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Published February 09, 2010, 12:00 AM

Fargo-Moorhead snowfall, moisture on pace with last year

The 8.3 inches of snow that fell in recent days on Fargo-Moorhead means the area now confronts a moisture base very similar to a year ago.

By: Patrick Springer, INFORUM

The 8.3 inches of snow that fell in recent days on Fargo-Moorhead means the area now confronts a moisture base very similar to a year ago.

As of Monday, Fargo had received 44.9 inches of snow this winter, slightly higher than the 44.7 inches at this time last year.

The recent heavy snow comes after a prediction late last month that the Red River in Fargo has an 86 percent chance of reaching major flood stage this spring – and a 10 percent chance of reaching 40.6 feet, slightly below last spring’s record 40.84-foot crest.

The next flood forecast by the National Weather Service is due out Feb. 19.

While the cumulative snowfall is strikingly similar this winter compared to the last, the F-M area has caught a little bit of a break.

Since Sept. 1, 12.05 inches of moisture have fallen, compared to 13.02 inches a year ago, according to figures by the weather service.

“(Spring flooding is) all going to depend on how it melts and how much more precipitation we get,” Dave Kellenbenz, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said Monday.

The moisture content of snow that fell since Thursday, about 0.75 of an inch of moisture, was enough to set a Fargo record for a meteorological winter –December, January and February – of 4.28 inches.

“This is now the wettest winter on record with three weeks to go,” said WDAY Meteorologist Daryl Ritchison.

So, after the latest snowfall – which left roads treacherous, causing numerous accidents – just how vulnerable to another potentially catastrophic flood is Fargo-Moorhead?

“It’s the question everybody’s asking,” said WDAY chief meteorologist John Wheeler.

Although not minimizing the wet conditions, meteorologists were quick to note that freakish rains in March and April were crucial ingredients in last year’s record flood and the 1997 flood.

Last March, Fargo received a record 4.62 inches of moisture – almost double the previous record – and in April 1997, the winter with record snowfall, a storm dumped 3 inches of rain.

The almost 5 inches of rain last March followed a February rain that dropped about 0.6 of an inch, a very unusual string of events, Wheeler said.

“That still could happen,” Wheeler said, referring to heavy rains leading up to or coinciding with the spring thaw. “The only thing that makes me nervous is that we have set the base.”

Except for the heavy snowstorms around Christmas and Jan. 22-23, snowfall this winter has been pretty normal, Ritchison said.

“We’ve had a very, very normal winter – except for four days,” he said, referring to those two storms.

Although this winter’s snowfall is ahead of last year’s, in terms of moisture, it likely will end behind last year – barring something like the rains that fell last March, Ritchison said.

“That was a crazy event last March,” he said.

The forecast for the next week, at least, looks good, with a warm-up expected – and no snow predicted.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

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