MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With all the snow we’ve had this winter –- and the cold temperatures that have kept it around — it’s possible we could see flooding in parts of the state.

But how much and where?

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The Army Corps of Engineers is travelling across the state in hopes of answering that question, so cities can prepare.

It only takes a few seconds, but each snow sample the corps gathers could tell us if winter’s snowfall will turn into spring flooding.

“Generally speaking, I think we’ve seen more snow this winter than last year,” said Bill Odell, who’s with the corps.

Him and Paul Johnson are the boots on the ground when it comes to flood predictions.

“We’ve gone 1,700 miles,” Johnson said, “and we expect to travel 3,500 miles total within the next week.”

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The two have 50 stops to make in Minnesota, and another 40 in Wisconsin.

At each stop, like Friday’s in Sauk Centre, Minn., they take four snow samples, which are then weighed. Each ounce of snow equals one inch of snow water.

That information will then be sent to the National Weather Service, where a flood prediction can be formulated and high risk areas can prepare.

They recognize that the samples may not look like much now, but they’ll mean a lot later.

“We had about 32 inches in Orr, Minnesota,” Johnson said. “And here [in Sauk Centre]…we have about 5 inches.”

But just because an area may have a lot of snow now, Johnson said, that doesn’t mean they’ll have flooding later.

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It’s just one factor that goes into this study. The two also have to take into account the melting cycle and, of course, the coming rains.

John Lauritsen