FARGO, North Dakota — National Weather Service officials said Thursday that the current weather pattern should give North Dakota residents a spring break from flooding, including Red River Valley homeowners who have prepared for major floods in four of the last five years.
Greg Gust, weather service meteorologist in Grand Forks, said water content in the snow is lower than normal because of cold and dry winter weather pattern. Cold weather could persist into March and early April that should translate to a favorable melt cycle, he said.
"The risk for substantial flooding still appears low," Gust said.
Gust said the climate pattern suggests below-normal temperatures and near-normal precipitation, which should result in near to above-normal snowfall because colder air has less moisture and produces somewhat fluffier snow. The wild card, he said, is that the delayed thaw could increase the exposure to heavier snow or rain.
National Weather Service officials last year predicted a record flood on the Red River in Fargo, but it came up several feet short because the weather turned cold and led to a gradual melt. Fargo saw record flooding in 2009 that forced thousands to evacuate and inundated 100 homes. The sandbagging scene was repeated in 2010 and 2011.
The risk of spring flooding along major rivers in western North Dakota also appears low, the weather service said Thursday. That includes the Souris River, which saw record flooding after heavy spring snowmelt and rains in 2011. The water swamped more than 4,000 homes, businesses and other structures in Minot and prompted the evacuation of more than 11,000 people.
Even so, Gov. Jack Dalrymple and U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., turned their attention Thursday to the Souris River, sending a letter urging members of the International Joint Commission, which manages the river, to continue pursuing a study of possible improvements. The study is "well past due," Hoeven said.
"It's important that we move forward on a full study of the Souris River's management and operations," said Dalrymple, who offered state funding. "A plan of study offers us a great opportunity to learn more from the devastating flood of 2011 and is key to developing effective, long-term flood protection throughout the Souris River Basin."
Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jerry DeFelice said Thursday that North Dakota residents should still consider buying flood insurance to protect their properties. It takes 30 days for a policy to go into effect.
"People in North Dakota are flood-aware, but it doesn't hurt to remind people," DeFelice said.