A good thing happened across Minnesota and the surrounding area as the spring equinox arrived. Temperatures stayed in the 30s and low 40s, with sunshine and no rain.
Those were good conditions for slowly melting the snow pack even as the moisture-laden soil remained frozen.
Official soil temperatures at the Southwest Research and Outreach Center, Lamberton remained at a cool 32 degrees at the 2-, 4-, and 8-inch depth – from March 12-18, 2019. At that same time, the flow of the Cottonwood River, near Lamberton was increasing – from 5.5 feet on March 13 to 15.01 feet as of March 20. Record flow is 17.6 feet. Flooding forecasts were not available because of the presence of ice.
Major flooding was forecast for the Redwood River at Marshall, the Minnesota River at Morton, the Cottonwood River at New Ulm, the Crow River, the Cannon River, and the Mississippi at St. Paul and Hastings. Moderate flooding was expected for many other communities and rivers.
To the north, the Red River at Wahpeton was at 9.1 feet as of March 20 – just below the “take action” level of 9.5 feet. Flood stage is 11 feet. A harbinger of flooding conditions that can occur to the north, the Red River at Wahpeton reached 10.36 feet on Feb. 22, 2018. The river’s historic crests included 19.42 feet on April 6, 1997, and 17.5 feet on March 24, 2009.
The city of Fargo, N.D., intended to make 1 million sandbags to fight flooding of the Red River. As of March 20, the river was measured at 15.56 feet, with minor flooding starting at 18 feet. The city experienced its highest crest of 40.84 feet on March 28, 2009.
The National Weather Service forecast a 90 percent chance of Red River flood levels at Fargo reaching 30 feet between April 8-15, 2019.
Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill passed unanimously by both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature allowing the Rural Finance Authority to declare market emergencies. This makes funding available for farm weather disaster recovery not covered by insurance.
The Minnesota Farmers Union reported that more than 100 barns and sheds collapsed across the state, according to information from Minnesota Milk and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. It has led to many farmers selling or relocating their cattle, often at short notice.
The Disaster Recovery Loan Program can be used to help clean up, repair, or replace farm structures and septic and water systems, as well as replace cropping inputs, feed, and livestock.
The program offers affordable financing to repair existing agricultural buildings to pre-disaster conditions. Eligible farmers must have received at least 50 percent of their annual gross income from farming for the past three years and will work through their bank to secure the loans from the RFA.
More information on the Disaster Recovery Loan is on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website.