with last week's snowstorm and have added to the already high soil moisture content observed across the entire Red River basin. Water equivalent from the snow pack ranges from 1.5 inches near lower portions of the Red River to 3.5 inches at the Canadian border. Ice jams also contribute to flooding on rivers by not allowing normal river flow and ice is currently present on all rivers and tributaries in the area.

Cities possibly affected by spring flooding include Lisbon, Grand Forks, Grafton and Drayton in North Dakota and Crookston, Oslo and East Grand Forks in Minnesota. The city of Pembina, ND, is very close to the Canadian border, where the chance for major flooding is higher.

Severe flooding is characterized by widespread inundation, requiring substantial assistance from outside local communities and by record or near record flooding. Major flooding is described as inundation, property damage, evacuation of people and livestock and the closure of both primary and secondary roads.

The severity of flooding if any will depend upon what the temperatures and precipitation will be like in the coming months. The six to 10 day outlook calls for above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation for the Red River basin. This could reduce the snowmelt flood threat by allowing the snow to melt without the threat of additional precipitation to add to the runoff. It would also aid in the dissipation of ice jams. The extended spring forecast indicates normal precipitation and temperatures for the area.

The Devil's Lake area has the greatest chance of severe flooding due to the precipitation rate exceeding the evaporation rate. The lake level is now 1444.1 ft MSL and the record level last year was 1444.7 ft MSL. The lake is expected to exceed that level again this summer, when the water level is forecast to crest sometime between June and early August.

Currently, officials from both North Dakota and Minnesota are monitoring the situation. FEMA officials from regional offices in Chicago and Denver (Region V and Region VIII) remain in contact with officials in Minnesota and North Dakota and are ready to respond to any requests for assistance.

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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