Latest flood outlook data shows impact of two recent snow events; local officials will be especially wary of ice jams on the Red Lake River

    City of Crookston and Polk County officials sat down Monday afternoon to make sure everyone is on the same page as the latest spring flood outlook indicates the potential for major flooding of the Red Lake River in and around Crookston.

    March 18’s updated “probability information” released by the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service includes the following information:

    • Between April 8 and April 22, there’s a 10 to 25 percent chance the Red Lake River in Crookston will exceed 27.5 feet. In mid-April, there’s a 10 to 25 percent chance that the river will exceed its record crest of 28.4 feet in the spring of 1997.

    • During that same two-week period, there’s a 25 to 50 percent chance the Red Lake River in Crookston will exceed a 25-foot level and approach 27.5 feet.

    • Projections during that same two-week period indicate a likelihood, from 50 to 75 percent or 75 to 90 percent, that the Red Lake River will exceed a depth of 20 feet, meaning the flooding of Central Park is highly likely.

    • Starting on April 29 and continuing throughout May, the Red Lake River level in Crookston is projected to commence with a slow and steady decline.

    The NWS’s updated flood outlook takes into account the two major snow events that occurred last week in Crookston and throughout the Red River Basin. The flood outlooks always factor in normal temperatures and normal precipitation throughout the outlook time period.

    A certified levee system protects Crookston from the Red Lake River to a crest of 30 to 31 feet, meaning that flood fights in the community aren’t what they used to be, when old, battered and beaten dikes protected to a crest in the 26-foot range.

    But, still, with a massive snowpack yet to melt and the ground plenty frozen, local officials are getting into full preparation mode. As is the case almost every spring, what concerns them almost more than the river level itself is the potential for massive ice jams that occur along the Red Lake River’s winding route through Crookston.

    “Ice jams are always the wild card,” Crookston Fire Chief/Emergency Manager Tim Froeber said. “If we get a good melting couple weeks and no significant rain, we should be OK.”

    The weather forecast for the next week and a half calls for little or no significant precipitation, although it could rain some this Sunday and into Monday. Daytime high temperatures are expected to slowly climb into the 40s. What officials hope to see is melting during the days but then a re-freeze overnight. The forecast as of now indicates a possibility that on this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, overnight lows will only dip into the lower-30s, which might be warm enough to continue the melt overnight.

    Meantime, Froeber reports that firefighters have been updating information for their Ward Command Posts, and information is being updated for the City’s Emergency Operations Center. Ward captains and CERT training participants are scheduled to meet March 26 to go over all of the latest flood outlook information and necessary preparations.