Northern Minnesota Warned of Spring Flood Risk

Updated: 03/22/2013 5:05 PM KSTP.com By: Mark Saxenmeyer

Heavy snowfalls this winter present a huge flood risk in northern Minnesota this spring.

The National Weather Service Thursday said chances of the Red River in the Fargo-Moorhead area flooding have increased as much as 40 percent this year.

In fact, the waters could swell to become one of the top five worst floods in state history.

Although it was just five degrees above zero in Fargo Thursday morning, Mayor Dennis Walaker said flood planning is already in full swing "to do what is necessary to save our community.

He then sighed deeply.

"I know," he said. "I know it's getting old. It's extremely old for everybody."

It first got old after the 1993 flood, then really old after the mess in 1997. After 2009, the beleaguered communities along the Red River took serious action. For example, according to Kris Eide, the Minnesota director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the city of Breckenridge has built a diversion channel around the population area that is most affected. And in Moorhead, "they have moved 217 families out of the the floodway, so at the same level of flooding at 38 feet--which is a major flood--there will only be seven homes impacted in 2013."

That essentially means residents don't have to panic-yet.

Mike McFeely is a radio talk show host for KFGO who's lived through floods for the past 25 years, and discussed the issue with his listeners on air. He explained,  "If it hits 38 feet we'll still be fine. But as we get into April, as we all know we get thunderstorms. We get extended rain and that's where things might get a little hairy. At some point somebody's going to flip a switch and it's all going to melt at once and it's all going to come rushing at us."

McFeely says many Fargo-Moorhead residents want a diversion channel like the one Breckenridge has.

It's too soon to know how the melting snow pack will affect the Twin Cities. The weather service expects to forecast scenarios for the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers in southern Minnesota next week.

River areas in cities like Jordan and Savage could be most affected.

Eide explained, "We're going to have the overland flooding which is then going to compromise the road beds. So people are going to have to again look at how can they get to work and how can they get to the other places they need to go and not be driving through flood waters."

Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at msaxenmeyer@kstp.com