Minnesota flooding updates for Friday, April 1

Posted at 5:30 PM on April 1, 2011 by Michael Olson, Paul Tosto and MPR News Staff

AT A GLANCE: Heavy snow, rain possible Sunday... Faster melt alters Red River forecast... Forecasts drop for second Minnesota River crest... Fargo mayor expects 40.5' Red crest.

5:10 PM: Worries over the 'slow flood'

Mara Solberg and her husband Warren live on their farm in Horace, ND, south of Fargo, about 300 feet from the Wild Rice River. She's part of MPR's Public Insight Network and even as she worries about the rising river, she's been kind enough to update us on what she's seeing and experiencing.

"Things are starting to happen here," she wrote us today.

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"My husband said this year has been what we would call a slow flood. It isn't coming up fast, and almost gives one an ominous feeling.

"We are going to spend the weekend clearing out our garage and getting the generator, boots, flashlights, sump pumps, etc. ready. We are supposed to get more snow on Sunday, so it's a stress for us."

Below is a picture taken yesterday of the Wild Rice by the bridge to their farm. We'll be checking in with her through the next couple weeks. Good luck to Mara and everyone else in the path of potential flooding.

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You can help us cover the floods, too. Drop us a line and tell us what you're seeing.

4:30 PM: Faster melt alters Red River forecast

Here's the latest on the Red River situation from MPR's Dan Gunderson:

A new spring melt outlook this afternoon from the National Weather Service says flooding in the Red River Valley could change more rapidly next week than previously expected.

It's looking more likely a weekend storm will bring rain to the southern Red River Valley with the possibility of isolated heavy showers. Forecasters say the rain could accelerate snow melt and cause rivers to rise more rapidly. Significant rain, a half-inch or more in 24 hours, will accelerate snowmelt.

Another storm could hit the Red River Valley late next week.

The National Weather Service says river forecasts will likely be adjusted late Sunday or Monday to reflect precipitation from the weekend storm.

Fargo Moorhead officials plan to begin building sandbag dikes early next week. Several miles of earthen levees and large 4-6 foot tall sandbags are already in place as the cities prepare for the possibility of near record flooding.

4:20 PM: Forecasts drop for second Minn. River crest

We don't have data yet but maybe some good news for towns along the Minnesota River. Minnesota homeland security officials this afternoon report that flood forecasts are dropping for next week's expected second crest of the Minnesota River.

"The second round of crests is expected to begin midweek next week in the Minnesota and Crow River basins. At this time the area most impacted will be the Crow River at Mayer and Delano," officials write. "Flood forecasts for the second crest have dropped on the Minnesota River."

Weather-wise, officials say the southern half of Minnesota will receive mostly rain with this system...we expect to see an increase in river flows late in the week for the southern half on Minnesota."

3:20 PM: Arc of a flood

The U.S. Geological Survey is producing and updating a couple of fascinating graphs comparing Red River floods of the past to what we're seeing this spring.

Here's a chart of the Red River at Fargo....

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...and the same chart for the Red at Grand Forks...

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We're no experts. But for as slowly as the flood season has begun, the current arc of the rising Red in 2011 looks pretty similar to 1997. There's no doubt the region is better prepared now than in 1997. But we could be talking floods and high water for at least two more weeks.

1:45 PM: MnDOT reopening Hwy 93 to Le Sueur

Minnesota Highway 93 from Highway 169 to Le Sueur will open at 3 p.m. today, MnDOT and the Minnesota State Patrol report. Flooding closed that stretch of road March 22.

10:55 AM: Fargo mayor expects 40.5' Red crest

"Plans in place to protect against a 42-foot crest in this year's flood fight should be adequate, Mayor Dennis Walaker said this morning at the city's weekly flood briefing," the Fargo Forum reports. "Walaker said he doesn't expect the Red River to rise above 40.5 feet, but any significant precipitation could change that."

The Red was at 19.41 feet earlier this morning.

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9:50 AM:Toughest U.S. weather city? Fargo

It's official: Fargo is the toughest weather city in America. The Weather Channel says so.

Not that anyone in Fargo-Moorhead needed to be told this.

The region beat out something called Bradford, Pa., getting 54 percent of the 55,000-plus online audience votes. "The combination of the city's infamous blizzards, extreme cold and spring floods" was too much for the undersized Bradford, the Weather Channel said.

WDAY reports Fargo "took down Grand Rapids and Marquette, MI; International Falls and the Twin Cities, MN; and of course Juneau, AK in the final Four."

Read Fargo's strong to the hoop "Final Four" weather profile.

7:50 AM: Wet weather delays Red River flood prep

83.6" makes this winter the third snowiest on record for the Fargo-Moorhead area. The previous third-place record was the winter of 1936-37. The recent blast of winter weather delayed the deployment of sandbags.

The Fargo Forum reports deployment of sandbags will likely take place next week.

7:30 AM: Precipitation could prolong high water

Craig Edwards has a fresh look at the weekend weather. The gang at Updraft continue to caution that these spring weather projections are likely to change.
Rivers in central and southern Minnesota have mostly crested, but this next wave of precipitation will prolong the high water levels. The drainage into the Red River Valley remains a work in progress.

A couple weeks ago I visited the North Central River Forecast Center in Chanhassen. I chatted with one of the hydrologists about the disappearing snowpack and the lack of runoff moving down the curbsides.

Together we surmised that perhaps as much as one inch of water equivalent from the seasonal snowfall sublimated directly into water vapor.


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7:00 AM: Rain and snow expected Sunday

Sunday is going to be a wet day. Here's what MPR's Paul Huttner has to say about it on the Updraft: "Sunday: Rain likely, possible heavy at times. Could start as wet snow, changing to all rain metro. Heavy wet snow possible Brainerd & Duluth. High near 47 metro, upper 30s north."


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6:40 AM: St. Croix crests at Stillwater


St. Croix Flooding_1938
In the foreground is a dike made from sand covered with sheets of plastic held in place with sandbags, and in the background is the Stillwater Lift Bridge. Notice the street sign, on the righthand side centered. Photo credit: MNkiteman


6:20 AM: Waters recede, traffic problems continue

Flooded central and southern Minnesota rivers are cresting without causing major damage. The St. Croix crested yesterday at Stillwater, and the city's lift bridge has remained open through the flood event. In the northwest, Fargo-Moorhead officials are delaying construction of sandbag dikes because of continued cold, snowy weather.

The Minnesota River in Scott County has begun to recede, but some stretches of township roads and state highways remain closed. Chris Weldon is the county's emergency management director. He says he doesn't know when roads will reopen, "A lot of people ask that question and I wish I could give people a good solid answer. But it depends on the weather, if it warms up really quickly, how much rain or snow we get, and what's going to happen to our west. We're still looking at snow in the northern part of the state, and probably the northern part of the Minnesota River watershed."

MnDoT last week closed river crossings at Highways 101 and 41 due to high water. Additional buses in the area are helping commuters get around and relieve traffic.

-- Phil Picardi, MPR News


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