We have a significant snowpack in central and northern Minnesota for this time of year. Fortunately a heavy, wet snowfall tracked from Colorado through Illinois and into Ohio the past 60 hours.
St. Louis, Missouri set a record for a single day snowstorm for March. The 12.4 inches accumulated on Sunday beats the old record of 12.1 inches set more than a 100 years ago. Measurement shown below is for 24 hours ending at 7 a.m. CDT today.
Snow depth in Minnesota remains at 2 feet or more in some sections of northern Minnesota. Of greater concern is the water content of the snow that totals 3 inches to perhaps as much as 6 inches.
We've experienced a minor amount of snow melt, which will continue through the week. I remind you that flooding is a concern, particularly in the Red River of the north. Flood insurance can offer peace of mind, but has a 30-day waiting period.
Perhaps you wish to bookmark the Red River Decision information by clicking here.
Here is an example of the slow melt taking place in my backyard which faces south. I'm seeing some "brown-up."
Temperatures are expected to slowly moderate through the work week and we'll likely see readings in the lower 40s in southern Minnesota on Friday.
So far this March the mercury has reached 40 F (March 14) only once at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. As of this date in 2012, the Twin Cities had reached 50 degrees or better on 18 days.
Looking ahead to Easter Sunday, NOAA's forecasters paint this image for expected high temperatures:
Hard work by the grounds crew and maintenance staff at Target Field has the playing surface and the stands looking like mid-season.
It is still a bit far out to start posting details on the weather for opening day, but the GFS model from today favors an OK afternoon next Monday. You'll have to stay tuned.
Plan for a cool day and hope Mother Nature delivers temperatures close to normal. Normal highs approach 50 F in southern and central Minnesota early in April.
Craig Edwards(0 Comments)
Biting winds continue this morning. The wind chill reading was 23 below zero at Fergus Falls at 6 a.m. CDT and well below zero over Minnesota.
Shortly before daybreak winds were gusting to 45 mph at Grand Marais along the north shore of Lake Superior.
Despite March sunshine, it will feel bitterly cold if you are venturing out today. Bundle up. The temperatures are more typical of mid-January.
The high in the Twin Cities metro today will be around 20 F. The normal high for this time of year in Minneapolis/St. Paul is 43 degrees.
Additional snow cover was added to the landscape in the past 48 hours. The snow depth as of Monday morning was as 26 inches at International Falls and 17 inches at St. Cloud.
This is National Flood Awareness Week. Hydrologists are monitoring the water equivalent in the snow pack, the frost depth, the temperature trends and the potential for additional precipitation.
When I worked at the National Weather Service in Chanhassen our field observers would take a core sample of the snow pack and report that water value to our office on Tuesday mornings. This information was combined with the analysis made by the staff at NOAA's Remote Sensing Center in Chanhassen.
Through the month of March and into early April, the North Central River Forecast Center hydrologists will track the flood potential.
From the Minnesota State Climatologist Office earlier this month:
Most recent release from the North Central River Forecast Center for the flood risk of moderate flooding on the Red:
Friday and Friday evening brought more snowfall to Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Snow depths are now on the order of 20 to 30 inches in northern Minnesota with water content of more than four inches.
Snowfall totals reported from the Duluth NWS Office.
THE TOTALS BELOW ARE SEPARATED INTO SNOW...AND ICE AND SLEET
CATEGORIES...THEN BY AMOUNT...AND ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE
FINAL AMOUNT FOR EACH LOCATION
INCHES LOCATION ST COUNTY TIME
------ ----------------------- -- -------------- -------
7.50 DULUTH HEIGHTS MN ST. LOUIS 0830 AM
7.20 DULUTH HEIGHTS MN ST. LOUIS 0909 AM
6.30 2 SW PROCTOR MN ST. LOUIS 0421 AM
5.50 WEST DULUTH MN ST. LOUIS 0723 AM
5.30 5 NW DULUTH MN ST. LOUIS 0105 PM
5.00 LESTER PARK DULUTH MN ST. LOUIS 0943 AM
5.00 SUPERIOR WI DOUGLAS 0724 AM
5.00 6 W TWO HARBORS MN ST. LOUIS 0624 AM
4.90 2 W HAYWARD WI SAWYER 0823 AM
4.70 DULUTH MN ST. LOUIS 0925 AM
NEAR UMD CAMPUS
4.70 CLOQUET MN CARLTON 0846 AM
4.50 BUTTERNUT WI ASHLAND 0536 AM
4.30 3 N BRAINERD MN CROW WING 0729 AM
4.30 SARONA WI WASHBURN 0658 AM
4.10 4 S SAWYER MN CARLTON 0708 AM
4.00 MOUTH OF BRULE MN DOUGLAS 1101 AM
4.00 GILE WI IRON 0841 AM
4.00 CORNUCOPIA WI BAYFIELD 0732 AM
4.00 CLOQUET MN CARLTON 0729 AM
3.50 SILVER BAY MN LAKE 0823 AM
3.50 SEELEY MN SAWYER 0611 AM
3.00 HERBSTER WI BAYFIELD 1111 AM
3.00 MOOSE LAKE MN CARLTON 0936 AM
3.00 3 NE NISSWA MN CROW WING 0809 AM
3.00 CULVER MN ST. LOUIS 0756 AM
3.00 GURNEY WI IRON 0734 AM
2.50 BEAVER BAY MN LAKE 0902 AM
2.50 HAWTHORNE WI DOUGLAS 0653 AM
2.50 LITTLE MARAIS MN LAKE 1112 PM
2.30 REMER MN CASS 1123 AM
2.10 2 W SHESHEBEE MN AITKIN 0654 AM
1.80 HIBBING MN ST. LOUIS 1101 AM
1.00 LUTSEN MN COOK 0732 AM
Snow depth from the Midwest Regional Climate Center Saturday morning.
A small amount of water in the snowpack will, in part, sublimate (go from ice to water vapor) in the sunshine and wind. Much of the snow will remain until a good thaw eventually shows up.
Runoff of the snowmelt in April will lead to flooding problems. Water levels of lakes and streams will be high in northern Minnesota in the spring. The North Central River Forecast Center is monitoring the potential for flooding. Additional updates on the flood threat on the Red River of the North will continue through March. Be prepared.
More snow is expected later Sunday, Sunday night into Monday morning. A Winter Storm Watch (highlighted in blue) for several inches of accumulation has been posted for portions of the Dakotas and northwest Minnesota for Sunday night.
From the Grand Forks, North Dakota NWS Office this morning...THE EXACT TRACK IS STILL UNCERTAIN. THIS TRACK WILL DETERMINE WHERE THE HEAVIEST SNOW AND
STRONGEST WINDS OCCUR. THE POTENTIAL EXISTS FOR 6 OR MORE INCHES
OF SNOWFALL...ESPECIALLY ACROSS NORTHEAST NORTH DAKOTA AND
NORTHWEST MINNESOTA. THE STRONGEST WINDS LATE SUNDAY NIGHT INTO MONDAY ARE EXPECTED ALONG AND WEST OF THE RED RIVER VALLEY...WHERE
NEAR BLIZZARD CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE.
Snowfall probability of four inches or more from NOAA's NCEP for late Sunday and Sunday night issued on Saturday morning.
Lighter amounts of snow, on the order of 2 to 4 inches, are expected across the remainder of Minnesota ahead of another surge of cold air on Sunday night.
NOAA's NCEP forecast for liquid precipitation accumulation from 7 a.m. CDT Sunday to 7 a.m. CDT Monday
Gusty northwest winds and unseasonably cold temperatures will follow in the wake of the snow on Monday night and Tuesday.
These are the expected low temperatures, not the wind chill on Wednesday morning.
The floods of 2011 are still in progress and have caused problems in some areas. There have been two flood related deaths, numerous roads, parks and fields remain under water, especially near the Red River.
But it could have been so much worse.
