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Published December 23, 2010, 11:54 AM

F-M has strong chance of facing third major flood in as many years

FARGO – Fargo-Moorhead faces a greater than 50 percent chance of fighting its third major flood in as many years, the National Weather Service said today in its first spring flood outlook of the season.

FARGO – Fargo-Moorhead faces a greater than 50 percent chance of fighting its third major flood in as many years, the National Weather Service said today in its first spring flood outlook of the season.

There’s a 50 percent chance the Red River in Fargo will reach 31.5 feet – major flood stage is 30 feet – and a 10 percent chance it will hit 38.2 feet, the weather service said.

Last spring, the Red topped out at 36.95 feet, which followed the 2009 record crest of 40.84 feet.

Greg Gust, warning coordination meteorologist at the weather service office in Grand Forks, said two of the three pieces to the spring flood puzzle are already in place: Soil moisture levels and base stream flows are “way too high for this time of year,” and the winter snowpack is on pace to be above normal in the southern Red River Valley, Gust said, noting the Devils Lake area already hit its season snowpack average.

“So, these precursor conditions clearly have us somewhat apprehensive,” he said.

The third piece of the puzzle, the spring melt, remains the big unknown.

North Dakota Homeland Security Director Greg Wilz called the outlook “somewhat alarming” and said the state will start bringing in officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency after Jan. 1 to start planning a flood response.

“The bottom line is, if we end up with a 2009 where we get above-average temperatures for a week with high winds, that snow will liquefy quickly and we could be in trouble,” Wilz said.

Residents in the Devils Lake area will get no relief from the rising lake this year, officials said. Weather service hydrologist Mike Lukes said there’s a 50 percent chance the lake will rise to 1,454.6 feet, but only a 1 percent chance it will rise to within a foot of spilling over into Tolna Coulee.

For the full story, see Friday’s Forum.

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