WDAY: The News Leader

Published June 24, 2011, 09:47 PM

Summer flooding possible in Fargo with right circumstances

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Those of us living along the Red River know it sometimes overflows in the summer. But all our worst flood battles have been in the spring.

By: John Wheeler, WDAY

Yet, the Minot flood is a summer flood, with no snow melt involved. Is it possible the Red River could reach a record flood stage in the summer?

Summer flooding on the Red has become kind of routine. Since the year 2000, the Red has gone over flood stage in the summer every year but one, 2006. And some of the crests have been rather high. The red reached 30.88 feet in June of 2007. But most of our really big floods have happened in spring, when the snow melts. But a serious summer flood like the one in Minot is a very real possibility. All it would takeā€¦is enough rain.

The worst summer flood of record happened in 1975. A particularly stormy June had brought more than five inches of rain before the big one hit on the 28th. Fargo got more than four inches of rain, but there were reports of more than a foot upstream from the Fargo area. Without the benefit of today's high dikes or the Sheyenne Diversion channel, the waters rose on the Red and the Sheyenne as fast as sandbags could be thrown. The Red crested in Fargo at 33 point five feet on July 4th, just one week after the big rain.

But consider that the 1970s were a dry decade. Since 1993, average annual precipitation is five inches a year more than it was in the 70s. Soils conditions are perpetually wet. Upstream, the lakes, sloughs, and wetlands that feed this river are overflowing. An extremely heavy rainfall like the one in 1975, could conceivably cause the red river to rise higher than dikes could be built. Because levees need to be 3 times as wide as they are high, there is a practical limit to how high dikes can be built.