Here's a recap of how the floods of 2011 came to pass, and why it appears we have dodged what could have been a disastrous record flood year...so far.
Loading the dice:
The dice were loaded as early as late last summer and fall for spring flooding in 2011.
Record September rains swelled many area rivers to record fall flood crests. September 2010 was the wettest on record for Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Climatology Working Group.
The statewide average rainfall was 6.47" in September.
Many southern Minnesota locations south of the Minnesota River were deluged with as much as 10" to 12" of rainfall last September.
As a result, many rivers including the Minnesota reached unprecedented record fall flood levels. In spite of an October dry spell, rivers were high, and soils largely saturated going into the winter freeze up in November.
Snow Blitz 2010-'11:
The winter of 2010-'11 began precisely on November 13th, 2010. That's the day the season's first big snow storm covered the Minnesota landscape with as much as a foot of snow...snow that would not disappear until early April in some areas.
The snow blitz continued at regular intervals with three massive storms to close out 2010, including the infamous "Domebuster 2010."
The December "snopacolypse" the snowiest December on record at Twin Cities Airport.
2011: New year, same weather
The snow blitz continued into 2011. Storms continued to pile up snow on the landscape. By the time March rolled around it was the 5th snowiest winter on record for the Twin Cities.
All that snow contained a lot of water. Much of southern Minnesota had "snow water equivalent" of anywhere from 6" to 8"+ available for melting, and runoff into area rivers.
In late February, NWS hydrologists issued some alarming forecasts about the potential for record flood levels on many area rivers.
Southern Minnesota: How we dodged the bullet on record floods.
The warm up came in mid-March.
A string of mild days peaking in the 50s, and several nights above freezing started the snow melt.
As water gushed into area rivers, the rains came. Over an inch of rain fell on March 22nd. This "washed" additional snow cover and rain runoff rapidly into rivers. As a result, rovers were "shocked" into rapid rises, and the first flood crest was on, peaking in southern Minnesota rivers on March 28th & 29th.
It appears at the time that the rivers may have been headed for a record flood, but then came the cold.
Arctic air mass saves the day:
Behind the March 22-23 storm, a big sprawling arctic high pressure system settled in over Minnesota. For 6 days, overnight lows plunged into the teens, and daytime highs struggled to reach the freezing point.
The instant freeze locked up all water in snow cover and on the landscape in place, and almost instantly shut off any additional runoff into rivers. As a result, rivers peaked on March 28-29 and began to slowly fall, instead of rising to the record levels that would have likely occurred with milder temperatures and/or more rainfall.
That's how we dodged the record floods of 2011.
2nd Crest: A blessing in disguise?
Though southern rivers were falling, the flood gun was still partially loaded. Snow still on the ground packed plenty of water, and the potential for more snow, rain and a sudden warm up loomed.
Thankfully the weather cooperated, and a slow warm up created the perfect "time release" scenario for a "manageable" 2nd crest on southern Minnesota Rivers.
The fortunate fact that we able to "spread the water out" over two different high but manageable flood crests in 2011 may have saved us from what would have been a damaging all time flood of record on river in the south.
Red River: Not so lucky
In the north, the Red River watershed never really got in on the first big warm up in March. Temperatures remained cold enough, that most of the snow stayed intact in mid March.
As a result we are now seeing the effects of the higher "single crest" that was feared on southern Minnesota rivers this spring.
The Red River @ Fargo appears to have peaked at 38.75 feet on Saturday, below earlier forecasts of 39.5 to 40+ feet.
Still, the 39.75' crest at Fargo is the 4th highest flood of record for Fargo.
Historical Crests for Red River of the North at Fargo
(1) 40.84 ft on 03/28/2009
(2) 39.72 ft on 04/18/1997
(3) 39.10 ft on 04/07/1897
(4) 37.34 ft on 04/15/1969
(5) 37.13 ft on 04/05/2006
(6) 36.99 ft on 03/21/2010
(7) 36.69 ft on 04/14/2001
(8) 35.39 ft on 04/09/1989
(9) 34.93 ft on 04/19/1979
(10) 34.41 ft on 04/02/1978
(11) 33.26 ft on 07/04/1975
(12) 30.88 ft on 06/09/2007
(13) 30.50 ft on 04/15/1965
(14) 30.16 ft on 03/22/1966
(15) 29.80 ft on 03/31/1907
It is interesting to note that 6 of the top 10 highest floods of record on the Red at Fargo have occurred since 1997.
All in all, it appears in many ways we dodged a bullet for the 2011 flood season.
Snow chances fade for Friday & Saturday?
A weak front may trigger a few rain showers Wednesday afternoon.
You may have heard talk of another major snowmageddon scenario for Friday & Saturday. The GFS model has been in "weather terrorist" mode again this week, portraying the possibility of heavy snow in southern Minnesota Friday & Saturday.
I've been watching the models with a skeptical eye, and I think my suspicions are coming to light.
The latest NAM (much more reliable model lately) run is doing about what I expected...tracking a weaker, warmer system further south.
At this point, it looks like mostly (light?) rain for southwest Minnesota Thursday. The rain showers may spread north into the metro Friday, and could possibly mix with some wet snow flakes late Friday night into early Saturday.
At this point I don't see any accumulations worth writing home about, but the system will still have to be watched.
Look for a return to cool sunshine with highs in the 40s Sunday.
Eau Calire County tornado damage Sunday:
Here's the damage survey from Sunday's storms in Eau Claire County.
It will look, feel and possibly sound like spring this weekend in Minnesota!
A western storm will track east through Minnesota this weekend. As it approaches, we'll see a variety of weather conditions from sun, to clouds to rain & thunder to potentially severe weather.
Let's break down the weekend forecast.
Friday Night: Dry high pressure means a beautiful, cool, dry Friday night. Look for increasing clouds from the south, with mainly clear skies north & east. Temps will fall through the 50s Friday evening with lows in the mid 40s south and frosty 30s north. Light SE winds.
Weather tip: Look for the waxing "Maple Sap Moon" peeking through a few clouds in the western sky this evening. The moon will set just after midnight, at 12:18am Saturday morning.
Saturday: A warm front will push north through Iowa Saturday toward Minnesota. Ahead of the front, clouds, fog & drizzle may increase. Look for a mix of clouds, and some filtered sun peeking through at times Saturday.
If we get enough sun temps may push 70 in southern Minnesota. If not, temps will still climb into the 60s. Chance for a scattered shower or T-Storm later. SE winds between 7-12 mph.
Weather/phenology tip: Look for new shoots emerging form the landscape, including tulips, daffodils and crocus.
Saturday night: This is where things may get a little "interesting."
As the warm front pushes north, a surge of moisture and an increasing low level jet stream around 5k feet may trigger scattered showers & T-Storms. The best chance of a storm may come after midnight. There is a slight risk for a few severe storms according to the Storm Prediction Center (SPC).
Primary storm threats appear to be hail and high winds.
Temps should be steady in the lower 60s.
Weather tip: Look for lightning in the sky late Saturday night. Storms will be moving toward the north/northeast.
Sunday & Sunday night: Depending on which model solution wins out, Sunday may end up feeling like early summer with warm and more humid air pushing into the southern parts of Minnesota.
If the low moves far enough north & west, the "warn sector" may push as far north as the Twin Cities Sunday PM. That could mean sun will boost temps into the (upper?) 70s in the metro... and temps may push 80 degrees in Rochester & SE MN and western Wisconsin!
Increased humidity will also jump into the weather equation for the first time this year...and dew points could surge into the 60s! Yes, we may go from snow to warm & humid weather in just two weeks.
With the low nearby, the warm surge and increased humidity the chances for thunderstorms will increase Sunday. The best chances appear to be afternoon & evening. There is an increasing risk for severe storms packing damaging winds and large hail Sunday PM & evening.
