“Significant Flooding” Likely in Central U.S.

Millions living along the northern Mississippi River as well as other nearby rivers face high or above average chances of flooding this spring as a thick snowpack starts to melt, the National Weather Service is warning.

"We expect significant flooding when this snow begins to melt," Lynn Maximuk, central region director of the National Weather Service, said in a statement Friday.

"Areas of greatest concern include the Red River of the North in North Dakota and Minnesota, Devils Lake in North Dakota, the James River and Big Sioux River in South Dakota, and areas along the Upper Mississippi River including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri," the service said in a report on spring flood risks.

The Mississippi River is at risk for moderate to major flooding from its headwaters in St. Paul, Minn., all the way to St. Louis, the service stated.

For the Red River, and cities like Fargo and Grand Forks, it's the third consecutive year when moderate to major flooding has been predicted.

Here's a look at key cities:

  • Fargo, N.D., "has about a 95 percent chance of exceeding major flood stage of 30 feet where portions of downtown Fargo begin flooding and temporary dike construction is necessary; and a greater than 20 percent chance of reaching or exceeding the 40.84-foot record set in 2009."
  • Grand Forks, N.D., "has a greater than 95 percent chance of exceeding major flood stage of 46 feet and near a 10 percent chance of exceeding the 54.35-foot record set in 1997."
  • St. Paul, Minn., "has about a 95 percent chance of exceeding major flood stage of 17 feet where secondary flood walls are deployed to protect St. Paul airport; and a 15 percent chance of exceeding the record 26.4 feet set in 1965."

"Any above normal winter/spring precipitation will elevate this flood risk," the service warned. "The magnitude of flooding will be determined by the amount of snow yet to fall and the weather conditions during the melt. Spring temperatures will determine the rate of snow melt and the effects of ice jams, which can both greatly alter the level of risk."

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