The chances of serious spring flooding in the northern James River basin have been reduced by recent weather trends, according to Allen Schlag, hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck.
"That is a nice way to put it and accurate," he said, referring to the improved flood forecast. "We've three to four weeks of weather, some warm, some cold, but not much moisture has been falling from the sky."
Schlag said that means that the amount of snow and moisture on the ground is still roughly the same as in mid-January but there is now four weeks less time for snow to accumulate and cause flooding.
"I'm liking this trend," he said.
Jerry Bergquist, Stutsman County emergency manager and 911 coordinator, said it another way.
"There is nothing to back up any doom and gloom forecasts right now," he said.
Bergquist said releases are continuing from the Jamestown and Pipestem dams. The reservoir levels should reach normal winter elevations by about March 1 although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will likely continue releases to prevent the collapse of ice on the river downstream which could lead to ice jams and localized flooding.
"We'll see how it goes," Bergquist said. "We've not done this before."
While the flood outlook along the James River seems to have improved, there are areas of concern in the region, Schlag said.
"LaMoure is far enough south that they are under the gun," he said, "and there is overland flooding in the Prairie Pothole areas to be concerned about."
Schlag's James River forecast includes a crest at LaMoure during the week of March 28. The forecast gives a 10% to 25% chance of a new record for the river at more than 18 feet. The chance of moderate flooding of more than 16 feet is between 25% and 50%. National Weather Service statistics indicate the James River at LaMoure has only exceeded 16 feet five times in recorded history.
Kimberly Robbins, LaMoure County emergency manager, said the public in LaMoure County is invited to a flood awareness meeting at 6 p.m. on Feb. 18 at the BankNorth–Omega Room at 100 1st Ave. SW in LaMoure.
The flood outlook also stresses the continuing possibility of overland flooding away from the river system, Schlag said.
"If you look around when you are traveling in the country you see the existing water levels in every major wetland are high," he said. "I have serious concerns about road closures in the Prairie Pothole area."
Jerry Bergquist said overland flooding could be harder to predict and anticipate.
"There is no way to know how widespread overland flooding will be," he said. "We can't get complacent for our rural residents."
Bergquist said he was aware of some rural residents who were currently driving on ice to get to and from their home.
"How are they going to get out once it thaws?" he said.
Schlag said the forecast for the next two weeks looks good from a flood standpoint with below normal precipitation and normal or slightly above normal temperatures.
"Wouldn't be surprised by an early melt in March," he said. "We've already had melting weather in the western part of the state."
The National Weather Service will issue its next flood outlook on Feb. 27 with another scheduled for March 13.