With temps near 80, high humidity and plenty of spin or "shear" in the atmosphere Sunday, there is also a risk for a few of the storms to produce tornadoes.
Bottom line & weather tip: Be prepared for the risk of severe storms to bust out Sunday, especially PM & evening. This is the time to dig out the NOAA weather radio & brush up on your severe weather safety plan. We may get rocked by some loud thunder & severe storms Sunday.
We expect to have extra weather coverage on MPR News stations Sunday PM & evening if severe storms fire off.
Red River Update:
As southern Minnesota rivers reach a second crest this weekend, the focus shifts north to the big brawling Red which is in major flood stage this weekend.
The forecast for the Red River remains pretty much status quo at this point.
Weekend rains may total 1" in the Red River basin, but there are some indications that the delay in runoff may prolong the crest, but not raise the level.
The official forecast from AHPS remains for a crest of 39.5' @ Fargo Sunday at this point.
Here's the verbiage from the Grand Forks NWS.
RIVER WARNINGS FOR MINOR...MODERATE...AND MAJOR FLOODING WILL
CONTINUE FOR THE RED RIVER AND ITS TRIBUTARIES FOR THE FORESEEABLE
FUTURE AS THE SNOWMELT CONTINUES.
TEMPERATURES WILL RISE WELL INTO THE 50S OVER THE NEXT TWO
DAYS...ACCELERATING THE SNOWMELT WHILE MAINTAINING OVERLAND FLOODING
ACROSS PORTIONS OF THE SOUTHERN RED RIVER VALLEY. ADDITIONALLY...A
POTENTIALLY SIGNIFICANT RAIN EVENT IS POSSIBLE THIS WEEKEND. WHILE
THERE IS STILL A LOT OF UNCERTAINTY IN WHERE THE RAIN WILL
FALL...THIS COULD POTENTIALLY PUSH RIVER LEVELS EVEN HIGHER...AS
CURRENT RIVER FORECASTS ONLY INCLUDE THE NEXT 24 HOURS WORTH OF
OTHERWISE...THE FAR SOUTHERN BASIN IS SHOWING DECREASING FLOWS AT
POINTS SOUTH OF ABERCROMBIE ON THE WILD RICE RIVER AND ENLOE ON THE
RED RIVER. THIS INDICATES THAT THE PRIMARY CREST WAVES ALONG THE TWO
RIVERS IS NOW HEADED INTO FARGO. THE CURRENT RATE OF MOVEMENT
SUGGESTS THAT THE PRIMARY CREST COULD REACH FARGO ON
SUNDAY...POSSIBLY AHEAD OF THE RUNOFF OF ANY HEAVIER RAIN EXPECTED
FROM SATURDAY AND SUNDAY. THUS...THE PROJECTED CREST RANGE FOR FARGO HAS BEEN NARROWED...AND IS NOW FROM 39 TO 40 FEET. HEAVY
RAINFALL...WHICH MAY OCCUR AT THE TIME OF THE CREST...WILL LIKELY
MAINTAIN HIGH WATER STAGES FOR A LONGER PERIOD OF TIME.
THE WARMER TEMPERATURES WILL ALLOW AREAS THAT ARE NOT YET
EXPERIENCING RUNOFF TO SEE THE PROCESS BEGIN...AND ACCELERATE THE
THE RUNOFF WHERE IT IS ONGOING. THE RUN OFF SHOULD BEGIN IN EARNEST
IN THE PARK...FOREST AND PEMBINA BASINS. THE POTENTIAL FOR ICE
JAMMING WILL CONTINUE THE NEXT SEVERAL DAYS...ESPECIALLY ALONG THE
MAPLE RIVER...WHICH IS INDICATING SEVERAL AREAS OF ICE JAMMING SUCH
AN AREAL FLOOD WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE SOUTHERN RED RIVER
VALLEY GENERALLY SOUTH OF THE I-94 / U.S. 10 CORRIDOR. OVERLAND
FLOODING PERSISTS AS THE SNOW CONTINUES TO MELT."
Stay tuned as we watch for changes in the weekend forecast and monitor the severe threat which will increase as we approach Sunday.
Lots to talk about today...here are a few headlines:
-First 60 degree reading of 2011 likely today in the metro
-Twins opener: Sunny & 60s?
-First 70 quite possible Saturday!
-Showers & T-Storms possible Sunday.
-Severe outbreak south??
-"2nd crest" for southern Minnesota rivers this weekend
-Minnehaha Creek at highest level in nearly 5 years!
-Red River headed for 3rd highest flood of record by Sunday?
-Developing drought in Iowa & Midwest
-"Green wave" reaches Kansas City, moving north
-Green shoots at weather lab
Now for some detail...
First 60 of 2011 today in the metro:
Where were you on November 10th?
That's the last time the mercury topped 60 degrees in the metro!
It looks like we'll finally get there again today, making this the warmest day in nearly 5 months. Look for a few bank thermometers to flash as high as 64 degrees in the metro and much of southern Minnesota this afternoon.
Twins home opener: Sunny & 60s?
It appears the "weather lucky" Twins have won the opening day weather lottery at Target Field for the second straight year. A potential weather system is steering south Friday, and the result should favor sunshine and afternoon temps in the low 60s. First pitch 3:10pm Friday.
70 by Saturday?
As a deep low pressure trof spins up in the west, a southerly flow of mild air will persist and intensify through Saturday. The result should be the first 70 balmy degree temps of 2011 Saturday afternoon.
Sunday rain & thunder?
The western low will move east by Sunday into the Upper Midwest. It's early, but it looks like a band of showers and possible T-Storms will develop Sunday with the system. We could see a decent shot of rain (and possibly some thunder) in much of Minnesota Sunday, especially late.
Weekend severe outbreak south?
Further south, the atmosphere seems primed for a potential severe outbreak Saturday and especially Sunday.
Here's the verbage from SPC...
...DAY 4 /SUN APR 10/...
THE POTENTIAL FOR A REGIONAL SEVERE THREAT EXTENDING FROM NRN LA TO IA AND EWD THROUGH THE TN/OH VALLEYS AND PART OF THE WRN GREAT LAKES FROM SUNDAY AFTERNOON THROUGH SUNDAY NIGHT/EARLY MONDAY MORNING REMAINS VERY LIKELY. CONFIDENCE REMAINS HIGH FOR THIS SEVERE WEATHER EVENT WITH THE POTENTIAL FOR DAMAGING WINDS AND TORNADOES AS STRONG HEIGHT FALLS SPREAD ACROSS THE DAY 4 OUTLOOK AREA...ESPECIALLY DURING THE LATTER HALF OF THE FORECAST PERIOD.
-"2nd crest" for rivers this weekend:
The much talked about "2nd crest" appears headed for southern Minnesota rivers this weekend. The crest forecasts are lower than anticipated a few days ago, and many rivers look to crest near or below the first crest observed in late March.
The Crow River @ Delano is forecast to crest at 19' this weekend. That's about 1 foot below the crest of 20' on 3/28/2011, which was the 4th highest flood of record for the Crow @ Delano.
The Mississippi River @ St. Paul is forecast to crest at 19.2' Monday. That's just above the 19.01' level recorded on 3/29/2011 which was the 8th highest flood of record @ St. Paul.
The flood story of 2011 will be remembered for the "double crest." The fact that rivers spread the runoff from near record winter snows over two crests two weeks apart may have saved many communities form record floods this year.
The cold snap in late March and early April, and lighter than average precipitation was indeed the "best case scenario" for mitigating flood levels in southern Minnesota rivers in the "Floods of 2011."
Red River: Not so lucky?
A higher, single crest appears likely on the Red River this year. The Red is rising steadily these days, and the latest forecast brings the river to 39.5' @ Fargo Sunday.
If the Red reaches 39.5' it will be the 3rd highest flood of record for the Red @ Fargo, behind only 2009 (40.84') and 1997 (39.72').
