Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

U.S. flood risk still low: report

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The risk of a major flood in the Red River Valley south of the U.S. border remains low, thanks to average snow and soil conditions and the expectation of another late spring.

In its second flood outlook of the year, the U.S. National Weather Service has predicted a 50 per cent chance of moderate spring flooding on the main stem of the Red River from South Dakota to the 49th parallel.

The U.S. forecasters based their predictions on average soil-moisture conditions, average stream-flow volumes and below-average snow-moisture content in the North Dakota and Minnesota portions of the Red River Valley -- as well as a high likelihood of a delayed thaw, similar to the one experienced across the region last year.

Warning-co-ordination meteorologist Greg Gust said in a statement a delayed thaw is good news, as a slow melt usually translates into less runoff at any given point and thus less flooding. But there is a risk of exposure to heavier snow and rain during a late winter, he added.

Colder weather should persist into late March and early April, but shouldn't hang around until late April, as it did in 2013, Gust said.

"This climate pattern suggests below-normal temperatures and near-normal precipitation, which should result in near- to above-normal snowfall, since colder air has less moisture and produces somewhat fluffier snow," he said.

The overall statistical probability of major flooding has increased a very small amount since January, when the National Weather Service issued its first flood outlook. Right now, there's a 50 per cent chance of moderate flooding on the Red River, which translates into a handful of road closures in Fargo and Grand Forks but otherwise minimal disruption.

The chance of a flood on the scale of the 2009 or 2011 events has been pegged at less than five per cent for both cities.

On the Canadian side of the border, the flood potential appears to be significantly below that of 2011 and 2013, reports Manitoba's flood forecast centre.

Manitoba plans to issue its first formal flood outlook later this month. While the snowpack around Winnipeg is high, the snow-moisture content is low here as well, Environment Canada said last week.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 21, 2014 A7

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