The following are the comments by Mark Frazier, Meteorologist In Charge of the Grand Forks National Weather Service Office.
First, let me thank local officials for allowing the National Weather Service to hold this news conference at this location. We appreciate another example of the coordination that has ruled our actions over the past several weeks.
I’d also like to congratulate the people of the Red River Valley for the epic battle they’ve waged against the floods.
When the Red River reached 40.82 feet March 28, we were all relieved it didn’t get any higher. The recent snowstorms and colder temperatures have allowed us a brief respite from exhaustive efforts to keep up with the river. Freezing temperatures kept some of the runoff frozen and slowed the melt that fed the Red and its tributaries.
We have kept our focus on the build up of new snowpack and had NOAA aircraft and Border Patrol drones provide snow surveys and video proof of what our flood models were telling us.
We know now that Red River Valley communities are about to face a renewed rise of area rivers.
The Fargo area set records for the amount of March rainfall and snowfall this year. Our records show 4.62 inches of rain, which topped a 2.83-inch record set in 1882. The area recorded 28.1 inches of snow, topping the 26.2 inches of 1997. Much of that precipitation and snow came in late March.
Yesterday, hydrologists at the North Central River Forecast Center in Chanhassen, Minn., completed a flood outlook using the latest data collected in aerial surveys just this week as well as the latest temperature trend information from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. Using all available forecast temperature information to assess its impact on the melt of snow and ice that remains in the Red River Basin, the National Weather Service updated the probabilistic outlook for the second crest at Fargo-Moorhead. Our outlooks indicate a strong probability ( 75 percent chance) of reaching or exceeding 41 feet and a 25 percent (one in four) chance of reaching or exceeding 42.8 feet. This crest is currently expected to occur in the latter half of April.
The Red River is likely to return to the extreme levels seen earlier this year and will certainly be at major flood levels for some time into the future. Any sudden rise in temperatures or heavy precipitation-producing thunderstorms could also have significant impact and push river levels even higher. We have to keep in mind that many of the tributaries that feed the Red River were also buried under record ice and snow, as well as by the recent rains and blizzards, and they will be rising, accordingly.
A little earlier today, North Central River Forecast Center directors joined my staff and I from the Grand Forks National Weather Service office to brief officials from Fargo, Moorhead, other communities, city, county and state agencies on the Red River outlook.
Copies of a NOAA news release providing more details and background on the latest river forecast for the Red River will be distributed around 1 pm this afternoon. The news release will also be distributed to the media audience outside the Red River by the NOAA Office of Communications. Any Questions?