FARGO, N.D. — A historic flood warning for the Red River in December may have weather watchers and the general public wondering what season we’re in.
Select river points are rising in the southern Red River basin due to excessive, unseasonable rainfall, which also contributed to a damaging ice storm over the past few days.
“We believe this is the first,” said Carl Jones, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, about a flood warning in December.
Since 2003, when the weather service there began its current format of flood warnings, it has not issued such a warning in December, he said.
It has issued multiple flood warnings outside of the spring and summer months, including September, October and November, and once in February of 2017.
But up until now, a flood warning had not been issued in December or in January.
Most Red River Valley flooding happens in the spring from snow melt and occasionally in the summer from heavy rains or thunderstorms.
“It’s very unusual in the heart of winter,” Jones added.
John Wheeler, chief meteorologist at WDAY-TV, said the moisture alone was remarkable.
“Two to 3 inches of rain on frozen ground in December is unprecedented in the record book,” he said.
However, the resulting flooding predicted for Wahpeton and Fargo along the Red, as well as Abercrombie along the Wild Rice River, is expected to be minor.
With mitigation measures in place, Jones said the most people may see is pooling in low-lying areas meant to take on water.
While 1 to 2½ inches of rain fell in the southern Red River Basin over the past few days, the total for the past seven days was upward of 3 inches.
The St. Croix River was also on the rise this week in Stillwater after the soggy Christmas week in the region.
On Thursday afternoon, the downtown river gauge was just above 77 feet. The river is expected to rise toward 80 feet next week.
That is the “action” stage for flood preparations in Stillwater. However, flood stage is 87 feet.
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