Preparing for spring flood risk

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As we finally start to warm up to the 40s this week, some of the snow may start to melt.

“For the snowmelt process to really get going, we have to warm that snow, top temperature, that top layer, the snow to above freezing so that it can start to melt,” explained NWS Duluth Warning Coordination Meteorologist Joe Moore. “From there it can be a pretty rapid temperature. So once the snow warms up, then it depends on the daily cycle of the sun, if the sun is coming out.”

The National Weather Service has issued their Spring Flooding Outlook, taking into account the above normal precipitation we have had this winter.

“There are a lot of factors that go into spring flooding. Some of those are just how the weather is over the next couple of weeks, if we see a quick warm up, if we get a lot of rain,” explained Moore. There’s still some unknowns, but right now we have a pretty decent snowpack and there is an elevated chance that we could have some flooding along some of our river channels.”

The National Weather Service in Duluth looks at the upper Mississippi River, the Saint Louis River, the Bad River, and the Saint Croix River for their flooding outlook. Other areas, however, can also be affected.

“Just because you don’t have a river nearby doesn’t mean that you can’t experience flooding,” said Moore. “Of course, all of the snow has to melt and that water is going to go somewhere, so even if you don’t, you aren’t near a river, you can still experience the effects of spring flooding.”

Houses can also experience flooding from the snow that has built up so far this season.

“Somewhere around three to six inches of water is back in that pile of snow in your backyard,” said Moore.

Marshall Hardware Owner AJ Marshall commonly sees customers this time of year who are trying to fix or prevent flooding at home.

“Just the other day we had somebody and they had a skylight in their house, and snow built up started to freeze during the ice while an ice dam is there and starts back up,” Marshall recalled. “The water has to find a way to go to an easier spot as the lift underneath something and start running inside and running down. That can create issues with your sheetrock inside or insulation or anything that way as well.”

If you have an ice dam on your roof, there are a couple of ways to resolve the issue.

“One, contacting somebody that’s comfortable up on the roofs or getting hold of a roofer, if you’re comfortable getting up there on your own, finding out where the water’s coming in is, there’s an ice dam or is there more damage that’s up there,” said Marshall. Putting the roof pucks or the ice melt up there and giving the water somewhere to go so it just doesn’t pull up and create a bigger problem.”

Basement flooding is also a possibility, but there are preventative measures you can take such as clearing your gutters and storm drains.

“Making sure the water has somewhere to go so they could be your roof, your sump pump,” said Marshall. Either by melting or chopping the ice, the water can run away. Sand tubes or any type of weight like that that you can create a dam and keep the water from coming in and that the sump pump is not frozen.”

“Going out and shoveling, you know, a good 12, 24 inches is something that you can do if that’s possible, because that water is typically going to go down towards your foundation drain system that you have around your home,” explained Moore.

Being prepared for flooding can save your valuables.

“Other things that you can do is at least make sure that you have an inventory of what you have in your basement,” said Moore. “If you do have any valuables, make sure that they’re up high or maybe get them out of the basement if you expect spring flooding to be an issue because once that water comes in, you’re kind of going to go into crisis mode trying to figure out how to get it out.”