Minnesota climatologists predict another year of major spring flooding

The National Weather Service and Minnesota Climatology Department are both predicting another wet spring with major flooding in 2020. There is a high chance of flooding on the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers, as well as in lakes, ponds, farm fields, and low lying areas. Says Craig Schmidt, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service, “We’re expecting to see flooding this spring in places that have never flooded before.”

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Experts are predicting major spring flooding in Washington County, not just along the rivers, but also in low lying areas and inland basins.

Climate trends and predictions

According to Kenny Blumenfeld, Senior Climatologist at the Minnesota State Climate Office, data shows that the climate in central and southern Minnesota, including the Twin Cities area, is getting warmer and wetter. We are seeing more rain, more snow, and more extreme rainfall events. There has also been an increase in average nighttime temperatures, especially during the winter. Both trends are expected to continue into the future.

Projected change in spring precipitation for Minnesota by the middle of the 21st century. From Minnesota State Climate Summary. NOAA Technical Report NESDIS 149-MN. Runkle, J., K. Kunkel, R. Frankson, D. Easterling, and S. Champion, 2017.

“2019 was the wettest year on record [since 1870] in the Twin Cities and Minnesota,” explained Blumenfeld at a recent meeting of the Washington County Water Consortium. “Over the past seven years we’ve received the equivalent of 8.25 years of precipitation. That translates into 35 billion gallons of additional water in Washington County.”

Craig Schmidt believes the conditions are ripe for another year of major spring flooding in 2020 based on how much water was in the system in late fall; the rivers were running high, some landlocked basins were still flooded, and the soil is saturated in most locations. Doug Berglund, emergency response coordinator for the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, notes that they are already planning ahead and beginning to mobilize resources to protect health and human safety. The county will have sand and bags available to sell and deliver to cities and is coordinating with Red Cross to plan temporary shelter for people who may need to evacuate their homes in the spring.

In 2019, volunteers helped the City of Stillwater to build a temporary dike along the St. Croix River. In 2020, Washington County will again sell bulk sand and sand bags to communities for flood protection efforts.

Consider buying flood insurance

Local experts recommend that area residents consider purchasing flood insurance or enrolling in FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to supplement their homeowner’s policies. A standard homeowner’s policy does not provide flood coverage and people only get disaster assistance if the President of the U.S. declares a disaster. Since less than 50 percent of floods are declared disasters, most flood victims are on their own.

The average loan payment on a $50,000 disaster loan is $2,880 per year for 30 years. In contrast, a $100,000 flood insurance premium costs about $400 per year. However, flood insurance does not go into effect until 30 days after purchase, so you can’t wait until April to decide that you need it.Capture

Talk to your insurance company to find out what types of flood insurance they offer and look into options through the National Flood Insurance Program (floodsmart.gov or 1-888-379-9531). You can also use the FEMA online Flood Map to determine if your home is in an at-risk location: msc.fema.gov/portal/home (note that map layers are slow to appear).

For links to Mississippi and St. Croix River levels, as well as flooding resources for individuals and businesses, go to www.co.washington.mn.us/1107/Flood-Events. Stay tuned for more information related to flooding in the next few months.