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Published March 18, 2009, 08:31 AM

Meteorologist says snowmelt good so far

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - This week’s melting has been close to ideal, said Bill Barrett, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, with daytime temperatures near 40 and nights near freezing, slowing the melt. Thawing will slow until the weekend, when warmer temperatures will speed it again, likely increasing overland flooding, Barrett said.

By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - This week’s melting has been close to ideal, said Bill Barrett, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, with daytime temperatures near 40 and nights near freezing, slowing the melt. Thawing will slow until the weekend, when warmer temperatures will speed it again, likely increasing overland flooding, Barrett said.

A storm system moving in from the southwest late Sunday into early next week could make it worse by bringing significant rain, even thunderstorms, to the region, Barrett said. It could be enough to make flooding worse in the Red River Valley and the Devils Lake basin, he said. But it’s still days away and the unstable air mass could change track.

The flood outlook released last week could be affected by the storm system, but it’s too early to know if, or how much, Barrett said. “But either way, it will exacerbate the situation, and make things worse, than if we just had a dry spell.”

The Minnesota State Patrol reported a water hazard Tuesday on the north edge of Lancaster, Minn., in Kittson County. Water is covering one lane of state Highway 59 on the north side of the small town near the Canadian border, according to a news release from the Patrol Tuesday afternoon. The area has been marked off.

Water also is partially covering Highway 92 north of Zerkel, Minn., which is 15 miles south of Bemidji in Clearwater County, according to the Patrol.

A Grand Forks Sheriff’s deputy said Tuesday night there were no clear signs of roadways being inundated in the county. Some areas show water in ditches getting close to the road surface level in the county.

A spokeswoman for the Walsh County Sheriff’s Department said one site on state Highway 32 near the border with Grand Forks County had some water problems, but the area has been marked.

In Polk County, no roads have been closed, said a sheriff’s dispatcher, but one site on the north side of the University of Minnesota-Crookston has water nearly topping a road, the dispatcher said.

The weather service’s reporting site at the University of North Dakota has received 49.7 inches of snow since July —including 5 inches this month so far — which is 12.1 inches above the 30-year norm.

Only a trace remains. Fargo still has 6 inches of snow, Barrett said.

A total of 1.33 inches of precipitation has fallen at UND since Jan. 1, which is 0.58 inch less than the norm of 1.91 inch for the same period.

The weather service reports 35 percent of the Upper Midwest is covered by snow, only half as much as was covered a month ago. The average snow depth as of today is 3.9 inches, equivalent to 1.1 inch of water; the maximum snow depth is 47.8 inches.

The Upper Midwest region for the weather service includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, and parts of Wyoming and Wisconsin.

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