Yes, it’s been a snowy March — the third highest on record in Fargo so far

After the storm on Tuesday, March 21, which dropped almost six inches of snow, Fargo has received 21.1 inches of snow so far this month.


FARGO — The snow depth has been creeping up as the winter lingers — enough that snowfall here thus far this month is now the third highest for March on record, behind 1997 and 2009, two chart-topping spring flood years.

After the storm on Tuesday, March 21, which dropped almost six inches of snow, Fargo has received 21.1 inches of snow so far this month.

That’s behind only the 28.1 inches that fell in March 2009 — a month that also included more than two inches of rain — and 26.2 inches that fell in March 1997, which also had about two inches of freezing rain.

“Those two seasons had some extraordinary rainfalls before we got to the flooding,” said John Wheeler, chief WDAY StormTracker meteorologist, who compiled the snow records.

So far this March, the snow has contained 1.7 inches of precipitation, including a little more than half an inch from Tuesday’s snowfall. “That’s pretty light,” Wheeler noted.


By comparison, 4.62 inches of precipitation fell in March 2009, Fargo's wettest March on record.

Overall, the snowpack in the Fargo-Moorhead area now holds about 4½ inches of moisture. As a result, “There will be some kind of a significant flood this year,” Wheeler said.

Still, he quickly added, because of significantly enhanced flood protection now in place, even a major flood doesn’t necessarily mean a scramble to fill and place sandbags will be required.

Major flooding on the Red River in Fargo starts at 30 feet. The record 2009 flood was 40.84 feet, followed by a crest of 39.72 feet in 1997, the second-highest on record.

Allen Sheets clears snow from his sidewalk Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in south Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

In fact, Wheeler said, it would take a flood crest in the range of 40 feet to pose a serious flood risk in Fargo-Moorhead. “That’s when it gets dicey,” he said.

The magnitude of the spring flood will be determined by future weather conditions, including whether the thaw is gradual or abrupt, and how much more precipitation falls — with rain on top of snow and a rapid melt posing the greatest risk, Wheeler said.

The weather pattern appears to be evolving into one that will result in colder-than-average temperatures and drier conditions through mid-April, with a stronger signal for colder temperatures than drier weather, he said.

“I’m optimistic that this train of storms will slow down,” Wheeler said. That picture could quickly change, however, if a major storm dumped heavy precipitation.


“It just takes one storm to really mess things up,” Wheeler said.

One safe weather prediction: spring will be late this year. Recent late springs came in 2011 and 2013, when the spring flood crest was on May 1, which is unusually late, with most crests arriving in April, he said.

As of Wednesday, the average snow depth in Fargo was 24 inches, Wheeler said. Three winter months had high snow depths: 29 inches in January 1982, 30 inches in January 1989 and 32 inches in March 1997.

Although there’s a common perception that the snow depth is unusually high this winter, that’s not actually the case, Wheeler said.

Snow falls Tuesday evening, March 21, 2023, over downtown Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

The 56.7 total inches of snow in Fargo so far this winter ranks as the 20th snowiest on record. “So that’s not that impressive,” he said, adding that the amount so far isn’t quite half of the record 117 inches that fell during the winter of 1996-97.

“There’s no comparison to that,” Wheeler said. Also, “There’s still quite a bit of air in our snow today,” he said.

That’s because since snow started accumulating in early November, Fargo has yet to reach a high of 40 degrees. Usually, winter has a thawing period that melts away some of the snowpack. This winter, only nominal melting has occurred so far.

The National Weather Service will issue its latest spring flooding outlook on Thursday, March 23, for the Red River Valley.

Patrick Springer first joined The Forum in 1985. He covers a wide range of subjects including health care, energy and population trends. Email address:
Phone: 701-367-5294
What To Read Next
Get Local