Latest flood outlook favorable for ND residents
FARGO, N.D. (AP) -- The latest flood outlook for the Red River in eastern North Dakota features a little-uttered word: minor.
Figures released by the National Weather Service on Thursday show the chances for minor flooding are less than 33 percent in most areas. And between the South Dakota and Canadian borders, the possibility of major flooding on the Red River is between just 1 percent and 6 percent.
Greg Gust, a meteorologist with the weather service, joked that river forecasting has been less than exciting this year.
"It's nice to have time to catch up with the never-ending paperwork, but doing real weather stuff is much more fun," he said.
The flood forecast is equally favorable for the rest of the state. In western North Dakota, the risk of widespread spring flooding from snowmelt is classified as below normal. There's only a slim chance that Devils Lake will reach a record level this summer. Along the Missouri and James rivers, the weather service said, flooding would only happen if there were heavy spring rains or ice jams.
Residents of Fargo and neighboring Moorhead, Minn., endured major flooding during the last three springs, but 2011 was harrowing for many North Dakotans. The Souris River reached record levels, swamping more than 4,000 homes and businesses in Minot. But this year, the river is expected to remain below flood stage in the city.
The weather service said the "surprisingly dry" winter -- brought on by a shift in the Arctic weather pattern -- spread drought conditions to much of North Dakota. Gust said the pattern appears to be shifting to a more normal temperature and precipitation range.
"Thus we could actually see some more significant snow before this winter is through and we could get enough runoff as that melts and as spring rains begin to at least produce a minor flood," Gust said.
Cecily Fong, spokeswoman for North Dakota Emergency Services, said all signs point to a quiet spring.
"However, the type of precipitation and the timing of it will be important factors," she said. "If we get a significant rain event on top of frozen soils, the runoff could be problematic for some."
Ice jams could also pose a risk, Fong said.
Pat Zavoral, Fargo city administrator, said some city employees are talking about doing something new this spring, such as golfing or gardening.
"We are still going to have some staff meetings to stay sharp in terms of how our (flood-fighting) system works," Zavoral said. "But we could stand a break."
Fargo has a 53 percent chance of minor flooding and a 12 percent chance of moderate flooding. Moderate flooding could shut down a few streets and trails, though the city has built up several areas and bought out hundreds of homes on the flood plain during the last several years.
Flood stage in Fargo is 18 feet, with the moderate stage at 25 feet. Gust called the moderate stage "still a nuisance, like a pimple or a cold sore."