Record wet fall followed so far by a snowy winter
It’s likely not a coincidence that on the very day hydrologists at the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service issued their first long-range spring flood outlook for the Red River Basin, flood experts and insurance industry leaders launched a public information/education campaign detailing the benefits of flood insurance.
The heavy precipitation that flooded farm fields, caused the Red River, Red Lake River and other tributaries to rise higher than normal in the fall, and left countless acres of land saturated at freeze-up, combined with heavy snows during the first half of the 2019-20 winter, have hydrologists predicting a decent likelihood for significant flooding throughout the basin this spring.
Crookston’s certified levee system protects the community from a Red Lake River crest of approximately 30 feet. The first long-range flood outlook projects that the river’s rise in Crookston will commence around the second or third week of March, and the river here will crest somewhere around the second or third week of April, when the river hydrograph indicates there will be a 10 to 25% chance that the Red Lake River will crest between approximately 23.5 feet and a hair over 27.5 feet. During that same time period, the hydrograph indicates a 25 to 50% chance the river will crest in a range from approximately 19 feet to approximately 23.5 feet. Entering the fourth week of April, the flood threat is expected to decrease.
NWS flood outlooks always factor in normal precipitation during the outlook period. As the spring thaw gets closer on the calendar, the crest projections will become more detailed.
The Red Lake River’s record crest in Crookston occurred in April of 1997, when it reached a depth of 28.3 feet. That was before the certified levee system was constructed, so clay and sandbags placed on top of the old dikes by city crews and community volunteers had to hold off the high water from flooding Crookston’s low-lying neighborhoods for several days.