The flood picture got a little clearer Thursday with the latest NWS Spring Flood Outlook. You may want to look away if you're sqeamish.
The headlines that jump out from the latest outlook include:
Major flooding is likely along most area rivers this spring.
Here's the (somewhat alarming) text from the latest NWS Spring Flood Outlook.
PROBABILISTIC HYDROLOGIC OUTLOOK
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TWIN CITIES/CHANHASSEN MN
358 PM CST THU MAR 3 2011
...SPRING FLOOD AND WATER RESOURCES OUTLOOK...
...THE POTENTIAL FOR FLOODING ALONG THE COTTONWOOD...MINNESOTA...CROW...MISSISSIPPI FOR ST PAUL AND DOWNSTREAM AND THE ST CROIX...IS MUCH ABOVE NORMAL...WITH MODERATE TO MAJOR FLOODING LIKLEY AND CONCERN IS INCREASING FOR RECORD FLOODING...
One of the remarkable features in the outlook is that area rivers may not just flood, or hit "major flood stages" but the high percentages of record flooding.
Again, here is the text from NWS:
SEVERAL LOCATIONS HAVE AN INCREASED RISK OF 20 PERCENT OR MORE OF EXCEEDING THEIR FLOOD OF RECORDS. THE LOCATIONS INCLUDE
- NEW ULM
*SOUTH FORK OF THE CROW AND CROW RIVER
- ST PAUL
- RED WING
And here are some numbers.
Risk of reaching record flood stage:
St. Paul 48%
Red River: (Latest outlook here.)
South Fork Crow River:
Potential Effects: So what does it all mean?
Numbers are eye catching, but don't always bring much meaning or perspective to a story.
The potential effects of record flood levels described by NWS in the outlook are sobering, to say the least.
(Click for bigger, easy to read images with (my) highlights)
For the Mississippi:
For the Minnesota:
For the South Fork Crow & St. Croix:
Digging Deeper: Why such a high risk of record flooding this year?
The bulk of narrative from the NWS Spring Flood Outlook tells the story in greater detail. My highlights in bold.
DUE TO THE SEPTEMBER RAINS...WATER LEVELS AND SOIL MOISTURE WERE STILL ABOVE NORMAL AS WE WENT INTO THE WINTER FREEZE IN MID TO LATE NOVEMBER. THIS SET THE STAGE FOR AN INCREASED THREAT FOR FLOODING WITH A SPRING MELT.
IN ADDITION TO THE WET SOILS...PRECIPITATION FOR SEPTEMBER THROUGH
MID EARLY MARCH HAS REMAINED ABOVE NORMAL FOR CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN
MINNESOTA AS WELL AS WEST CENTRAL WISCONSIN. LIQUID AMOUNTS FOR THIS PERIOD RANGE FROM 11 INCHES IN CENTRAL MINNESOTA TO 18+ INCHES IN SOUTH CENTRAL AND SOUTHEAST MINNESOTA FOR THIS PERIOD. AMOUNTS HAVE AVERAGED BETWEEN 15 TO 17 INCHES IN WEST CENTRAL WI. THESE AMOUNTS ARE 125 PERCENT OF NORMAL FOR THE UPPER MISSISSIPPI VALLEY AND WEST CENTRAL WISCONSIN TO OVER 200 PERCENT OF NORMAL IN PARTS OF SOUTHWEST MINNESOTA.
SINCE THE LAST SPRING FLOOD OUTLOOK IN THE THIRD WEEK OF
FEBRUARY...WE HAD ONE SIGNIFICANT SNOWSTORM THAT IMPACTED CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN MN AND PARTS OF WESTERN CENTRAL WI. THE FAR UPPER SECTIONS OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER HOWEVER MISSED THE BRUNT OF THIS STORM. LIQUID AMOUNTS FROM THIS STORM AVERAGED FROM 0.75 INCHES TO APPROXIMATELY 1.25 INCHES ACROSS MUCH OF CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN MINNESOTA AS WELL AS WEST CENTRAL WISCONSIN. FOR THE TWO WEEK PERIOD THESE PRECIPITATION AMOUNTS ARE 150 TO 200 PERCENT OF NORMAL.
SNOW WATER EQUIVALENTS IN THE RIVER BASINS ARE QUITE SIGNIFICANT. RECENT SNOW CORE AND REMOTE SENSING MEASUREMENTS SHOW THAT THERE IS ROUGHLY 3 TO 5 INCHES OF WATER IN THE UPPER MISSISSIPPI AND WISCONSIN CHIPPEWA BASINS. FOR THE UPPER MINNESOTA BASIN...5 TO 7 INCHES OF WATER IS PRESENT IN THE BASIN. FROM A COMPARISON PERSPECTIVE IN THE PAST 60YEARS...THIS IS IN THE 90TH PERCENTILE OF THE RANKINGS FOR SNOW WATER EQUIVALENTS. SO...WHILE WE DID LOSE SOME WATER DURING THE BRIEF WARM UP DURING THE THIRD WEEK OF FEBRUARY...MOST OF THE WATER IS STILL CONTAINED IN THE SNOWPACK...SOILS OR THE SMALLER CREEKS AND STREAMS.
Right now I see the likely timing for the onset of flooding to begin in earnest the week of March 20th, with river levels possibly reaching peak around the first week of April. That could change depending on how the weather unfolds over the next 2-3 weeks.
It's going to be a wild ride this spring on area rivers.
Paul I appreciate your concern over the flooding that is coming,but its been almost 48hrs since you last blogged/posted a 'WEATHER FORECAST' your suppose to be an meterologist I can read the same info you have above at the NWS site where you got this info from the first place,why do I need to see it twice,what I would like is your take on the upcoming snow(s),everyone in the cities is giving their perspectives.The NWS has snow chances from sunday thru wednesday night,yet all Im hearing from mpr is flooding,flooding is coming no doubt but dont you think any additional snow would be of more concern to our flooding situation.
Thanks for the updates and analysis -- I really appreciate you taking the time to explaining the story-behind-the-story.
These flood predictions make last year look like just a practice run. Everyone who needs to should buy flood insurance now, because of the 30 day waiting period.
Thank you for all the great blog posts, Paul. I look forward to them every day! Love that it's not just about the forecast--but about all different aspects of weather, climate, and their effects. Keep it up!
Paul, I heard you on the radio Friday evening saying that maybe the T-W storm would stay south of us, and we'd only get a few inches. I keep checking here to see if you have more info on that. The predictions for a big snow and wind affecting Ash Wednesday are of particular concern to those of us living out in the country (SW MN). I'll keep checking for your next update on the storm. Thanks for any info!
Those checking back for updates on the storm might wish to check www.minnesotaforecaster.com in the meantime to get a sense of how it's progressing.
Paul, You're leaving us hanging! I know you don't often blog on the weekend but with the buildup this storm's had it seems like you're leaving us in a lurch.
So we are now 53 hours+ since we have gotten a weather forecast from MPR,I know I can get forecasts from many tv stations and websites,but its good to compare and see what everyone is seeing,why have a meterologist on staff then,maybe Paul is on vacation or dealing with an emergency,cant someone else jump in or are you the only one Paul? NWS still has snow chances till wednesday night,how much snow will the metro and flood prone areas be seeing or should i just see what Dahl or Douglas are saying.
Thank you for the consise, easy to read forecast. This is exactly the information I need and have been trying to gather from various reports. As a St. Paul business manager that will be directly affected by the flood, I appreciate this information.