Red River updated flood outlook

Red River updated flood outlook Click to Enlarge

The last hydrologic outlook from National Weather Service and River Forecast Center issued in late January said there’s a high risk for major spring flooding along the mainstem Red River.

A new hydrologic outlook came out today (Thu)…and hydrologist Amanda Lee says, there’s not much difference.

“The good news is, we haven’t had a whole lot of change in the last few weeks,” Lee said, “so most numbers from the Jan. 23 outlook are pretty close to remaining valid. Haven’t had a lot of precipitation or snowfall. Pretty mild for the most part and our frost depth continues to be pretty shallow, especially compared to last spring.

“But the bad news is, the precipitation that fell earlier in the winter and fall is still there.”

The outlook says there’s a greater than 65 percent chance of major Red River flooding for Grand Forks-East Grand Forks…Pembina…Drayton…Oslo…Halstad and Fargo Moorhead.

The forecast also predicts moderate to major flooding along the Red River’s tributaries.

The 50-50 mark for flooding puts a high water mark at near 49 feet in Grand Forks. Flood stage is 28 feet. In 2019, the “Red” hit 46.99 feet.

Climate outlooks indicate an increased risk for a cooler and wetter late-winter and early-spring. If that holds, the risk for rapid and/or rainfall-enhanced runoff may be increased.

“These early outlooks are just that – they’re outlooks,” said KNOX Meteorologist Mark Ewens. “They’re based on the history of flooding throughout the Red River valley. We know it’s a potentially serious situation that needs to be monitored closely, but we really will not have a very good idea on actual flood levels, obviously, until we get close to the melt cycle itself.”

The outlook reviews snowpack conditions, river flows, soil moisture and frost depths in making the forecast.


            VALID FROM FEBRUARY 17, 2020 TO MAY 17, 2020            

LOCATION              95%    90%    75%    50%    25%    10%    05%
--------            ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
  WAHPETON            12.2   12.5   13.0   14.6   15.7   17.1   17.4
  HICKSON             27.9   29.3   31.1   33.4   34.5   36.0   36.8
  FARGO               31.8   32.4   34.2   35.6   37.6   39.0   39.9
  HALSTAD             35.8   37.1   38.2   39.0   39.8   40.2   40.6
  GRAND FORKS         44.6   45.6   47.0   48.9   51.1   52.9   54.2
  OSLO                37.0   37.3   37.4   37.8   37.9   38.0   38.1
  DRAYTON             41.4   41.9   42.5   43.2   44.4   45.0   45.5 

PEMBINA 51.0 51.7 52.3 53.0 54.0 54.5 54.8

= =


National Weather Service officials say they are not ruling out the possibility of a top five flood in the Red River Valley, even though there have been no storms since mid-January. The area has seen below-average precipitation in the last four weeks and the forecast is favorable for at least the next two weeks. However, it has done little to change the rankings for one of the wettest fall and winter seasons on record, the weather service said. Fargo's totals since Sept. 1 fell from No. 2 to No. 3 all-time, but the Grand Forks area remains No. 1 historically for that period.

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