Latest storms raise risk for spring flooding in Minnesota River watershed, other areas


— The National Weather Service has raised the threat of spring flooding to "above normal" in the Minnesota River watershed, as well as in the watersheds of the Upper Mississippi River in Minnesota and the Chippewa River in Wisconsin.

The flood forecast issued on Thursday raises the threat from a near-normal forecast just two weeks ago. It has everything to do with two major weather events: An unusual February rain and snow event one week ago, and this week's major snowstorm.

The events have increased the snow water equivalent on the landscape to include 2 to 4 inches of water throughout most of central and eastern Minnesota, and higher levels in some places. The snow water equivalent measured at Willmar is 3.8 inches, and it ranges from 3.7 inches at Madison to 3 inches at St. Cloud.

The Hawk Creek watershed is among the areas in the state with some of the higher snow water equivalent levels.

The snowpack in most of Minnesota is now more than 18 inches. It represents some of the deepest snow depths on record for this late in February. The snow depth is in the 80th to 95th percentile from a historical basis, according to the National Weather Service.

In Montevideo, the risk for minor flooding is now 71%, as compared to 28% only two weeks ago. The risk for moderate flooding is 34%, up from 20%, and there is a 10% risk of major flooding.

The National Weather Service also noted that the risk of flooding from ice jams is elevated due to the change in conditions.

The season's second flood outlook also points out that the flood risk is tempered somewhat by the drought conditions that still persist. Drier soils and little frost depth help alleviate some of the threat.

Water levels in area waterways and water bodies were also below normal going into the winter, according to the flood forecast report.

The National Weather Service outlook also points out that the threat of major flooding will depend on the precipitation and temperatures in the weeks ahead.