WDAY: The News Leader

Published March 21, 2013, 09:46 PM

2013 winter resembling 1969 before big F-M flood

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - There are comparisons echoing throughout the valley tonight to the big flood of 1969.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY Staff Reports, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - There are comparisons echoing throughout the valley tonight to the big flood of 1969.

That year the rivers inundated Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo as well as cities across the state, the Red topping out at 37 feet.

WDAY 6 Reporter Kevin Wallevand takes a look at March of 1969, and why weather similarities then and now, need to be respected. Photos courtesy NDSU Regional Studies.

When the flood of 1969 hit, it had been years since water had spilled into our cities. But this time, with more neighborhoods developed, the water sprawled its way into town. Look at city hall in downtown Fargo. 2nd street swamped near what is now the Howard Johnson Motel. South Moorhead took a beating. The power plant and homes surrounded. This is near our WDAY tower and what is now River Drive.

John Wheeler, WDAY Meteorologist: “Both years you got all the way into April before there was any melting, any flow on the river at all. What happens in April, is the average temp is higher and rainfall higher.”

Today's low temperatures tell the story. It is eerily similar to March of 1969, stretches of cold and no melting.

Wheeler: “This March compares to March of 1969, just no snow melting.”

You can crunch the numbers, look at history and stare at a crystal ball. It will come down to this.

Wheeler: “Rain is potentially the unknown variable because if we get a lot of it, we can turn a moderate flood into a devastating flood.”

And as if we needed one more variable in the equation, there is this: The sun in mid-April is as high and as intense as it is in mid-August, increasing the risk for rapid melt.

In 1969, we went from no melting in March to 60 degree days

Wheeler: “And we had two inches of rain.”

As John's graphic shows us, the snow back out east in Minnesota is sitting there. Once it finally melts, that comes our way.

Wheeler: “Those areas have twice as much water in the snow as we do here in Fargo-Moorhead.”

Back in 1969 students and hundreds of volunteers even then were called on to help save the city. Forty-four years later our cities are bigger, forecasting is better, but the river and the weather still hold way too many unknowns.

At the end of March in 1969, we were dealing with about 8 inches of snow. We have more than that right now.