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Zaleski: Big flood? Your guess is as good as mine ...

A late-Friday perusal of five extended weather forecasts found competing scenarios regarding the rain storm that is supposed to move into the Red River Valley on Monday night and Tuesday. All the forecasting agencies and outlets are respected, sc...

A late-Friday perusal of five extended weather forecasts found competing scenarios regarding the rain storm that is supposed to move into the Red River Valley on Monday night and Tuesday. All the forecasting agencies and outlets are respected, science-based operations. Their work is vital this weekend because a heavy rain across the region will make what appears to be a bad flood worse.

But what's a worried homeowner to do when the forecasts don't agree? Who's right? Who's wrong? Or, given the realities of even the best weather forecasting, can any of them get it right?

As of late Friday, the local forecasts for Monday and Tuesday went like this (italics are mine):

Weather Channel: 40 percent chance of showers. Light amounts of rain.

AccuWeather.com: 15 percent chance of rain. Less than a

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half-inch both days.

National Weather Service: A "big storm" with periods of rain, 1 to 2 inches likely.

WDAY/Forum: Periods of rain likely both days, possibly one inch; maybe snow Tuesday.

KVLY-TV: 70 percent chance of heavy rain Monday, 1 to 2 inches; 50 percent chance of rain Tuesday. The "exact track (of the storm) still questionable."

And of course, flood experts disagreed whether the Red's crest at Fargo would approach the devastating 1997 level. Still no definitive word about that.

Again, the forecasts were from Friday; they likely have changed since then. But late last week the residents of Fargo and the Red River Valley were in near-panic mode because the certainty of a major flood had become the likelihood of a

1997-style flood, or worse. The outlook changed to downright scary when - you guessed it - weather gurus said a huge storm organizing to the west and south would deliver up to

2 inches of rain on a floodplain already overrun by snowmelt and saturated from last fall's rains.

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Being ready for a flood is smarter than getting caught with your hip boots down. Flood protection work went high speed last week. The region is as ready as it can be for a big flood. It's just that at this point, the vagaries of weather and contradictions in forecasting guarantee that no one really knows what's coming down the river.

Readers can reach Forum Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521

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