Overstated Fargo flood predictions a head scratcher for National Weather Service


Weather forecasters never offer guarantees, but the National Weather Service is taking a look at the reasons for an overstated spring flooding forecast for Fargo.

Forum Communications reports that NWS probability-based forecasts prompted volunteers to build 1.5 million new sandbags, none of which got wet in Fargo and only 100,000 of which were even placed.

“We’re kinda scratching our head,” said Steve Buan, a hydrologist with the weather service’s River Forecast Center in Chanhassen.

In mid-April, forecasters warned there was a 40 percent chance of the Red River topping 2009’s record 40.84-foot crest. Two weeks later, the flood fizzled into a non-event with a preliminary crest of 33.32 feet.

Why was the NWS forecast so far off? As March snow accumulated, Buan said, the weather service’s models didn’t know how soils would respond. The models predicted that between 60 and 75 percent of the snowpack would run off into streams, creating conditions similar to the 2006 flood. But the snow took an extra month to melt, and dry soils opened up like never before.

Models run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showed “similar results,” said Alex Nelson, a hydrologic engineer for the corps.

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said he believes the weather service is still living down the flood of 1997, when they incorrectly predicted levels in Grand Forks, and the city’s levees failed.

Next Up

Joe Ryan

Joe Ryan continues his dominant September

The right-hander struck out 11 batters in a victory over the Cubs.

Mounds view 9 - crime scene

Man who allegedly shot at police dies after being struck by squad vehicle

The unidentified individual fired shots at police following an alleged domestic disturbance, police say.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Karl-Anthony Towns reacts to Gersson Rosas firing: 'WTF'

The Timberwolves star was just as surprised as everyone else

Mounds View shooting incident 1 - county sheriff - crop

Deputy uses squad car to ram armed assault suspect, sheriff's office says

The man had fired multiple shots at officers, striking two of their vehicles, authorities said.

Daniel Carlson

Ex-Viking Daniel Carlson has become one of the NFL's best kickers

Carlson has been automatic since joining the Raiders.

Dustin Sundin crop

'Vulnerable' adult missing after leaving with family member's dog, phone

Authorities found footprints in a creek bed, but haven't been able to locate the man.

Mounds view 7 - crime scene

Police 'use of force' incident reported in Mounds View

The Minnesota BCA is investigating, with more details expected soon.

vaccine, covid

The 8 Minnesota counties still below a 50% vaccination rate

Fewer than half of all vaccine-eligible individuals in these areas have received at least one shot.

Dave Simonett Trampled by Turtles

Trampled By Turtles singer responds to complaints about concert vax requirements

Some of TBT's recent appearances have required proof of vaccine/negative test.

BMTN - Target drive up bag booze

The 5 cent charge for carryout bags is coming back in Minneapolis

The ordinance was suspended at the start of the pandemic.


National Weather Service: No tornado activity in southeastern Minn. storms

National Weather Service officials conclude Saturday that straight line winds and heavy rain -- not tornado activity as some people suspected -- caused the damage in Thursday's storms in Goodhue County.

Weather Service warns of fire and frost

The National Weather Service says very dry and windy weather will create elevated to critical fire weather conditions across parts of Minnesota. The southern two-thirds of the state is under the most serious wildfire warning. Separately, frost is possible across much of the state Monday night.

Technology upgrade at Weather Service should mean more specific warnings

New radar technology going in at the National Weather Service's Minnesota offices will help forecasters determine when tornadoes have touched the ground. It will also help them know how hard it's raining, which will improve flood forecasts.