As is typically the case, all eyes will be on the ice once it starts breaking up and moving.
Crookston Fire Chief and Emergency Manager Tim Froeber Monday evening will update members of the Crookston City Council on the city's spring flood preparations, but it's likely that, even though a lot of snow has fallen on the city lately, Froeber won't detail the need for a massive, urgent emergency response.
At least not at this point.
As any Crookston resident knows, that's mostly because the vast majority of low-lying areas in Crookston are now protected from the Red Lake River to a level of around 30 feet. If some sandbagging efforts are needed in places like the spot on Ash Street across from the American Legion, it would likely only take a few hours for city personnel and/or volunteers to accomplish.
That's not to say that interest in the Red River Valley in the potential for a major spring flood hasn't increased of late, with several storm systems adding several inches to the snowpack. National Weather Service hydrologists, in their latest spring flood outlook, indicate that the snowpack, after being significantly below normal as recently as a few weeks ago, is now considered normal to above normal across the Red River basin.
In Crookston, according to data in the latest outlook, the Red Lake River has a 25 percent chance of topping 20 feet, which would be around the stage Central Park would be inundated. The river has a 10 percent chance of cresting at 22.5 feet, and a 5 percent or less chance of reaching a level of 23.6 feet. Those projected depths take into account normal precipitation from this point through the spring thaw. If more snow falls, adding moisture to the snowpack, and then the spring brings significant rains, the chances for a major flood could be amped up significantly.
But, for now, the drought conditions continue to impact the amount of anticipated spring runoff. The topsoil was moist to wet at freeze-up last fall, thanks to some rain and early snows that melted, but the middle and deep soils remain dry. Because of the drought, the Red Lake River flows and flows on other rivers in the basin are significantly lower at this point than usual.
As is typically the case in Crookston, the most crucial time during the spring thaw will be when the ice begins to break up and flow. With the Red Lake River taking a bending, winding route through Crookston, the broken-up ice has a propensity for jamming up and causing river levels to rise, sometimes dramatically and in rapid fashion, behind the jam.
The NWS's short-term weather forecast calls for normal temperatures this week, and warmer than normal temperatures in early March accompanied by below normal precipitation.
The NWS will update its spring flood outlook on March 7.