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Boreal Community Media

Will Cook County and Grand Portage see flooding this spring?

Mar 30, 2023 11:19AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: Lukas Hron

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - March 30, 2023

The next few weeks will be critical to determine the level of flooding NE Minnesota will see this spring. 

Related: Where to find the best waterfalls along the North Shore to fit your itinerary

The National Weather Service (NWS) released a spring flood outlook for NE Minnesota last week, and put Cook County and Grand Portage at minor to moderate risk of flooding.

According to NWS meteorologists, the amount of water in the snowpack is above normal (near record) for the area.

This year, there is 6"-10" of water in the snow. In comparison to this time in 2022, there is approximately 1"-4" more water in the snowpack. 

But it's not just the amount of water in the snow that's above normal. The overall snow depth for the area remains above normal - especially for this late in the season. 

The North Shore ranges between an average of 20"-30", with some places reaching 30"-40". 

One reason we have above normal snow depth is because of the nature of the snow storms we received.  In 2023, we received widespread snow systems that were then 'boosted' by lake effect snow. This caused the snow storms to go further inland. 

In 2022, the lake effect snow stayed closer to the shore and not embedded with another system. These types of snow events don't tend to go farther inland. 

This year, the recent cooler temps have slowed the rate of snow melt - a benefit in reducing flood risk - especially compared to 2022. At this time last year, much of the snow had already begun to melt.

The good news is that with all of this moisture and snowpack, any remaining drought has been removed for much of the area. 

As for what's ahead, the next couple of weeks are key to determining flood potential. 

The NWS predicts below-normal temperatures, and slightly above normal precipitation for the next couple of weeks. Cooler temperatures mean slower snow melt, giving the moisture a chance to absorb versus running off surfaces. There is little to no frost depth. 

Overall, the NWS says if you experienced spring flooding in the past, there is a good chance you will again this spring. 

An updated spring flood briefing will be released the first week of April. 

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