Officials south of the border released their spring flood outlook on Thursday, which will help shape what forecasters in Manitoba use to determine any flood risk this year.
The National Weather Service in Grand Forks says minor to moderate flooding is expected along the Red River from Halstad, Minnesota into Grand Forks, and the Red Lake River from Crookston into East Grand Forks.
The mainstem Red from Oslo, north into Pembina, has a higher snowpack and is indicating a risk of minor to moderate flooding.
The risk of moderate to major flooding exists in the far southern Red River basin, from Fargo-Moorhead down to the southern headwaters areas.
The next flood updates from the U.S. will come down March 7 and 21. Manitoba flood forecasters will release their first spring flood outlook on February 27.
On Wednesday, provincial crews began breaking up ice on the Red River north of Selkirk to prevent potential ice jams.
The National Weather Service in the U.S. released their 2011 spring flood outlook on Tuesday for Grand Forks and the surrounding areas.
The Red River and Devils Lake Basin are in store for “major spring flood issues,” climatologists said.
The outlook, based on recorded levels of snow as of January 13, report Fargo has received 141 centimetres this season. The amount of snow is 40 centimetres above its long term annual average for an entire winter season. West central Minnesota, southeastern North Dakota, and portions of northeast North Dakota, including the Devils Lake Basin, are in similar situations.
Most of this area received above normal summer and fall precipitation, making for rivers and streams to freeze at record high levels.
To add to the problem, climatologists say the current La Nina pattern is expected to hold through the spring, making for the possibility of a colder and snowier winter plus the possibility of a cooler, stormier, and wetter spring.
The Devils Lake Basin is expected to rise to a new record height in excess of 1454 ft elevation, making for the community of Minnewauken, ND to be inundated, along with additional homes, businesses and critical infrastructure surrounding these lakes.
The current spring flood outlook for the Southern Red River Basin, including the Fargo-Moorhead area, already has a higher risk of spring flood levels than were seen in either the 2006 or 2010 major flood events. Forecasters are predicting Fargo-Moorhead could see flood levels approach the record levels set back in the early spring of 2009.
The Northern Red River Basin indicates the Red River also has a similar risk of major spring flooding, as seen during the 2006, 2009 and 2010 major flood events. Luckily, it only has a 10 percent risk of experiencing record levels which occurred back in 1997.
Manitoba’s own flood forecast will be released on January 24.
Manitoba spring break is just a week away for thousands of students across the province. While some students jet away to warmer destinations, many choose to stay closer to home and take a road trip to Grand Forks or Fargo, North Dakota.
With the threat of a flood looming across many southern Manitoba communities, including in the U.S., many residents are thinking twice about heading down Highway 75 beginning March 27.
You’ve probably seen the news footage this weekend from Fargo, where the city has had to enlist the help of 225 National Guard soldiers to fill sandbags. Officials there believe flood levels could exceed those of 1997. It’s a scary thought for many residents living within the flood zone. That’s why Manitobans are not only taking precautions to secure their own property, but are also making alternative vacation plans.
I wanted to get a sense of how the flood threat was affecting bookings at local hotels in both Grand Forks and Fargo. On Sunday I called 10 hotels to see if reservations were being made or cancelled by Manitoba residents looking to unwind during the upcoming spring break. According to most hotels, there were still availabilities for the upcoming break, which is unusual given the time of year I was told.
Another hotel said they had received four cancellations from Manitobans within the last week. “I think many are worried about coming down here and not being able to get back. I-95 (Highway 75) might be washed out soon,” said a clerk at the Canad Inns Grand Forks.
Meanwhile, American officials are desperately seeking the help of volunteers to fill sandbags. “We need this help,” Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said. “We need to stay calm, we need to stay cool, but we need to get serious and get this done.”
The U.S. National Weather Service said the Red River was about 0.9 metres above flood stage Sunday in Fargo and more water was on the way. The river was expected to crest between 11-12.5 metres in the Fargo-Moorhead area by Friday, a day earlier and a third of a metre higher than projected.
— With files from Inforum.com Image credit: PoynterOnline.org