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Flood watches, warning issued for Red River Valley as rain continues

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By Kevin Bonham and Stephen J. Lee

Grand Forks Herald

A long stretch of rainy days is being accompanied by a return of flood warnings in the Red River Valley.

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The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for Hallock, Minn., and Kittson County along the Two Rivers River, as well as for portions of Wilkin, Richland and Clay counties in the southern Red River Valley.

Meanwhile, flood watches are in effect along the Red River in Grand Forks-East Grand Forks and Oslo, Minn., as well as other areas of Grand Forks and Walsh counties in North Dakota and Polk and Marshall counties of Minnesota, according to a statement released late this morning by the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.

“We’re looking at minor to moderate flooding, depending on how quickly rain comes, whether the soils are thawed and how much the soils are able to absorb the moisture,” said Jim Kaiser, a meteorologist with the weather service in Grand Forks.

Affecting farmers

Farmers in the region are eager to get into the field but also liking the needed rain, said Jim Stordahl, agricultural extension educator in eastern Polk County for the University of Minnesota.

“There were some farmers in the field last week prior to this rain, but not much seed was put in the ground and that all came to a screeching halt with this rain,” he said Monday about conditions on the east side of the Red River Valley. “But in this part of the world it was very dry the last two years, so I think everyone is happy to see some level of precipitation to recharge some of the soil water reserves.”

This spring is rivaling last year’s late planting season in North Dakota and Minnesota, especially after rain and snow shut down field work Sunday andMonday and cool temperatures keep things from greening up.

Planting season typically kicks in by the last week of April in eastern Polk County, “so we are getting latish,” Stordahl said.

Spring wheat, corn and sugar beets all should be in the ground within the next week or so for optimal production, he said, but many of the acres go to soybeans, which can be planted in late May with little damage to potential yields.

Stordahl farms, too, and runs a dairy cow operation, so like many he is fighting mud in his yard and fields while hoping pastures green up soon.

“Forage supplies were fairly tight this past year and a lot of people are short, so everyone is looking for grass with feedstocks dwindling, and it feels like we are a long ways from fresh grass yet,” Stordahl said. “Everyone is hoping for some sunshine.”

New crests

With the rain, the weather service is forecasting minor to moderate flooding around the region. Kaiser said the deep frost during this past winter is playing a role in the late spring flooding patterns.

“We had that winter that was so cold, with a lot of wind exposing bare ground,” he said. “Bare ground freezes deeper than normal. Once the rains drops and penetrates the soil and then hits the frozen layer, it’s going to go sideways.”

The amount of runoff depends on how much the soil is able to absorb, he said.

The Two Rivers River at Hallock was reported at 801.95 feet at 7 p.m. Monday, just below minor flood stage of 802 feet. The weather service is forecasting the river to crest at about 803.3 feet by Wednesday or Thursday. The flood warning is in effect until Monday, May 5.

The Red River in East Grand Forks was at 20.39 feet at 6:45 p.m. Monday. The weather service predicts the river could hit 30 feet by Sunday. Minor flood stage is 28 feet.

In Oslo, the Red River was at 18.42 feet at 6:15 p.m. Monday. Minor flood stage is 26 feet. The weather service said the river could reach moderate flood stage of 30 feet by Sunday.

Flood warnings also are in effect for the Red River at Fargo, as well as Dilworth, Minn., on the Buffalo River, and Abercrombie, N.D., on the Wild Rice River.

In Fargo, the Red River is forecast to crest Friday at 25.7 feet, which is slightly above the moderate flood stage.

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