-Minnehaha Creek: Fastest flow in nearly 5 years!
I took a look at Minnehaha Creek Wednesday and saw it running swiftly through Minnetonka Mills. A further check of data from the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) shows the discharge from the Gray's Bay Dam is running at 250 CFS. That's the highest level since June 8, 2006, or nearly 5 years!
MCWD says flows above 150 CFS are "dangerous" for canoeing down Minnehaha Creek. 250 CFS has made Minnehaha Creek a raging little river! It's worth checking out if you can as it flows through the southwest metro communities into Minneapolis. A trip to Minnehaha Falls may make for some magnificent viewing in the next few days!
-Developing Midwest Drought:
The Weather Lab took a few days off and moved south last weekend. In my drive to Lawrence Kansas, I was surprised to see the rapid transition from rivers in flood in Minnesota to very low rivers levels with sand bars in Iowa.
Smoke filled the air Saturday as I observed numerous grass fires from southern Minnesota all the way into Missouri and Kansas.
The latest drought monitor shows a growing drought threat in much of the Southern Plains, expanding into the Midwest.
Midwest drought can be common in La Nina years, and it's a developing trend we'll have to watch as we move toward summer.
-"Green Wave" reaches Kansas City:
I'll have more on this in coming days, but I wanted to mention that I observed the green wave heading north! Phenologists refer to the leading edge of the springtime green up as the so called "green wave" as it moves north each spring.
Grass is green, and leaves are bursting out on trees near and north of Kansas City now and the "wave" is moving north.
I have heard that the green wave moves north at anywhere from 12 to 16 miles per day on average. It won't be long with temps in the 60s and 70s until we see trees and shrubs begin to burst out in southern Minnesota!
-Green "shoots" at Weather Lab:
The weather lab slopes north so we are usually late bloomers here. But I did observe tulips and daffodil shoots coming up today. A sure sign of spring at the Weather Lab, and a sure sign of hope for us all after a real Minnesota Winter!
Enjoy the warm up!
We've covered the expected crest of between 39 and 41 feet on the Red River at Fargo/Moorhead. Here's the hydrograph projecting a crest of over 49 feet at Grand Forks.
If the river rises to this level it would be the fourth highest on record. The record crest is 54.35 feet set on April 22, 1997.
The Red River at Fargo is approaching major flood stage of 30 feet. It's about 28.5 feet this afternoon.
With the snowpack fading quickly the hydrologists are now focusing in on runoff finding its way from the tributaries and streams into the main stem rivers. Also, any additional rain later in the week may impact the forecast crest. Anticipated rainfall beyond the next twenty-four fours is not included in the river model run.
Here's the satellites eye view of upper Midwest in middle February. Note the gray line indicating the Minnesota River cutting through the snow field.
Here's a visible satellite image from this afternoon. Not much snowcover remains. But you can see the snow and ice on Lake Mille Lacs.
Here's a true sign of spring from my neighborhood this afternoon. I like this!
Hope springs eternal! First sixty degree reading of the year insight for the Twin Cities? Stay tuned.
The weekend storm fizzled as Paul suggested in his Friday afternoon blog. The system never came together as a good snowmaker. There was sufficient moisture in northern Minnesota, but only about three inches accumulated at Duluth and less than two inches in International Falls. About a half inch of liquid precipation was observed in northeast Minnesota.
Brisk winds and chilly temperatures are following in the wake of the surface low that tracked through Iowa and was over central Michigan at daybreak. The maximum temperatures on Sunday ranged from a very springlike 72 at Austin to 38 degrees at Duluth and International Falls. At the Twin Cities International Airport, the warmest reading of 2011 was recorded at 56 degrees.
The mild temperatures in southern and central Minnesota over the weekend triggered the release of snow and ice melt. The Red River of the North is on the rise.
Looking at the data on the website of the National Office of Hydrology Remote Sensing Center in Chanhassen, it appears that perhaps a half inch of snow and ice melt runoff took place in portions of the Red River Valley and the Minnesota River Valley. Thus we begin to monitor the potential for a second crest along the Minnesota and the Mississippi River.
Your link directly to the Chanhassen NWS river forecasts.
Track the Red River of the North here.
A recovery to temperatures closer to normal begins on Tuesday afternoon.
Posted at 6:18 PM on March 31, 2011
by Paul Huttner
Filed under: Crow River, Flooding, Gravity waves, Minnesota River, Mississippi River, Red River, Snow, Winter storms, Winter/spring 2011
The latest model runs are trending toward a "mostly rainy" scenario for the metro with our incoming Sunday storm.
In the meantime, there's a mix of weather ahead...including a nice day Saturday!
Metro & greater Minnesota forecast:
Overnight & early Friday: Mix of rain showers and maybe a few wet snowflakes early Friday. Low near 33.
Friday PM: Trending sunnier & milder. High near 43. Light west wind.
Saturday: Best day of the weekend! Mostly sunny & milder. High near 50.
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.
Monday: Windy. Rain changes to snow. Significant snow totals possible, especially north. Temps upper 30s & lower 40s.
The latest model trends support the notion of mostly rain Sunday from the Twin Cities south. There is some indication that it may be cold enough at the onset of precip early Sunday to be all snow...and maybe produce an inch or two before enough mild air surges north ahead of the low to change precip to all rain.
Both the GFS & Euro models have shifted milder air north, supporting a mostly rain solution for Sunday. The latest GFS run is even hinting that mild air could remain in place much of Monday, keeping precip mostly rain from the metro south until late in the event Monday night.
Big rain totals?
The GFS is hinting at ran totals over .50" and maybe 1" or higher. Keep in mind the GFS has (wildly) over forecast rain/snow totals in the past few storms.
Heavy snow north?
Early indications are the rain snow line could set up close to Brainerd or Duluth. This could mean some heavy snow in these areas if it stays all snow. There is the potential for an early April snowstorm up north. There is also the chance mild air could shift even further north.
Bottom line? It's still too early to make any high probability predictions for potential snowfall totals at this point. You'll see some scary (and probably overblown) numbers thrown out...but early spring storms have a way of changing at the last minute.
As we say in the weather biz...stay tuned.
Rivers falling for now:
Most area rivers continue to fall late this week and into the weekend. In some areas river levels will drop 2 to 3 feet from crests earlier this week. This is good news, since it will give rivers some "breathing room" before the next wave of rain can potentially raise river levels again next week.
You can get all the latest AHPS river info here, but some creative folks at MPR have also put together an excellent "flood aggregator" blog called "Floods '11" here. Check out the blog for some of the latest news related flood items & photos.
Anatomy of a "gravity wave"
We're learning more about mysterious "gravity waves" which are sometimes observed with severe weather outbreaks. These powerful, rolling atmospheric waves seem to supercharge thunderstorm clusters. Details from the UW Madison CIMSS Satellite Blog:
Mid-tropospheric gravity waves upwind of intense convection:
"McIDAS images of 4-km resolution GOES-13 6.5 µm water vapor channel data (above; click image to play animation) showed a well-defined warm/dry "arc" feature (denoted by the brighter yellow color enhancement) just upwind of a large Mesoscale Convective System (MCS) that was moving eastward along the northern Gulf of Mexico and the adjacent Gulf Coast states on 30 March 2011. The MCS eventually produced a number of reports of damaging winds, large hail, and tornadoes across northern Florida. Also note that a subtle signature of what appeared to be gravity waves could be seen within portions of this warm/dry arc feature (especially in the southern portion, over the Gulf of Mexico).
AWIPS images of 1-km resolution MODIS 6.7 µm water vapor channel data (below) offered a more detailed view of the packet of gravity waves that was associated with the southern portion of the dry arc feature. This warm/dry arc seen on the water vapor imagery could have been a signature of a region of strong compensating subsidence along the rear edge of the intense deep convection.
