Spring melt is the latest since 1887.
While cities like Fargo-Moorhead and other communities without permanent flood protection are intensely fighting a pending spring flood that's getting more severe with each flood outlook issued by National Weather Service hydrologists, the response in Crookston, with new levees that protect the vast majority of town from a 30-foot crest, continues to be more measured and calm.
Still, Fire Chief/Emergency Manager Tim Froeber said the latest outlook for the Red Lake River that winds through Crookston is an eye-opener mostly because hydrologists figure that this spring's melt and subsequent river crests in the region will be the latest on the calendar since 1887. "That makes this one a tough one to predict," Froeber said, adding that local officials expected the latest outlook to include higher projected crests, given the almost-daily snow that's continued to fall of late.
NWS hydrologists call it an "unprecedented delay" in the spring melt.
The latest outlook released Wednesday indicates a 95 percent chance that the Red Lake River in Crookston will reach a level of 21.6 feet; that would be enough to inundate Central Park. There's a 50 percent chance the river will reach a crest of 23.7 feet. There's a 25 percent chance it'll crest at 25.1 feet, and a 5 percent chance the Red Lake River in Crookston will reach a depth of 27.3 feet. The record crest, in 1997, was 28.4 feet.
Given the latest data, Froeber said the city's main emergency operations center at the police department will be activated, as will ward command posts. It's likely that sandbagging efforts will commence in vulnerable areas on South Ash Street, Riverside and near the public library. Froeber said previously that if there is enough manpower, including Sentenced to Serve crews, the task could potentially be completed in one day.
Meanwhile, this weekend, at least later in the weekend, is expected to be wet. After that, the melt might actually commence in earnest, with the weather forecast for the middle of next week including the first high temperatures of the season to eclipse the 50 degree mark.
As is always the case, when the ice starts to break up on the Red Lake River's winding channel through Crookston, ice jams will be a chief concern. This will also be the first significant test for some of Crookston's new levees, most of which haven't been officially certified yet.
"Even though these levels are not a huge problem we will still have some areas that we will have to keep an eye on," Froeber said. "A couple problems that we could still experience are a rapid warm-up, a big rain or a problem with the ice due to its current thickness."
Froeber added that he continues to meet with city staff to fine-tune the city's flood response strategy.