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Forecasters: Flooding in Red River, Mississippi River Valleys

posted on March 25, 2011

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, got the attention of many in the Midwest this week.

According to NOAA, much of the Upper Mississippi and Red River Valleys face a high risk of spring flooding in the days ahead, due to rapid melting of heavy snowpack.

With spring planting just around the corner, the forecast has serious implications for producers in parts of the Corn Belt.

Increased risk of record spring flooding is especially bad news for folks in the Red River Valley who may feel like quoting baseball great Yogi Berra who once quipped, "it's like Déjà Vu all over again..."

Forecasters: Flooding in Red River, Mississippi River Valleys

Unlike most U.S. waterways, the Red River actually flows north into Canada -- and ultimately, the Arctic Ocean.

The river's north-bound direction often is blamed for its tendency to flood. Meteorologists, however, say the river's shallow channel in a virtually flat plain is responsible for much of the problem.

Regardless of the cause, increased likelihood of spring flooding is an ominous development for flood-weary inhabitants of the Red River Valley.

In the spring of 1997, flooding in the Red River Valley caused $3.5 billion in damage and required evacuation of towns in both Minnesota and North Dakota. Flood waters returned in 2009, as the Red River reached its highest level in Fargo in recorded history.

Now, parts of the Red River Valley are in the flood forecast zone again, prompting officials to seek a solution.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one potential remedy would be to divert the Red River. The management plan would change the river's course to minimize flooding damage.

The Corps continues to explore options to alleviate the problems, but with the region facing an imminent threat of flooding yet again, some officials aren't waiting to act.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton is expected to declare several disaster areas in anticipation of widespread flooding next week.

People along the Mississippi River also are bracing for another round of severe flooding. Some areas are preparing for water levels not seen since 1993, a modern benchmark for Midwestern floods.

The city of Davenport, Iowa is preparing for the worst and he National Weather Service says there's a 50% chance of record flooding.

Tags: floods Mississippi River news rivers weather