MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Saturday’s snow will have impacts beyond just this weekend.
The National Weather Service says each new storm increases the risk of flooding later this spring. Meteorologist Mike Augustyniak looks at why flood chances have jumped in just the last two weeks, who’s most at risk and what you can do now to prepare.
“Our snowpack is now among the top 5 to 10 percent that we’ve ever had for early March, so we’re certainly getting up there in historical proportions,” Hydrologist Craig Schmidt said.
Schmidt studies how rain, snow and snowmelt affect our waterways.
“We’ve got an awful lot of snow on the ground – we’ve got more coming. We’ve got rain coming after that. We’ve got frozen ground, so basically all the ingredients are there for a pretty good flood potential this spring,” Schmidt said. “The X factor is going to be how fast we warm up.”
Snow cover this year is similar to what we had in 2014 when a slow melt kept rising waters in check. A fast melt – with days in the 60s and above-freezing nights – would kick off widespread, major flooding, and that concern is growing each day.
“The longer we go with the large snowpack on the ground, the greater the chances of it melting in a fast manner,” Schmidt said.
Even now, several locations have a 90 percent chance, or greater, of moderate to major flooding. The areas include the Mississippi River in St. Paul, Hastings and Red Wing; Cottonwood River in New Ulm; St. Croix River in Stillwater; and along the Minnesota River in Montevideo and Savage.
That type of flooding is a couple of weeks off, at the earliest, but with at least some rain on the way in the middle of next week some nuisance flooding is likely.
“We’re going to see a lot of ponding, some urban-type flooding, some rural-type flooding, small stream flooding that sort of thing,” Schmidt said.
If you live in a flood zone, one thing you can do now is apply for flood insurance – there’s a 30-day waiting period before it kicks in.
Learn more about the National Flood Insurance Program, including whether you’re eligible for coverage, here.
Something we can all do after the storm is clear the snow away from storm drains, which will give next week’s rain, and any melting, somewhere to go.