Extension and Ag Research News


Red River Flood Comparable to 1897

While the highest water level in Fargo was observed in 1897, there are differences from then to today.

Adnan Akyuz, North Dakota state climatologist and assistant professor of climatology in North Dakota State University’s Soil Science Department, has compared the weather patterns up until today with those of 1996 through 1997 and 1896 through 1897.

The Red River was at 26.3 feet in Fargo as of March 23 and is expected to continue rising.

“It is already 8.3 feet above the flood stage of 18 feet,” Akyuz says.

The National Weather Service is predicting a near- or above-record river level by the morning of March 28 or sooner.

The record stage level of 40.1 feet in Fargo was set on April 7, 1897. The second highest crest of 39.57 feet came almost 100 years later on April 17, 1997.

“Most people remember the 1997 flood because of the 117 inches of snow that fell during the winter season,” Akyuz says. “It was by far the most snowfall Fargo ever received.”

Many people are trying to compare this year with the flood of 1997.

“We are 48.3 inches of snow behind the 1996 through 1997 season,” Akyuz says. “The difference is equivalent to Fargo’s annual snowfall average. However, what is troublesome about this season is the water the snow contained and the precipitation that has been locked under the soil since July. Compared by water equivalence since July, Fargo has received more than 8 inches of precipitation than it did during the 1996 through 1997 season. Since October 2008, Fargo had the wettest October through March period.”

While the highest water level in Fargo was observed in 1897, there are differences from then to today.

“It is alarming because we are now comparable to the 1896 through 1897 pattern in terms of precipitation (liquid and solid) from October through March,” Akyuz says. “However, the river’s impact may not be the same because of the different mitigation measures taken during those periods. Fargo is more prepared for this flood than any other flood in the past.”

The forecast for the next five days is not looking favorable.

“This is one time that I am hoping the forecast for precipitation does not materialize,” Akyuz says.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Adnan Akyuz, (701) 231-6577, adnan.akyuz@ndsu.edu
Editor:Richard Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu


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