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Published March 14, 2009, 12:00 AM

Grand Forks updates flooding forecast

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Grand Forks has a 50 percent chance at a 50-foot flood crest this spring – the second highest in history.

By: By Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Grand Forks has a 50 percent chance at a 50-foot flood crest this spring – the second highest in history.

But city officials are confident that flood-protection measures taken over the past decade will handle any of the probabilities outlined Friday by National Weather Service in its latest Spring Snowmelt and Flood Outlook.

The forecast says there’s a 10 to 20 percent chance the flood crest will surpass the 1997 record of 54.35 feet.

The new outlook factors in snowfall that fell this week, adding that information to data compiled over the past 58 years that includes spring temperatures and precipitation.

“We have La Nina conditions that indicate continuing cold and above-average precipitation will continue to impact our weather into the spring,” said Mark Ewens, National Weather Service’s data manager in Grand Fork.

Mike Lukes, service hydrologist at the Grand Forks office, said the probability of a record flood in Grand Forks is closer to 10 to 11 percent than 20 percent.

Still, the NWS’ new flood outlook lists a 98 percent chance that Grand Forks will reach the major flood stage of 46 feet. That compares with a 72 percent chance in the flood outlook issued two weeks ago.

In preparation for the worst, the city of Grand Forks will start today to haul clay to earthen levees in the Belmont Road area. It’s a precautionary measure, City Engineer Al Grasser said.

This winter’s snow conditions – snowfall and moisture content – are similar to those during the winters of 1978-79 and 2005-06 than 1996-97, Ewens said.

Like this year, 1979 was snowy, but not a record. In 2006, the valley experienced a rapid snowmelt and rains.

The city already is moving snow from some areas – Belmont Road and near the English Coulee pump station near Mill Road – that are not easily accessible during spring, when the ground is thawing.

Probabilities elsewhere

- Wahpeton, N.D. (Red River): 93 percent, 14 feet.

- Grafton, N.D. (Park River): 76 percent; 14.5 feet.

- High Landing, Minn. (Red Lake River): 61 percent; 13 feet.

- Hillsboro, N.D. (Red River): 44 percent; 16 feet.

- Hallock, Minn. (Two Rivers River): 32 percent; 810 feet above sea level.

- Crookston, Minn. (Red Lake River): 30 percent; 30 feet.

- Roseau, Minn. (Roseau River): 28 percent; 19 feet.

- Hillsboro, N.D. (Goose River): 15 percent; 16 feet.

- Alvarado, Minn. (Snake River): 8 percent; 110 feet.

- Minto, N.D. (Forest River): less that 2 percent; 11 feet.

- Walhalla, N.D. (Pembina River): less than 2 percent; 18 feet.

- Neche, N.D. (Pembina River): less than 2 percent; 23 feet.

- Warren, Minn. (Snake River): less than 2 percent; 853 feet above sea level.

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