MINOT — More good than bad, but that can change in the coming days.
“This is going to be interesting. We don’t see these types of events very often,” said Allen Schlag, National Weather Service hydrologist in Bismarck. “A lot of the time in these spring blizzards the soils are still frozen. That’s not the case this time.”
Situated in the epicenter of a historic spring blizzard that dumped a whopping 30 inches or more of snow in the area, crews were working to clear roadways and citizens were wearing out snowblowers and shovels Thursday. While efforts were being made to dig vehicles out of snowbanks and clear driveways, the amount of moisture in the snow was evident.
“A key thing to notice is that very slushy base to the snowpack,” explained Schlag. “The reason for that is that soil temperatures were generally in the low 40s. We’re going to see this snow slowly melt from the bottom even though we won’t have melting temps for a week.”
Given dry conditions over much of the western part of the state, snowmelt soaking into the ground will be beneficial. Minot’s snow water equivalent is among the highest in the state, about three inches, compared with about 2 inches of SWE at other locales.
The Minot region has been in need of moisture for many months, dating back to last year, and the latest snowfall is expected to alleviate those concerns heading into the spring planting season. Pastureland should benefit as well, providing nourishing grasses for livestock.
“There’s more good in this by a lot than there is bad,” said Schlag. “All the indicators are that it is going to melt pretty slow. The trick is to get through this melt without rain on top of it, then you’d have to start paying attention.”
However, said Schlag, even with 30 inches of moist snow, the potential for flooding of rivers and streams is minimal.
“I’m not terribly concerned,” stated Schlag. “Three inches of water isn’t something I’d worry about. Under the worst scenario I can see minor flood warnings.”
The latest forecast for the Minot area includes the possibility of another 3-5 inches of snow this weekend. Looking further ahead, another system containing moisture, rain or snow, is expected later next week. In the meantime, temperatures below normal for the next several days should slow the melt from the recent storm.