A number of pilot reports of moderate turbulence were co-located within this warm/dry arc feature seen on the water vapor imagery... There was also a report of severe turbulence along the northern portion of the arc feature as it moved over far southern Alabama at 17:35 UTC. This supports the idea that the warm/dry arc was likely a signature of strong subsidence in the wake of the MCS.
All of the above satellite evidence suggests that the gravity waves seen on the water vapor imagery were not surface-based, but were located at a higher altitude within the middle troposphere."
ISS sightings ahead:
Skies may be cloudy Friday morning, but Saturday should provide a good opportunity to see the brightly illuminated International Space Station (ISS).
You can enter your zip code to get precise sighting times here.
Mysteries of thundersnow?
I don't know if we'll see or hear any "thundersnow" with the system over the weekend, but NASA has some interesting info on a "lucky" encounter with thundersnow here.
TWC's Jim Cantore's "thundersnow moment."
"Walt Petersen and Kevin Knupp have traveled far and wide to study winter storms. They never dreamed that the most extraordinary one they'd see - featuring freakish thundersnow, a 50-mile long lightning bolt, and almost a dozen gravity waves -- would erupt in their own back yards. The storm hit Huntsville, Alabama, on the evening of January 9th.
"This incredible storm rolled right over the National Space Science and Technology Center where we work," says Knupp. "What luck!"
Snowstorms usually slip in silently, with soft snowflakes drifting noiselessly to Earth. Yet this Alabama snowstorm swept in with the fanfare of lightning and the growl of thunder.
Eyewitness Steve Coulter described the night's events: "It was as if a wizard was hurling lightning behind a huge white curtain. The flashes, muted inside thick, low hanging clouds, glowed purplish blue, like light through a prism. And then the thunder rumbled deep and low. This was one of the most beautiful things I've ever experienced.'"
It takes restraint to be a weatherman sometimes.
Last night was one of those times. Let's hope the restraint is justified in the long run...
Last night's 0Z (evening) GFS model run painted a really scary picture for a big Sunday rain storm, followed by several inches of heavy wet snow Monday. Today? We'll it would be too extreme to say "poof" it's gone, but not by much.
The overnight (06Z) GFS run is brining things back to reality a bit. It still spins up a low pressure system Saturday night into Sunday, but does not create the "bomb" fantasized by the earlier model run.
Talk about a sigh of relief. Whew...
GFS having a bad month:
I don't verify numerical weather forecast models for a living... (Believe it or not there are people at NOAA who do that!) but I do use them everyday. It seems to me that the GFS (the primary U.S. medium range forecast model) has been out to lunch lately.
Remember the "mega storm" about 2-3 weeks ago that lead to some alarming headlines of 1'+ snow totals...only to end up as 1" at MSP Airport? Thank the GFS.
To say we've been seeing a high degree of "variability" in the GFS solutions in the 3-10 day range would be putting it kindly. More like wildly inaccurate solutions...often brewing up monster storms that turn out to be highly overblown.
I can't say why this is happening for sure. But seasonal variations usually lead to model trouble. The models have trouble gauging the transitions during spring and fall.
I can tell you this, it's no fun to be a forecaster staring down the barrel of a (fictional?) 1' to 2" heavy rain followed by a 6"+ snow event in early April...and having to swallow hard and not publish it in hopes that the model was just going through some growing pains.
Let's hope today's runs confirm the idea that we will get some rain Saturday night and Sunday...but a more manageable amount under an inch in most locations...followed by a few wet, wind driven snowflakes Monday on the colder backside of the low.
Rivers dropping fast:
It's good to see river levels dropping fast west of the metro today.
The Crow is down around 1 foot in Delano since Sunday.
The Minnesota is down 1.5 feet in Mankato, and is now receding in Henderson.
The Minnesota is cresting today in Jordan.
The Mississippi is forecast to crest tomorrow in St. Paul well below the earlier threats of a flood rivaling the 1965 fiasco.
Two crests better than one?
There's plenty of talk about a "double crest" of 2nd crest for many area rivers this spring. This may be a good thing.
Moving 80"+ of winter snow melt down the rivers in two separate (but lower) surges may be a better outcome than having one big "mega crest" that could produce a flood of record for many river locations. Most flood protection can better handle two moderately high crests then one big flood that could top dikes & levees.
The double crests expected this spring may be a godsend.
Red River trouble?
The one exception to this scenario may be the Red River of the North. The big thaw never really hit the Red, and there's still plenty of water in snow to melt when things warm up later this week into the weekend. The Red may see one big crest...and the latest forecasts still put the chances high for a record flood on the Red at Fargo and other river points.
We'll watch as that story unfolds over the next two weeks.
Southern Minnesota river outlook better?
It still looks to this forecaster like we may be able to thread the needle on avoiding record flood levels for the next week at least, even with some hint of river rises next week due to melting and additional rainfall.
Let's hope so.
Signs of spring?
Yes, the forecast modles are hinting at more 40s & 50s the next two weeks. But this guy really caught my eye this morning. A sure sign of spring?
The first crest of the 2011 "flood wave" is moving into the west metro today.
-You can find all of the latest river levels and forecasts here.
-City of St. Paul flood info & rivercams here.
The Minnesota River has crested and is falling today at Morton, Mankato and Henderson.
The Crow crested Saturday at Mayer, and has fallen about 6" since then.
The Crow has reached a stable crest at Delano of 20' and is forecast to begin a slow fall today and may fall about 2 feet by Saturday. The 20' crest is the 4th highest flood of record (FOR) on the Crow at Delano, and is .3' below last year's crest reached on 3/21/2010.
Historical Crests for Crow River at Delano
(1) 23.25 ft on 04/14/1965
(2) 20.45 ft on 04/12/1969
(3) 20.30 ft on 03/21/2010
(4) 19.95 ft on 04/15/2001
(5) 19.25 ft on 04/08/1997
So far it seems the first wave of 2011 flood crests is passing without major incident. In fact, ice cream sales were reported to be brisk in Delano as flood gawkers came out to watch the flood in progress and frequented local shops & businesses.
Anatomy of an ice jam:
Check out this awesome video of an ice jam at the bridge in Delano Friday filmed by city crews!
"Bubble" moves downstream:
As the "bubble" or "wave" of water moves along on the Minnesota & Crow, rivers are still rising downstream.
Here are the forecasts for crests this week on the Minnesota.
The Mississippi is forecast to crest at 19.2' Wednesday at St. Paul. This would be the 8th highest FOR in St. Paul, about 1 foot above last year's crest.
"Best case" flood weather scenario this week?
Our Canadian high pressure and strong late March sun are combining to create what could be a best case weather scenario to keep rivers in check this week.
The air mass overhead is just perfect for nights below freezing to keep water in snow pack locked up. Strong sun wars days above freezing, allowing just a little runoff release into rivers during the day.
Looking ahead, temperatures will warm to near 50 by late week, and nights will be mostly above freezing late week. But most rivers in southern Minnesota will be falling by then. Though it looks like we may reach a 2nd crest next week on many rivers next week, overall levels may have dropped by as much as 2 feet or more by the weekend.
We're not out of the woods yet, and rivers are still running very high this week. But barring any major incidents or dike failures, we're beginning to see a scenario unfold where we just may be able to thread the eye of the needle when it comes to flooding over the next two weeks or so.
There are two identifiable chances for precip over the next week.
The first one comes in Thursday, and may begin as (light?) snow before changing over to rain as milder air pushes north.
The second, and potentially more significant system looks to be mostly rain after an initial shot of snow..and rolls in Sunday.
It's early to pinpoint these systems, so stay tuned. If we get enough liquid precip (otherwise known as rain) with the Sunday system, it's possible we could see a second crest on rivers next week.
The last weekend of March will really feel like....the first weekend of March.
Canadian high pressure is bringing plenty of sunshine, at a price. The sun also comes with a side of chilly days and sub freezing nights. Temps are running a good 10 to 15 degrees below average this weekend.
