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Forum editorial: 'Optimism' sums up the mood

At this time last year - and two years before then - the chances of a major flood on the Red River were pegged on either side of 90 percent. And guess what? For three years running, the Red served up record or near-record floods, just as was fore...

At this time last year - and two years before then - the chances of a major flood on the Red River were pegged on either side of 90 percent. And guess what? For three years running, the Red served up record or near-record floods, just as was forecast. The floods of 2009, 2010 and 2011 rank among the top five in recorded history.

It is with some relief, therefore, that the National Weather Service said last week there was only a 6 percent chance the Red at Fargo would reach major flood stage of 30 feet or more. That's down from an 11 percent chance a month ago, and down from last year's 93 percent.

Community leaders and flood-fighters up and down the meandering length of the river are happily using the word "optimistic" to describe how they feel about the spring melt. They are not merely hoping for the best. The data to date indicate clearly the river will not rise to major flood elevation, taking into account normal weather conditions between now and the spring thaw.

Of course, nothing in Red River Valley weather is guaranteed. It could start snowing tomorrow. Spring rains could come in buckets. But conditions on the Red's vast watershed right now - very little snow, dry soils, somewhat low water levels in most flood-prone waterways - translate into good news for residents of the valley.

It's about time. After three consecutive springs of flood-fighting, the leaders and residents of river communities are weary. A break from the intense flood-fighting campaigns of the past three years is very welcome.

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That does not mean, however, that Fargo and other cities are not paying attention to the Red and its tributaries. While the fear and nervousness associated with a 90 percent flood threat might be tamped down, readiness - just in case - is still a priority. Communities are prepared, having been seasoned by years of holding back floodwaters. So if the dry fall-winter weather pattern shifts to wet and stormy, Fargo and other places are well-positioned to call on years of knowledge and experience, plus stored resources, to keep a flood in check.

Meanwhile, the latest flood outlook is good news. A little relaxation is in order.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.

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