Hey everyone — time for a quick update on the flooding situation in the Red River Valley. The sandbagging efforts are already underway in Fargo, ND where major flooding is expected once again for the 5th time in the past 6 years. Check out this video, courtesy of the Associated Press:
Sandbagging along the Red River is a rite of passage for many students (and an excuse to get out of school for a bit). I helped fill sandbags in Grand Forks, ND during the flood of 2009. Fargo saw it’s highest flood crest that year, and was devastated. Grand Forks escaped generally unscathed due to a well-devised system of levees that were installed following their own disastrous flood in 1997.
In the past 5 years alone, Fargo has seen historically significant flooding. These are the top 7 official flood crests, including 4 major floods in the past 5 years.
So why does Fargo flood so often? Contrary to what some people might think, the Red River actually BEGINS near Fargo, and flows northward into Lake Winnipeg in Canada. There, it joins up with the Nelson River and eventually drains into Hudson Bay. You’ll notice that the Red River Basin isn’t included at all with any water flowing into the Mississippi River.
The northward flow of the Red River contributes to the flooding problems each year. The spring thaw happens faster at the south end of the river, and water is forced to flow northward toward frozen ground and thick ice. The floodplain in the Red River Valley is also wide and fairly flat, so increasing the river depth by even a few feet can spread the water out for miles.
Grand Forks and Fargo are both expected to have significant (but not record-breaking) flooding through this spring. Typically, the rivers crest during the first half of April, but the flooding takes quite a while to subside. Fargo is forecast to have major flooding, with a 95% certainty via the National Weather Service River Forecast Center.
Major flood stage in Fargo, ND is 30 feet. As the waters rise higher, here are a few significant impacts/river levels beyond that:
While the city of Fargo is preparing for a flood crest sometime in mid-April (around the 15th), significant flooding is already here in the Souris (Mouse) River. This river crippled Minot, ND back in 2011 with one of the worst in history. The US Army Corps of Engineers estimated the flood was between 1-in-200 or 1-in-500 year magnitude.
This hydrograph above is for Foxholm, ND (just northwest of Minot). Historical flooding is not expected along the Souris this year, but significant flooding is already underway.
We’ll keep you posted on the flooding situation as the snow continues to melt! Have a fantastic Saturday. -Meteorologist Miranda Hilgers