Posted at 8:27 AM on March 16, 2010
by Paul Huttner
The next 48 hours will be a critical test for flood forecasts and river residents in the Upper Midwest. Many eastern Minnesota rivers continue to rise at about a foot per day. The Red River in Fargo is forecast to rise an amazing 4 feet in the next 24 hours. That's a foot every 6 hours.
It is interesting to note that some of the tributaries to the Red near Fargo have already crested and are beginning to fall. That's good news for residents near the south branch of the Buffalo River near Sabin. The bad news is that bubble of water is rolling downhill into the Red. That's one reason the Red is rising so rapidly in the next two days.
Hopefully the NWS river forecasts will continue to track right on the next 48 hours as the rivers continue to rise. The biggest threats over the next two days are the Crow River, the Red River, and parts of the Minnesota River upstream from Mankato.
The Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers in the Twin Cities should see a later crest as we approach the weekend or early next week.
Today's passing rain showers should not have a significant impact on river levels.
Fortunately the forecast looks dry Wednesday and Thursday, with only minor precip and colder weather as we approach the weekend.
It looks like residents in Fargo-Moorhead will have another day to work with in shoring up their levees.
The National Weather Service's latest outlook for the Red River has the crest coming on Sunday instead of Saturday. The river is still expected to crest at 38 feet — 20 feet above flood stage.
If that's the case, the 2010 flood could vault into the history books as one of the five highest recorded crests. Last year's crest, you'll recall, was the all-time record.
(1) 40.84 ft on 03/28/2009
(2) 40.10 ft on 04/07/1897
(3) 39.57 ft on 04/17/1997
(4) 37.80 ft on 04/11/1882
(5) 37.34 ft on 04/15/1969
Mark Olson is a brand consultant living in Fargo. He'll be updating us on what's happening in his community.
My immediate neighborhood is totally calm. No evidence of an impending flood. The threat is weakened greatly by the recent completion of a flood wall and levee that protects the VA Hospital and surrounding neighborhoods.
Immediately south of my home, Elm Street has been closed. It is the lowest street in the city and always the first to close. Adjacent to it, El Zagal golf course is a natural bowl which will fill despite the earthen levee. Mobile pumps already positioned to keep lift stations functional. No sandbagging preparation at the El Zagal Temple, site of a near dike failure last year.
A short distance north of my home, in the Woodcrest neighborhood, no one is sandbagging, but the city has surveyed and marked elevations in everyone's backyard, indicated with stakes and orange flags. This will provide the key reference point for sandbag dikes, should they be needed. Boxed rolls of poly (plastic), for the waterproof barrier under and outside a sandbag dike, have been dropped off on the driveway of each house that is on the river.
A sole National Guard Humvee was parked at an entry point to the North Oaks neighborhood. It appeared they were getting their bearings.
Near my office downtown, the clay dike that is built to protect city hall has risen from nothing on Sunday morning to what appears to be the height needed to safeguard everything if the crest is 38 feet.
The AT&T building has secured their facility with a low sandbag dike, as they did last year. I'm guessing that this must be a strategic communications link that can't go down without larger repercussions.
The local newspaper's web site - InForum - has relayed city and county officials urgent call for sandbaggers in Fargo and Cass County. Schools are dismissing students who volunteer to help.
Plenty of information is available online with daily flood briefing being broadcast on television and radio. No sense of panic whatsoever in my view. Calm confidence in the face of a crest that at 38 feet would be the fourth highest in history, but nothing compared to last year. A sense that it may crest lower than predicted with reports that it has already crested downstream in Wahpeton.
I'm heading out south of Moorhead to help a buddy who lost his fight with the flood last year. I'm sure that he is preparing again to at least meet a 38 foot crest or higher.
Hydrologists at the North Central River Forecast Office in Chanhassen have moved up the crest forecast for the Crow River in Mayer. Monday's forecast called for the Crow to crest at 15 feet on Thursday. Today, the NWS moved that crest up to Wednesday, while keeping the overall crest level to 15 feet.
Monday's 60 degree weather is the likely culprit. The warm temperatures continued the rapid melting of snow in the upper reaches of the Crow, and sent that runoff rapidly into the river watershed.
The river level was at 11.25 feet in Mayer Monday afternoon. By Tuesday afternoon the river rose nearly 3 feet to 14.02 feet. Residents in Mayer should expect to see the river reach its crest of around 15 feet by as early as 7am Wednesday.
Flood forecasters at the Twin Cities NWS are burning the midnight oil these days. New flood forecasts late Tuesday evening predict that the Mississippi River in St. Paul will now reach major flood stage and now see a potential crest near 17 feet by next Tuesday.
Previous forecasts had only moderate flooding expected. The new higher forecast could once again put Harriet Island at risk for being inundated by floodwaters early next week.
Flood Impacts: Mississippi River at St. Paul
18.0 Warner Road may become impassable due to high water.
17.5 Harriet Island begins to become submerged.
17.0 Secondary flood walls are deployed at St Paul Airport.
14.0 Portions of the Lilydale park area begin to experience flooding.
Forecasters also raised the crest forecast for the south fork of the Crow River in Mayer late Tuesday. The river surged more than 3 feet since Monday, and is now expected to crest higher than the previous 15 foot forecast at 15.5 feet.
Flood Impacts: Crow River near Mayer
16.5 Water encroaching on State Highway 25 between State Highway 7 and Carver County Road 122.
16.0 Yale Avenue between Carver County Road 30 and 78th Street is closed. 62nd Street west of County Road 33 to Yancy Avenue is closed.
14.5 The bridge on 84th Street is closed. 42nd Street between Tacoma Avenue and County Road 123 is closed. Carver County road 23 just north of Mayer and Carver County Road 27 in Watertown is closed. Carver County Road 32 from County Road 135 to Vega Avenue is closed.
13.5 Vega Avenue between Carver County Road 32 and 86th Street is closed. Carver County Road 30 west of Yancy Avenue to McLeod County line is closed.
12.0 Mill Avenue is closed north of Watertown from Carver County Road 10 to the Wright County line. Yancy Avenue between Carver County Road 30 and 78th Street is closed. Vega Avenue between Carver County Road 33 and 94th Street is closed. The intersection of Union Avenue and 82nd Street is closed.
11.0 Carver County Road 123 north of State Highway 7 to 42nd Street near Watertown is closed.
Crow exceeds flood of record at Cosmos:
One reason the Crow is rising quickly down stream in Mayer, Watertown and Delano this week is that the river has set a new record flood level upstream in Cosmos. According to the NWS hydrograph below, the Crow hit 17.1 feet on Monday exceeding the previous flood of record of 16.9 feet.
Rivers are rising rapidly and forecasts are changing frequently as conditions change. Get the latest river levels and forecast below.