Runoff pushes water to highest levels of 2013

Although the steady and heavy rainfall of recent days came to an end Wednesday, the runoff continued to push water levels in the Minot region to their highest of the season.

New high water marks for the year were established in both the Souris and the Des Lacs rivers. It also captured the attention of area residents, many of whom are still trying to recover from the historic flood of 2011 and are understandably nervous about rising water.

The Des Lacs is capable of dramatic increases and that was certainly the case triggered by the area’s most recent rain event. A few days ago the Des Lacs was trickling along at a height of 1,563.5 feet. Wednesday afternoon it was ripping across Project Road in Burlington at nearly 2,700 cubic feet per second at a level of 1,574 feet, a rise of nearly 8 feet in 24 hours. The Des Lacs joins the Souris at Burlington.

The combined flows, and additional runoff coming from rapid flows like the Gasman Coulee, pushed the level of the Souris at Minot’s Broadway Bridge to 1,548.5 feet Wednesday. The previous high for the year was 1,547 feet in late April. The Souris was declining late Wednesday afternoon but, according to the National Weather Service, will rise again until reaching 1,548.7 feet about 2 p.m. today as the full brunt of the Des Lacs river flows enter the city.

“Overall, the rise will probably be just shy of flood stage,” said Allen Schlag, NWS hydrologist in Bismarck. “It won’t threaten Minot, but other areas won’t be so lucky.”

One of the trouble spots mentioned by Schlag was the Logan area where the Souris was nearly 2 feet over flood stage Wednesday and is not expected to fall below flood stage for several days.

“Part of the problem is that we’re in a really active weather pattern and there is more precipitation expected this weekend and even more in-bound for the latter part of next week,” said Schlag. “We’ve had phenomenal runoff from storms that normally wouldn’t have much effect.”

The storm brewing for next week is not believed to carry nearly as much moisture as what the area has experienced recently. While forecast models continue to have the weather system tracking toward the Souris River basin, there are still several days for the storm to change course or dissipate.

A problem contributing to runoff is that temperatures this spring have been averaging several degrees below normal, essentially keeping away warmer weather that would dry the soil and allow for more penetration of rainfall. In a normal years as much as 30 percent of the recent rainfall would likely have soaked into the soil instead of running into rivers and streams.

The City of Minot has been taking precautions against further rainfall or changing river forecasts. Diking has been done along 18th Street Southeast at the intersection of Sixth Avenue. That location is one of the low spots in the city where the river has been running precariously close to street level. Hesco Barriers were erected on County Road 14 west of 16th Street Southwest to slow flows coming out of Larson Coulee No. 1 and flowing into Green Acres. According to a press release issued by the city, Minot Public Works staff is monitoring the situation closely and is in close communication with the NWS.

Flows out of Lake Darling Dam remained at 950 cfs Wednesday. The level of that reservoir was slightly over 1,597 feet, the preferred summer operating level. Spillway level at Lake Darling is 1,601.8 feet. Slightly more than 1,000 cfs was flowing in the Souris at the Sherwood gauge Wednesday. Rainfall amounts north of Lake Darling, including southern Saskatchewan, were far less than what was received in the Minot region in recent days.