Dry soil proving helpful in flood fight, but rain can change the course of forecasts

The dry ground from last fall is soaking up a lot of the snow melt. But the dirt can only take in so much water, and rain could also change the course of flood forecasts.

Finn Harrison

FARGO — Makeshift lakes and ponds are starting to peek out of the snow-covered fields near Kindred and Horace. It is a nice, slow melt for some, and throughout the region our dry soil is proving to be a big help in the flood fight.

But a sponge can only get so wet before it stops taking in water, and the same can be said for our soil. Amanda Lee, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service, told WDAY News the region is getting to that point soon. When the ground is no longer dry, we will see a lot more overland flooding in rural areas, mainly in southeastern North Dakota.

"The soil can only take in so much, and it will likely reach the point where it becomes too saturated to take in much more melt," Lee said, adding much of the overland flooding will happen next week.

It is a stark contrast just across the Red River into greater Minnesota. Places like Wilkin County already got rid of much of the snowpack, making way for visible grass and snow-free fields.

The rain forecast can amp up flood forecasts in the coming weeks. According to Lee, a small amount of widespread rain won't make a huge difference, but if around two inches of rain falls in one concentrated area, that could impact river levels.


"If we happen to see that again over the course of the next one to two weeks while river levels are running high, that can definitely have an impact on how high river levels can get throughout the rest of the month," Lee said.

With the water sitting in fields longer, farmers in southeastern North Dakota might be planting later than other farmers in the region, she said.

Kindred Mayor Darrell Kersting echoed concerns about a slightly late planting season.

Kersting said he's expecting this year's flood season to be similar to what they dealt with in 2019.

Sandbags are being sent to Kindred next week as the town gets ready for potential flood issues. There was still plenty of snow on the ground in their fields as of Thursday, but the melt is still on.

Kersting told WDAY they are expecting to deal with plenty of overland flooding next week. This likely will not impact homes in town, but will flood roads — and potentially force a handful of people who live just outside of town to build temporary dikes.

"(Flooding) tends to be more of a nuisance for the people that can't get out of their driveways or have to take longer ways around to kind of avoid where it's flooding," he said.

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