New data showing increased flood risk for much of Red River Valley

Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 6:04 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - New data from the National Weather Service shows the risk of flooding has increased for much of the Red River Valley due to the delayed thaw and more than average moisture.

Experts say as it stands now, the Red River here in Fargo-Moorhead has a 90 percent chance of reaching major flood stage which is around 30 feet. Fargo’s not alone, though. Most locations along the banks of the Red River now have more than a 50 percent chance of seeing moderate to major flooding.

The good news: Experts say we have one thing working in our favor which is how dry our ground was heading into the winter.

“We do have some room for some infiltration of the snowmelt water, but just how much has yet to be seen.” Amanda Lee with the National Weather Service said in an online presentation Thursday afternoon.

“What would be great is to see temperatures during the daytime hours go above freezing enough to get that water moving and then at night, slowing down a little bit and warm up again during the day so it’s not an all-at-once process,” First Alert Storm Team Meteorologist Lisa Green said.

NWS Flood Outlook
NWS Flood Outlook(KVLY)

The bad news: Official forecasts have much of the Valley staying at or below freezing for at least the next two weeks.

“With it getting later and later in the season, there’s the threat for it to warm up rapidly and cause the rapid thaw that would send those rivers up even faster and potentially reaching higher levels,” Green said.

The City of Fargo says based on Thursday’s flood outlook, officials don’t anticipate the need to open Sandbag Central. However, with a 90 percent chance Fargo will reach 30.7 feet, the city will likely still feel some impacts.

“Some of our low-lying roads going under water, we start getting a little higher, some bridges end up closing,” Green said.

Experts say there’s no need to panic yet. Instead they say knowledge and preparation is power as what happens next, is ultimately unpredictable in the hands of Mother Nature.

“We could end up with a spring that cooperates with us, but at the same time, we’ve seen what happens when it doesn’t, so it’s always good to just be prepared,” Green said.

The National Weather Service predicts water will start flowing and rising between the first and second weeks of April. The Grand Forks office expects to start releasing seven-day flood forecasts soon.