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Too early to predict water levels on local lakes

By Tim Davidson Feb 28, 2023 | 1:39 PM

It’s still to early to say what water levels will do this year on Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods.

Last year there was lots of flooding, but the year before, water levels were near a record low.

Matt DeWolfe from the Lake of the Woods Control Board says it all depends on when and how much rain we get in the spring.

“The most important factor of all in terms of the spring flood is the timing and amount of the spring rainfall, which of course we do not have a good predictor for at this point,” DeWolfe told a pre-spring update for the International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed board.

“If we don’t get a significant major wet period in the spring, you don’t get a flood.  The snow alone will not cause of flood.”

DeWolfe adds that given all the data they have, they can’t determine yet what the spring might bring.

“For this year, base flows across the watershed are kind of in the upper normal range.  Slightly greater than we saw a year ago.  The water content in the snow in the snowpack is elevated compared to normal, but comparable to 2020, when we had a very dry spring, and less than what we had last year.”

DeWolfe he told an on-line forum that out that one of the things they look at is the affect of the Pacific Ocean on our weather.

“The patterns we’ve been able to pull out, from studies in the past, basically show that if there is a La Nina, or a cooler Pacific period.  So out of the 10 high water years since 1970, 7 happened during a La Nina winter.  We’re in a La Nina winter right now.”

He points out that we’ve had a La Nina winter for the last three years, one of which resulted in record flooding last year, but almost record dry conditions the year before.

Officials say the long range forecast for March is colder than normal conditions throughout the drainage basin.


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