Weather Forecast


'Wet' snowpack brings flood potential on Minnesota River

This Minnesota Department of Natural Resources map shows that last fall was among the wettest on record in much of the state. The higher the percentile, the wetter the fall was compared with previous years. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)

MONTEVIDEO -- Spring flooding is expected in the upper Minnesota River watershed this spring due to a higher-than-normal water content in the snowpack in western Minnesota and eastern South Dakota.

Residents in flood-prone areas along the Upper Minnesota River, especially in Montevideo and Granite Falls, are being urged to prepare for flooding. Those with homes in the floodplain are urged to investigate purchasing flood insurance.

"It will flood in Montevideo,'' said Dan Luna, forecaster with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. He spoke to the Tribune following a news conference at which the flood potential for the Red River and Minnesota Rivers was announced on Friday.

The Weather Service predicts that the Minnesota River will reach minor flood stage in Montevideo and Granite Falls, even if the area sees a gradual snowmelt without any major rain events.

There is a one in 20 chance, or 5 percent probability, of exceeding the major flood level experienced in the two communities in 2001, he warns.

The flood potential is greatest in the upper Minnesota River area due to a snowpack that currently holds 4 to 5 inches of water, as well as a very wet fall. The snowpack water content ranks in the top 10 percent of what has been seen in the last 50 years, he said.

The autumn of 2009 also ranks in the top 10 percent of the wettest recorded.

Luna said snowpack conditions also bring an elevated flood risk for communities along tributary rivers, such as Dawson on the Lac qui Parle River, according to the flood forecast.

Winter conditions have also been favorable to the type of ice formation that leads to a higher threat for ice jams. He advises residents along tributaries in the upper Minnesota River to keep a close eye on conditions.

Flood insurance must be purchased separately from homeowner's insurance. There is a 30-day waiting period from purchase to when a policy is in effect. Luna recommends an effective date of March 20 for the upper Minnesota River watershed.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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