Metro averages are 46/28 this weekend. Expect highs in the lower 30s and lows in the teens this weekend in the south, with highs in the 20s north and lows near zero far north.
Warm up still on tap:
The weather pattern still shows signs of moderation late next week. It looks like a slow climb into the 40s, then a boost into the 50s by next Friday.
Snow stays south?
It looks like the southward trend of possibly significant snow next Monday night & Tuesday is favored. The GFS appears to keep the system close enough to brush the metro with light snow Monday night, and maybe produce a few inches along the I-90 corridor. The European model steers everything way south, keeping Minnesota high & dry.
This is still worth watching...stay tuned.
Flood updates: Better south now, Red River trouble later?
We've been (rightfully) focusing on rivers in southern Minnesota with this week's weather causing rapid river rises. As we head through the weekend the flood forecast continue to be optimistic for the south. A few flood warnings have even been dropped for now along the St. Croix.
-Latest southern Minnesota river levels and forecasts here.
The good news may be temporary. A warm up next week, additional snow melt and possibel future rain could lead to a second crest in southern minnesota Rivers in April. Here's the briefing from the NCRFC.
Red River trouble ahead?
Now that the cold snap has improved the short term outlook in the south, let's talk a little about the Red.
What was good for southern Minnesota this week did not help the longer term forecast for the Red River. MPR's Dan Gunderson details the latest here.
Last week's thaw did not melt much snow in the Red River watershed. This week's storm dumped another 10" of snow on top of already water laden snow cover.
The cold snap will delay flooding on the Red even more, but that opens the door to a potential rapid April warm up and potential for heavy rains.
Here are some detais from Friday's update on Red River flooding from the Grand Forks NWS.
Key points for the Red River Basin, from south to north:
- All points along the Red River now have a better than 98 percent risk of major flooding.
- Wahpeton and Fargo, now have a more than 40-45 percent risk of exceeding 2009 flood levels. [in 2009 Fargo hit a flood of record at 40.84 ft, Wahpeton hit 3rd place at 17.5 ft]
- The flood risk at Halstad is back up to a 25 percent risk of exceeding 2009 levels.
- Grand Forks flood risk levels have increased by a foot or more due to a reduced margin of error for timing on Red River and Red Lake River crests, and increased Red River flows.
- Continuing north, Oslo now has a better than 60 percent risk for record flooding, while both Drayton and Pembina have had their flood risks increased only slightly.
On North Dakota Tributaries:
- The ND Wild Rice at Abercrombie has a 30-35 percent risk of 2009 scale flooding.
- The risk levels along the Sheyenne River from Valley City into Lisbon have increased by as much as a foot or more, to about a 25 percent risk of meeting or exceeding 2009 levels. Past Lisbon into Kindred, West Fargo, and Harwood the flood risks will likely meet or exceed 2009 levels (60-80 percent chance).
- Enderlin and Mapleton on the Maple River now have a 50 percent risk of 2009 levels.
- Risk along the Goose River into Hillboro has jumped roughly a foot, as recent snowfall has more than exceeded recent melt and runoff.
- Otherwise, risk along the Forest, Park, and Pembina Rivers has dropped just slightly.
On Minnesota Tributaries:
- Risk along the Buffalo River has stayed steady, as recent snowfall has nearly equaled previous runoff.
- Risk along the MN Wild Rice at Hendrum is now nearly 50 percent of meeting or exceeding 1997's record [33.85 ft].
- Risk along the Sand Hill and Marsh Rivers is now around 30-40 percent of 2009 levels.
- Risk along the Red Lake River has remained steady with Crookston having a 35 percent chance of meeting or exceeding 2009 levels.
- Risks along the Snake and Two Rivers sub-basins have dropped by half a foot, while risk along the Roseau River has increased by about half a foot.
The bottom line for the Red is, the gun is still loaded so to speak. It's now all about weather in the next month, and how quickly or slowly the snow melts...and how much rain we add on top.
Here are a few web cams to track river levels, and see what river conditions look like.
Have a great weekend!
It may be too early to breathe in a big sigh of relief just yet, but the latest batch of river forecasts from NWS Friday give us room to breathe a bit easier.
The latest NWS flood updates are out, and the news is encouraging.
Friday's river forecasts stop well short of the threshold of record river levels on most area rivers. While many rivers approach "major" flood stage by late next week, the previous forecasts of record levels appear to be unlikely, at least for now.
It's still relatively early in the process, and the amount of rain over the weekend combined with the potential for rain and or snow next week could raise the flood threat. Flood watches and warnings have been issued for many area rivers.
Here are the latest forecasts for some major river points in southern Minnesota as of Friday afternoon. (Specific forecasts for the Red River have not been issued yet)
Mississippi River at St. Paul: Friday's forecast timeline has the river still rising through next Friday to a level of 15.1 feet. This forecast keeps the level 10'+ short of record territory, and well below last year's crest of 18.38 ft on 03/24/2010.
The previous forecast had a 48% chance of reaching the record flood level of 26.40 ft reached on 04/16/1965. Friday's forecast seems to suggest the Mississippi will plateau well short of that territory this spring.
Here are the top 15 crests for the Mississippi at St. Paul. The current forecast for next Friday would tie for the 13th highest crest on record.
Historical Crests for Mississippi River at St. Paul
(1) 26.40 ft on 04/16/1965
(2) 25.00 ft on 04/15/1969
(3) 23.76 ft on 04/18/2001
(4) 23.60 ft on 04/30/2001
(5) 22.90 ft on 04/13/1997
(6) 21.90 ft on 04/16/1952
(7) 19.65 ft on 06/26/1993
(8) 18.38 ft on 03/24/2010
(9) 17.90 ft on 04/16/1951
(10) 16.30 ft on 05/16/1986
(11) 15.46 ft on 06/29/1957
(12) 15.45 ft on 05/04/1975
(13) 15.10 ft on 04/10/1994
(14) 14.51 ft on 06/23/2001
(15) 14.07 ft on 06/26/1984
Still the river may continue to rise well into April. Longer range outlooks show increasing chances for higher river levels the first two weeks of April. (Note: This simualtion was last updated as of February 28th.)
With the exception of Henderson, most river forecast points along the Minnesota appear to be encouraging.
Crow River at Delano:
This is some good news. Previous forecast for the Crow indicated a 35% chance of reaching record flood stage for the Crow in Delano.
St. Croix River at Stillwater:
The forecast of 84 feet at Stillwater by next Friday is good news. Though the River is still rising at that point, the lift bridge isn't closed until the river reaches 86 feet.
Bottom line: While flooding is expected as early as next week, the latest batch of river forecasts do not bring river levels to near record levels in most locations.
Lighter than average precipitation in the first half of March has helped lower porjected river crests. Only .33" of precip has fallen at MSP Airport in March.
Weekend shot of rain:
Rain and or snow in the next week will have an impact on rivers, but the effect is unclear at this time.
It looks like our next shot of rain will roll in Saturday night. This will be a significant rain, with forecast modles cranking out anywhere from around .25" to as much as .80" in one or two shots Saturday night into Sunday.
Stay tuned for further updates as we head into early next week.
"Super" bad moon on the rise:
Some call it the "Supermoon." You just may call it brighter than usual. The closest full moon (perigee) to earth in 18 years will mean the full moon appears 14% bigger and 30% brighter this weekend than when the moon is farther away (apogee).
We may not see the full moon on Saturday night with clouds and rain, but check it out tonight and Sunday evening if you can!
As we head into flood season in the next week, you may be confused by some of the river levels you hear on area rivers. You're not alone.
Here's an example.
On the Minnesota River at Granite Falls "flood stage" is 888 feet.
Just up the river in Montevideo, flood stage is 14 feet.
Why the difference?
At Granite Falls the gauge is based on elevation above sea level. In Montevideo, it's based on what's called a "zero point" somewhere on the river locally. I know, I don't get it either.
