Greg Gust, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said spring thaw is progressing in the Red River Valley and snow melt is expected to accelerate through next week.
“Above normal temperatures are expected to ripen existing snow pack and begin the initial snow melt runoff process across the Red River Basin from this weekend and throughout next week,” Gust said in a press release. “Local streams and tributaries should see some initial rises beginning next week. The runoff process may continue from there.”
Snow events in late February and early March brought the Valley more into line with normal spring snow pack conditions, he said. There is about 1.8 inches of snow water within the snow pack, Gust said.
Snow pack temperatures are nearing the thaw point in patchy areas across Minnesota from Mahnomen through Lake Park and Fergus Falls into the Elbow Lake area.
For the most up to date and detailed snow model information, go to: www. nohrsc.noaa.gov/interactive/html/map.html.
Gust warned people to be careful of river and lake ice. Conditions on the Red and its Minnesota and North Dakota tributaries are either ice-covered or ice-affected. River ice thickness varies with the size of the river, but ranges mostly between a foot to a foot and a half thick on the mainstem Red, he said.
“The Red River at Wahpeton has seen a slight rise due to planned releases from the Lake Traverse Reservoir,” he said.
After a brief period of colder air March 7, temperatures will begin to warm and reach above-normal levels this weekend into early next week. Daily high temperatures will be in the 20s March 7 and into the 30s by Thursday and Friday, before rising well into the 40s over the weekend into early next week, he said in a release. A few high temperatures in the lower 50s are also possible early next week.
“The only chance for precipitation looks to come Sunday into Monday over far southeastern North Dakota into West Central Minnesota as an upper low may bring a chance for light rain to the area,” he said. “Any amounts look to be very light. Overnight lows during the weekend into early next week look to be in the upper 20s to mid-30s.”
Overnight lows are watched closely as lows under 32-degrees allows water to freeze overnight and slow the melt.
The remainder of the month of March outlook is for temperatures to remain above season averages and for precipitation to range from near- to slightly-above seasonal averages, Gust said.
A quicker than normal snow melt could lead to enough runoff that would cause some ice jams to flood at river locations most like to jam, such as at tributary confluences and tight river bends, he said. Ice jams typically set up quickly and are hard to predict. If the National Weather Service is notified of an ice jam flood, an alert will be issued to warn of a flash flood.
“The National Weather Service office in Grand Forks will be closely monitoring weather and river conditions and issue flood warning and statements as well as seven-day river forecasts when we expect the river to reach or exceed flood stage within that period,” he said.