MPR photo Dan Gunderson
The first long range flood outlook for the Red River shows little chance a scene like this one from a Moorhead neighborhood in 2009 will be seen in 2012.
For Fargo Moorhead the outlook gives a 10% chance the Red River will reach a 32.5 foot stage. That’s about 8 feet lower than than the record 40.8 foot level in 2009.
At a 32 foot river stage, the river would have little effect on Fargo or Moorhead.
As the National Weather Service points out, this is a very long range probabilistic outlook. The NWS started issuing these early outlooks as flooding became an annual event over the past few years.
Fargo Moorhead has experienced major flooding three years in a row, and five of the top ten floods in history happened in the past decade.
Many factors can still influence spring flooding: How much snow falls through the rest of the winter, how much water is in that snow, how quickly the snow melts in the spring and how much rain falls during that spring melt.
The positive factors at this point are that there is little or no snow on the ground across the Red River Valley and the extremely dry fall gave saturated soils a chance to dry out.
Compare the snow water equivalent map from this week with the same time last year. In 2010 much of the Red River Valley already had 2-4 inches of water in the snow on the ground. This year of course,there’s nothing on the map, or on the ground.
Map from NOAA Dec 23, 2010
Map from NOAA Dec 23, 2011
There’s still a long way to go before 2012 can be declared flood free, but this early prediction is an encouraging sign for those who live near the banks of the Red River.