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Spring flooding begins with flooded farmland in Traill County

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A temperature warm-up is melting snow and ice fast, causing some farmland and banks along the Red River to flood.

A flood warning issued last week by the National Weather Service in Grand Forks continued Monday along the Red River from the Canadian border through Grand Forks County. Central Traill County also was in the warning, and has had overland flooding along the Goose River, said Alyssa Scheve, the North Dakota State University extension agent for Traill County.

"Snow has been melting excessively fast," she said. "We experienced major snowfall episodes during this prolonged winter. The last major snowfall we had was at the beginning of March, with 16-plus inches across the county."

Traill County saw more snowfall than most of northeast North Dakota, which likely is contributing to overland flooding, said meteorologist Bill Barrett. Some rivers in the county also are being jammed by wood logs, he said.

"That's become an issue this morning," he said.

High temperatures the past week in the Grand Forks area have risen above 40 degrees, and Sunday's and Monday's highs exceeded 60 degrees, according to the weather service. It's a change from the colder-than-normal temperatures in early April, which saw most highs reach only into the mid-20s.

Highs for the week likely will stay in the high 50s to mid-60s in Grand Forks.

The Goose River at Hillsboro, N.D., hit moderate flood stage Sunday evening but was set to peak at 15 feet Monday afternoon, according to the weather service. It's one of three locations the weather service measures for flooding that hit the moderate stage by Monday.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation temporarily closed state Highway 200 north of Hillsboro due to water over the roadway.

The Red River at Oslo, Minn., hit moderate stage Saturday and was at 32 ¾ feet as of Monday afternoon. The river likely will crest at just over 33 feet Thursday evening before dropping off, the weather service said.

Some small roads were washed out in Marshall County, particularly near Newfolden, Minn., and Warren, Minn., where snowfall was heavy, Marshall County Emergency Manager Josh Johnston said. Localized flooding also has occurred in some farmland in that county, he added.

The Red River in Grand Forks is expected to crest at 35.3 feet Wednesday morning, slightly down from the previous forecast of 37 feet, the weather service said. It measured about 34 ½ feet deep Monday, forcing Greenway staff and the East Grand Forks Parks and Recreation Department to close some trails near the river banks.

In East Grand Forks, paths that go under the Sorlie and Kennedy bridges have been barricaded, as well as trails near Folsom Park along the Red Lake River, said Reid Huttunen, East Grand Forks Parks and Recreation superintendent. The department is watching the situation closely, he added, saying the water can change fast.

"Just even overnight, it is amazing what the difference is," he said. "We're asking people just to use caution wherever they are on the trails because they all run along the river."

Grand Forks also has shut down trails on low parts of the Greenway, as well as the dog park at Lincoln Park, said Kim Greendahl, the Greenway specialist.

"The good news is it isn't anything like 1997," she said. "Twenty years ago, this level of flooding would have had a lot of people in panic because we had a lot of people close to the river. This really doesn't affect a lot of our daily life, which is very nice."

The waters don't appear to be threatening any homes in most cities along the Red River, Barrett said.

The flooding shouldn't disrupt too much recreational activity in Grand Forks, but it could take five to seven days to clean up debris left by flooding waters. She also cautioned people not to get close to water on trails, warning water still is cold and can cause hypothermia.

"Don't go around the barricades," she said. "There are so many other miles of trail to use. We'll have it open soon, but there is no need to endanger yourself."

Farmers in Traill County typically start planting small grains around April 15, with soybeans and corn planting staring in early or mid-May, Scheve said. While producers have missed the small grains start date, they are optimistic they'll get their crops in, she added.

"Things will be pushed back, but I've talked to a lot of farmers, and their implements are ready to go," she said. "It's just waiting for Mother Nature to cooperate."

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

(701) 780-1248
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