Nothing much has changed with the Red River Valley’s chances for a 2020 spring flood.
Giving its latest outlook Thursday, Feb. 13, the National Weather Service said the numbers are very similar to outlook data released on Jan. 23, 2020. There has been below normal precipitation since then, NWS reported.
“The current snowpack and water content are similar to around the Jan. 23 outlook, which remains high for this time of year,” said Amanda Lee, a service hydrologist with NWS. “There is at least a bit of winter left to go.”
Meteorologists and other weather pundits observed the Red River Valley’s late fall and early winter, which had record amounts of precipitation.
“There have had no big storms since then, and the snowfall since Jan. 18 is at below to near-normal amounts,” Lee said. “There’s been generally mild conditions through the mid-winter, with frost depth shallower than normal.”
Wahpeton and Breckenridge, Minnesota are in a location that’s still deemed as having a moderate risk of spring flooding. In January, NWS reported the possibility of 2020’s flooding being within the top five of such events.
“Flooding along the mainstream Red River of the North in 2019 was among the top 10 for flood events,” Daily News previously reported.
Soils remain wet and high precipitation is expected between February-April, Lee said.
“The climate outlooks still favor a cooler and wetter than normal spring,” she said. “This year, we could still have a top five flood, although winter is waning.”
City of Wahpeton employees have already started talking about the possibility of a high water event, Public Works Director Dennis Miranowski said Tuesday, Feb. 11. The city has an extensive action plan, with tasks including the closing of gates and the installation of ring dikes aligned with the height of the Red River.
“Every morning, we meet,” Miranowski told the Wahpeton Public Works and Safety Committee. “Last year, everything we did was written on the sheet, including when it had to be completed. We’re following that same concept for 2020 and have started filling some of this stuff in.”
Most of the criteria for spring flooding has already been recorded, NWS reported.
Fall moisture levels and base stream flow are both at or near record amounts. Excess water remains in soggy soils, high streamflows and parked water on the landscape, the weather service stated in January.
Frost depth is running below normal, considered less deep than it was in 2019. Winter snowpack is above normal, except in the far northern basin. The snow water equivalent is high, near typical winter season values.
What still needs to be determined is the spring thaw cycle and how heavy the spring rains will be.
A low amount of precipitation is forecast through Wednesday, Feb. 19, Lee said. Below normal precipitation is expected for the following week, although there could be precipitation in late February.
The next flood outlook will be released on Thursday, Feb. 27. Daily News will continue to follow this story.