Latest river projections don’t factor in Saturday’s heavy snow, and another storm is on the way

    On the heels of another winter storm that surpassed forecasted snow projections and dumped around a foot of snow on Crookston, and with another winter storm bearing down at mid-week that is expected to bring possibly less snow but much more wind, more and more people are keeping wary eyes on their snow-stressed roofs while also looking ahead to the coming spring thaw that will no doubt warrant more than a casual glance at rivers in the region.

    In Crookston, a certified levee system protects the community from a Red Lake River crest in the 30 to 31-foot range, meaning that flood preparation simply isn’t as intense as it used to be, when dikes battered and bruised by high water and ice over the decades protected from a crest of around 26 feet.

    The latest information from the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service – which is as of March 4 and does not factor in the snow that fell in Crookston and throughout the Red River Basin on Saturday – projects a river rise commencing late March into early April, with the Red Lake River level projected to peak between April 15-22. There’s a 10 percent chance it will slightly top 27.5 feet, a 25 to 50 percent chance the river will reach a level of 25 feet over that time, and a 50 to 75 percent chance it will exceed 20 feet.

    Minor flood level on the Red Lake River in Crookston is 15 feet. That’s the level that the river would exceed its banks if there were no levees at all. A moderate flood level is 23 feet, major flooding is at 25 feet. The Red Lake River’s record crest in Crookston is 28.4 feet in 1997, which reached the top of sandbags and clay placed on top of the dikes in place at that time. Central Park, not protected by the new levee system, is inundated when the river reaches the 20 to 21 foot range.

    As for local preparations for high water, local officials are currently updating various procedures and protocols that kick in as the Red Lake River rises to better reflect the completion of the certified levee system and its higher level of protection. One of the topics being discussed for likely updating, according to City Administrator Shannon Stassen, is evacuation procedures.

    Considering the likelihood of high water, Crookston Fire Chief Tim Froeber, also the City’s emergency manager, reports that staff meetings will be commencing to put plans and preparations together as the spring thaw approaches.

Coming storm

    While temperatures are expected to climb to the lower to mid-30s at mid-week, the National Weather Service says an intense system poised to roll into the region could bring 5 to 8 inches of heavy, wet snow late Wednesday into early Thursday, and an additional 1 to 3 inches could fall Thursday. The system is also expected to bring north winds up to 30 miles per hour, with higher gusts.

    No official advisories have yet to be issued in regard to the storm, but the NWS on Monday did issue a “special weather statement” alerting the public to the approaching system.

    Once the storm rolls through, the rest of the week looks to be fair and, most importantly, uneventful, with partly cloudy skies and daytime highs in the lower-30s.