The best way I've heard this explained is that through the years, gauges have been added at different locations using different local measurements to set the flood gauge. Historically gauges have been different, and local control has been the deciding factor in how a gauge reads at any location.
My partner in weather crime (and former Twin Cities NWS Chief) Craig Edwards tells me that many years ago there was an effort to standardize river gauges nationwide. That effort fell to the usual politics and red tape surrounding the cost of replacing many of the river gauges, and with local officials wanting to keep things as they were because they felt their local residents understood that current system.
I'll be posting more info in the coming days to help with interpreting river levels and forecasts. In the mean time, here's a guide to hydrologic information on the web from NOAA.
You can access the latest river hydrographs and flood forecasts for southern Minnesota rivers here.
Red River forecasts info is here.
It's no surprise that the NWS came out with a potentially dire preliminary flood forecast today. All the ingredients are already in place for major spring flooding on virtually all rivers in the Upper Midwest.
The NWS is right to say if you live anywhere near a river or stream and are at risk of being flooded, buy flood insurance today! It takes 30 days for flood insurance policies to kick in.
Here are the updated preliminary spring flood outlooks from NWS.
-Twin Cities (Mississippi, Minnesota & Crow Rivers)
Here's the headline form Grand Forks NWS:
"For the Southern Red River Basin: Current spring flood outlooks indicate that much of the southern basin, including the Fargo-Moorhead area, already has a higher risk of spring flood levels than were seen in advance of the 2006 or 2010 major flood events. There is a 20 to 25 percent chance that areas near Fargo-Moorhead could see flood levels approach the record levels set back in the early spring of 2009. Continued much above normal snowfall through the remainder of the winter will likely continue to drive that risk slightly upward in later outlooks."
Here are three main reasons why major flooding is highly likely along Minnesota's rivers this spring.
1) A wet fall:
You may recall the unprecedented record floods in September that sent some rivers to all time record highs. Late summer and autumn rainfall was several inches above average in much of the region. That means rivers, streams, lakes and soils were already at capacity going into the freeze.
In fact 2010 was the 2nd wettest on record in Minnesota history, according to the Minnesota Climatology Working Group.
Top Ten Annual Mean Precipiation Records for Minnesota
Rank Value Year
1 33.92 1977
2 33.64 2010 *
3 33.27 1965
4 33.22 1968
5 32.54 1991
6 32.32 2005
7 32.31 1905
8 31.68 1986
9 31.64 1993
10 31.57 1903
Snow melt this spring will send already brimming rivers quickly higher.
2) Heavy winter snowfall:
One look outside the window tells you all you need to know about Minnesota's snow pack. Our series of massive winter storms have blanketed the Upper Midwest with heavy snow cover.
The water content (snow water equivalent-SWE) in that snow pack ranges from 3" to 8" in much of the region.
That's like 6" rain storm waiting to be unloaded into area rivers once melting begins in the spring. The damage is already done; so to speak...that snow isn't going away before spring.
3) La Nina:
The deck is already stacked in favor of major spring floods. La Nina may be the "wild card."
Our strong (but fading?) La Nina episode has delivered on the statistically favored colder than average winter in the Upper Midwest. There is also a bias toward cool wet springs in la Nina years. A wet spring could add more fuel to the fire in the spring flood scenario.
If heavy spring rains occur, the rapid snowmelt will send rivers into shock flood mode.
What to watch for:
The weather in the next 8 weeks is critical, and will determine how severe spring flooding will be.
Worst case scenario:
-Heavy late winter snows with high water content. The "Panhandle Hookers" that wind up in the Texas-Oklahoma Panhandle region bring wet heavy snows. We've been lucky so far that while many of our storms have produced heavy snowfall totals, the snow:water ratio has been relatively dry...often around 15:1. A few more wet storms will add a lot of water to already charged snow pack.
-Late thaw...rapid spring warm up. If the snow continues to accumulate, then we get a rapid period of warm weather in March that will send torrents of water into area rivers in a shot period of time.
-Heavy spring rains. A big slow moving spring storm with heavy rains would also send a "shock wave" of high water into area rivers. This is the nightmare scenario that will keep flood forecasters and river residents up at night over the next two months.
Best case scenario:
There are several factors that could mitigate flooding this spring.
-Below average snowfall through March
Our 55.4" of snowfall this winter has put the Twin Cities on pace for a top 10 snowfall season. If we get average snowfall for the rest of the winter season (about 22") that would put the metro at about 77" for the season...and vault us into top 10 territory and put us near the 5 snowiest winter threshold of 81.3".
If we are somehow able to continue the current "snow drought" into the spring and end up below that 22" average...that would help...some.
If we see a nice slow warm up this spring, that would help discharge snow melt into area rivers a little at a time. Ideal scenario? Days above freezing and night below freezing to generate a nice slow "controlled" discharge of snow melt.
-Little spring rain
Another factor that could mitigate spring flooding would be a dry spring. Unfortunately there is a bias toward wetter than average springs in La Nina years. Anything can happen though. A nice dry March and early April would help...a lot.
Things are looking up in flood ravaged Minnesota these days.
Even with high water now and some crests still to come, many area rivers have passed crest levels and are beginning to fall at a good clip. No doubt the continued 12 day (mostly) dry weather pattern is helping accelerate falling river levels.
Here's a look at some good signs where rivers have crested and are dropping fast.
As the bubble of high water continues to roll down the Minnesota and Mississippi through the Twin Cities, the main areas of impact this week are along the St. Criox at Stillwater and along the Mississippi and Minnesota in the Twin Cities.
Fortunately the weather will cooperate and if current flood protection and forecasts hold, we may dodge what could have been a much bigger flood bullet in 2010.
Better lucky than good.
The dry weather pattern of the past 11 days has likely prevented what could have been a major flood catastrophe on many area rivers. We've had no significant rain or snow in the Upper Midwest since March 11th. Those 11 dry days come at a critical time when rising rivers were most vulnerable to even more rapid rises due to rainfall super charging river levels.
The weather maps look favorable for our mostly dry pattern to continue for about another 10 days. It appears there is a chance for a significant rain event along about April 2nd or 3rd. By then, river levels should have fallen enough that a good shot of rain may not create too much in the way of additional flood woes.
If we had received heavy rain over the past 10 days, we might be fighting all time record high levels on most area rivers today, instead of top 10 floods of record.
After the perfect storm of winter snow, spring rain and record warmth that caused our floods this spring, we can be thankful that the weather pattern shifted into dryness during this critical 20 day stretch.
The Red River has reached crest at Fargo. So far, so good. Things seem to be holding well and barring a major failure in flood protection. Vigilance is still required on the Red, but it's looking like Fargo may escape widespread major damage again this year.
The Crow has crested in Delano. The St. Croix is forecast to crest just above flood stage this week in Stillwater, and hopefully will not reach major flood stage.
Now, as all the water from the Crow, Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers converge on the Twin Cities, the flood focus turns to the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers in the Twin Cities area. Here are the latest forecasts for the Minnesota and Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers this week.
The 5 day precipitation outlook still looks good and dry for the Upper Midwest this week.
Let's hope things keep going as well as they have so far with the excellent lead time provided by flood forecasters at the Twin Cities NWS, and the great planning and work by local officials who have executed a solid flood protection plan in 2010.
The tale is nearly told for how weather played a role in the floods of 2010.
First the snow. Then persistent cold to keep the snow in place this winter. Then the rain and record temperatures in March.
Most of the snow has now melted in Minnesota, and that means most of the water that was locked up in the snow pack is now working through the river systems. The damage is done so to speak.
With no major rain or snow events in sight for the next week or so, the focus and action shifts to events on the ground. Levee by levee, sand bag by sand bag, the flood story now becomes more about events on the ground than weather in the air.
