Rain, snow delays latest Red River flood outlookby Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio
Moorhead, Minn. — Heavy rain and snow falling across much of the region Wednesday is adding more water and snow on top of already saturated soil increasing concerns about spring flooding.
Six to 12 inches has fallen across the southern half of the Red River Valley. Fargo-Moorhead is preparing for possible record flooding on the Red River.
Fargo and Moorhead have filled nearly four million sandbags already. The sandbags are loaded on pallets in warm warehouses. Officials planned to distribute those sandbags to neighborhoods Thursday so volunteers could start building the sandbag dikes.
That plan has been delayed by the winter storm, and with weather turning colder for the next several days sandbag operations might be delayed until next week.
City officials say they don't want sandbags delivered in freezing conditions. As Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker is fond of reminding residents, "A frozen sandbag is like a frozen turkey, and you can't build a dike with frozen turkeys".
This week's storm is also delaying a flood forecast that was expected Thursday. The National Weather Service needs more time to gather rain and snowfall data from this storm for the new flood forecast which is now expected on Friday or Saturday.
The Red River is still mostly ice covered, and there's still a lot of snow on the landscape. Colder temperatures forecast the rest of this week will slow or stop the melting and delay flooding for a couple of weeks.
That could bring flooding into early April which adds more weather uncertainty. Temperatures can warm more rapidly, and April also brings the chance of heavy rain showers or thunderstorms, which can rapidly change the flood situation.
Fargo-Moorhead officials say they are well prepared for flooding. Since 2009, dozens of homes near the river have been purchased and moved or demolished. Instead of sandbags to protect those homes, there are now earthen levees which are much more stable than sandbags.
Millions of dollars have been spent, and Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland is testifying Wednesday at the Capital hoping to get an additional $12 million in the state bonding bill for flood projects.
The National Weather Service expects to release a new flood outlook for the Red River on Friday or Saturday.
In the most recent flood outlook, the Red River had a 30 percent chance of exceeding the record 2009 flood level in Fargo Moorhead.
- Morning Edition, 03/23/2011, 8:25 a.m.