Whether Weather Weathered Fargo

“I’ve already ordered sand bags,” Daryl Ritchison, the interim director of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network, said.

He added flooding will happen to the Red River this year, though nobody knows how high the water will rise for any given flood.

John Wheeler, an adjunct NDSU communications professor and the chief meteorologist for Forum Communications, said flooding is partially caused because the Red River Valley slopes very gradually to the north, meaning any time water cannot travel downstream fast enough, flooding occurs.

Ritchison said there is really no way to tell what the future holds with regard to the weather, however flooding is not out of the question as there is still a chance for one last large precipitation event.

As flooding becomes more prominent as time continues, both weather experts say climate change is not a factor in Fargo flooding, as the same amount of precipitation typically occurs, only in different forms such as snow or rain.

The two largest floods to occur in recent years happened in 1997 and 2009, with courses being cancelled in 2009 for students to assist in deploying sand bags to relieve flood damage.

Why flooding?

Wheeler said the historic increase in flooding in the past few decades happened for a couple reasons including increased precipitation and increased land use, which has lead to more water in the river system the system could not handle.

He added the Red River Valley is the remains of a glacial meltwater lake, Lake Agassiz, which drained out less than 10,000 years ago.

Flooding also predominantly happens in the spring due to the frozen ground being unable to accommodate runoff water.

Flooding in Fargo has historically happened year-round, though many floods occur in springtime. Significant flooding in the area can date back into the 19th century.

Wheeler said summer floods were most drastic in 1975 and 1993, and a non-river flood occurred in 2000 due to heavy thunderstorms.



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