The primary questions and potential areas of concern this weekend are:
-Will the dikes and levees hold on the Red River in Fargo and Morehead as the waters reach their crest?
-Will the Crow River in Delano behave and stay within the projected crest forecast?
-Will ice jams cause surprise areas of flooding?
Meteorologists are about to step aside and let the hydrologists take over to mop up this flood season. The resilient residents and government officials in river towns are doing their part to keep the rising waters at bay.
Nature has certainly reminded us this year that winter weather and spring floods are to be respected in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. Let's hope there are no more surprises in the coming days.
There is a sense here in the Fargo/Moorhead area that we are prepared. People are more calm than last year. This is probably for several reasons. First, we know we survived a crest level several feet higher than what is predicted for this year. Second, the Fargo/Moorhead area is getting pretty savvy as to how to defend the city against the Mighty Red. Third, flood preparations began several weeks ahead of the actual high water. And lastly, and perhaps this is a bit disconcerting, I have sensed a "ho-hum" attitude about the flood. In other words "Here we go again....".
Last year, I put drain plugs in my home, moved anything of value out of the basement, and took other preparations in anticipation of high water. I have done none of these things this year. Day-to-day life is not affected much for most people except that some city streets and bridges over the Red are closed and the ones that are open in the downtown areas have extremely heavy traffic as a result of those closures.
There is a sense of optimism and a sense that unless something drastic happens we will make it through this flood with flying colors. I hope so.
As the potentially good news of a lower crest forecast for the Red River at Fargo sinks in Friday, a look at the big picture shows this is already an historic flood year in the Upper Midwest.
This will be the top 5 to 10 flood of record for many area rivers. Some locations, like the Crow River at Cosmos and Mayer have set the 1st or 2nd flood of record for those locations.
Here are some forecast river crests and where this year's flood level falls historically.
Crow River at Mayer:
Friday's level: 16.52' = 2nd highest flood of record.
(1) 19.23 ft on 04/13/1965
(2) 16.50 ft on 04/14/2001
(3) 16.48 ft on 04/11/1969
(4) 16.05 ft on 04/07/1997
(5) 16.00 ft on 06/23/1957
(6) 15.70 ft on 04/10/1952
(7) 13.93 ft on 05/04/1986
(8) 13.90 ft on 04/30/1975
(9) 13.76 ft on 04/05/1979
(10) 13.59 ft on 03/29/1982
Red River at Fargo:
Forecast crest 37.5' = 5th highest flood of 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
(6) 37.13 ft on 04/05/2006
(7) 36.69 ft on 04/14/2001
(8) 35.39 ft on 04/09/1989
(9) 34.93 ft on 04/19/1979
(10) 34.65 ft on 04/16/1952
Minnesota River at Shakopee:
Forecast crest: 717.3' = 7th highest flood of record.
(1) 721.80 ft on 04/15/1965
(2) 719.70 ft on 04/15/1969
(3) 719.29 ft on 06/25/1993
(4) 718.10 ft on 04/19/2001
(5) 717.86 ft on 04/13/1997
(6) 717.40 ft on 04/29/2001
(7) 716.20 ft on 04/16/1952
(8) 714.38 ft on 04/14/1951
(9) 709.70 ft on 06/22/2001
(10) 708.40 ft on 04/07/1998
Mississippi River at St. Paul:
Forecast crest: 19.8' = 7th highest flood of record.
(1) 26.40 ft on 04/16/1965
(2) 25.00 ft on 04/15/1969
(3) 23.76 ft on 04/18/2001
(4) 23.60 ft on 04/30/2001
(5) 22.90 ft on 04/13/1997
(6) 21.90 ft on 04/16/1952
(7) 19.65 ft on 06/26/1993
(8) 17.90 ft on 04/16/1951
(9) 16.30 ft on 05/16/1986
(10) 15.46 ft on 06/29/1957
So why was this a record flood year for so many locations?
-Deep snowpack exceeded 2 feet in much of west and southwest Minnesota. Anywhere from 4" to 8" of water content was stored in the snow pack. This area is the headwaters for the Red, Minnesota and Crow Rivers. Both the Crow and Minnesota feed the Mississippi before they reach St. Paul.
-The rainfall in early March exceed half an inch in many location. Rainfall is the quickest way to melt snow cover, and trigger rapid runoff into area watersheds.
-Finally record and near record temperatures some 20 degrees above average kicked in to continue rapid snow melt. The warm weather in the past 10 days or so sealed the deal for area rivers. The Twin Cities is running a full 9.9 degrees above average for March through the first 18 days.
Steve Schaefer lives in Moorhead on the river. After last year's flood, he and his family made some changes to lower their risk of flooding.
Thanks to the work we did over last summer (filling in our walk-out basement, new landscaping), we're not worrying too much about our home. Our new landscaping takes us above 40' of protection. That means that as long as there are no changes to the crest level, we should not have to sandbag this year. I may need to put down some plastic to cover the fresh soil so it doesn't erode when the water gets up to it, but that will be far easier than building a dike. Hallelujah!
The flood fight is much more organized and coordinated this year. Part of that is due to a predicted crest about 3 feet lower than last year, but the other part is that we've all been anticipating this flood since early in the winter. Both Moorhead and Fargo have done a great job with the upgrades that have been made for city-wide flood protection and the decision by each city to start pre-filling sandbags three weeks ago has paid off immensely.
Living through the floods definitely gives one a great respect for the power of nature and how we have to live in tune with our environment. During the flood last year, there were extreme moments of concern, but the camaraderie of the community effort is something that I will value and remember always. It would not have been possible to successfully protect our home and our community without the incredible effort of everyone in the community as well as all the volunteers from outside Fargo-Moorhead who gave time and effort to help us out.
Posted at 11:23 PM on March 17, 2010
by Melanie Sommer
Filed under: Red River
The city of Grand Forks, N.D. is setting up an automated notification system called City Watch, to call citizens with recorded messages regarding the flood situation along the Red River. Residents need to sign up for City Watch through the city's Web site, and provide a phone number that can receive messages.
City Watch will make three attempts to contact citizens and will leave messages in voicemail boxes and on answering machines. The information will be used for emergency notification purposes only.
Mark Olson is a brand consultant living in Fargo. He'll be updating us on what's happening in his community. As he came home to Fargo last night from Moorhead he found the south side of the city bustling with activity.
South of 52nd Avenue there was lots of activity all along the river. Clay dikes being built where possible. Sandbag dikes where heavy equipment can't access.
Lots of people building sandbag dikes in the South Rivershore Drive neighborhood. National Guard out in full force there. Humvee and a trooper at every entrance point.
Lots of heavy trucks hauling clay to areas back in the river bends. It appears the city has everything under control and is confidently progressing as planned.
It is definitely reassuring knowing that the folks who are planning and executing the plan have such good and recent experience.
Although, for everyone's sake, I hope the crest at holds at 38 feet or less. All the folks who fought to protect their homes just a year ago deserve a break.
An unusually strong and mild ridge of high pressure over the Upper Midwest will produce unseasonably mild temperatures today. It will also melt snow rapidly in still snow covered areas that feed into the Minnesota and Red River watersheds.
Abundant sunshine and snow free ground should cause temps to soar into the low 60s this afternoon in eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. That's about 20 degrees above average for St. Patty's Day.
In the west still there is still enough snow cover to keep temperatures in check. Still, highs should reach the 50s today. That will be plenty warm enough to melt more snow, and send some of the 2 to 6 inches of water trapped in snow cover into area rivers.
Latest snow water equivalent analysis shows snow has melted in eastern Minnesota. Anywhere from 2" to as much as 6" (dark blue) of water still lies in the snow cover in western Minnesota and the Eastern Dakotas.
The mild temperatures will linger through tomorrow before Friday's cold front returns temperatures to near average as we head into the weekend. Expect highs in the upper 30s and lows below freezing this weekend.
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.
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