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Can Spring Snowmelt Cause Flooding in Minnesota in 2019?

Can Spring Snowmelt Cause Flooding in Minnesota in 2019?

In Minnesota, a new record for the most snowfall in February was set this year. Six inches of snowfall fell in the southeastern part of the state, while New Ulm was pummeled with 14.6 inches of snow. Overall, the Twin Cities experienced a record-breaking 39 inches of snowfall in February 2019.

Given the record-setting snowfalls this winter, Minnesota could undergo flooding in springtime. The likelihood of flooding will cause plenty of concern for Minnesotans. With the combination of excessive spring rains and snowmelt, the chances of flooding are dangerously doubled.

What exactly is snowmelt?

Snowmelt can be defined as the melting snow that runs off natural surfaces. The season when runoff is produced can also be called snowmelt. When the snowmelt occurs rapidly, severe flooding can result. When snowmelt refreezes, the resulting icy conditions can cause accidents.

Snowmelt takes on hazardous proportions when massive amounts of snow and ice accumulate during the several months of winter. As soon as springtime’s warm weather hits, large amounts of snowmelt release and contribute to the extensive flooding of nearby areas.

Fortunately, snowmelt can be predicted—but not always. When available, accurate predictions contribute to the design and success of water-control projects.

Spring Creek Alpine Village Landscape in Canmore, Alberta and distant snowy Three Sisters Rocky Mountain Tops near Banff National Park Canada

Depending on the classification of snowmelt, the runoff can carry atmospheric pollutants and be relatively toxic.

How is snowmelt categorized?

Classifications exist for different types of snowmelt. For example, snowplows push snow from paved parking lots and roads. Over the winter, this snow accumulates pollutants and affects the quality of the runoff. When warm weather melts this snow, the runoff drains into local storm drains.

Another type of snowmelt is one that occurs in open spaces away from well-developed residential areas. The snowmelt largely contributes to the volume of water released in spring weather. The ground becomes saturated with the snowmelt until the soil reaches its infiltration capacity.

Depending on the classification of snowmelt, the runoff can carry atmospheric pollutants and be relatively toxic. Examples of the pollutants that may be present in meltwater include solids, chemicals, metals and nutrients. Less worrisome pollutants include pesticides, fertilizers and salts.

How does rain increase flooding?

The phenomenon known as rain-on-snow occurs when rain falls onto existing snow packs. Downstream flooding and the loss of life are the catastrophic consequences of rain-on-snow events. Rain that falls upon snow and freezes creates dangerous situations for people, especially motorists, and animals.

With rain, precipitation is increased and has less chances of evaporating. Heavy rainfalls have nowhere to go when the usual drainage routes, like sewers and creeks, are obstructed with packed snow and ice. Plus, when frost solidifies the ground, rainwater cannot soak into the soil.

Typically, rainfalls are absorbed once the ground and waterways are thawed in early spring. In 2019, however, the rains are falling atop existing snow packs in the Minnesota region. Consequently, the likelihood of flooding is high in the creek that runs through Minneapolis, Hopkins and Minnetonka. For Minnesotans, this rain-on-snow is an unprecedented weather event.

Minnesota’s daytime temperatures in March 2019 hover around the mid-30s, while nighttime temps drop to subfreezing. As a result, the drastic contrast from day to night temperatures and the presence of meltwater make morning commutes icy and hazardous.

How can Minnesotans prepare for flooding?

Minnesota homeowners who do not have a separate flood insurance policy should purchase one as soon as possible. As a standard rule, flood damage is rarely covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy. Rather, the National Flood Insurance Program offers flood insurance.

Minnesotans also should be aware that flood insurance policies from the National Flood Insurance Program take effect 30 days after the initial purchase. Homeowners and business owners should be prepared with an effective flood insurance policy well before the springtime thaw.

What are the dangers of flooding?

Snowmelt is likely to cause flooding. A consequence of excessive flooding is water damage. Properties situated near creeks or rivers are at a higher risk of flooding. However, even the basements of structures built away from bodies of water can flood as a result of snowmelt.

What are ways to address flooding?

Protect the home’s foundation by shoveling a five-foot area around the perimeter of the foundation; also remove snow from the roof. Any foundation cracks should be sealed promptly. Test the sump pump to ensure it functions. Plus, the gutter’s down spouts should drain several feet away from the property.

What are signs of water damage caused by snowmelt?

If the basement displays new cracks in the foundation, structural damage has occurred. A mold outbreak is also a sign that excess moisture is present, possibly due to a basement leak, and must be addressed immediately. Mold spores can grow within 24 to 48 hours.

Minnesota’s late winter thaw could lead to massive spring snowmelt, especially given February’s heavy snows. With cities, like Rochester, St. Cloud and Duluth, experiencing record-breaking snows, at 40 inches, 27.6 inches and 36.4 inches respectively, the Minnesota spring will be a wet one.

Prepare for spring’s unleashing of meltwater by purchasing flood insurance if you do not already have it and keeping the contact information handy of a dependable flood damage cleanup expert. ServiceMaster Professional Services provides swift water damage restoration services for Minnesotans every day of the year.

Included in ServiceMaster Professional Services lineup of comprehensive services are a prompt assessment of the water damage, extraction of the excess moisture, an anti-microbial application to deter water-borne bacteria and a thorough drying of the premises. Experienced and highly trained technicians professionally handle all aspects of the water damage restoration process.

Water damage is an emergency situation. If not treated immediately, permanent structural damage and mold infestations will occur. ServiceMaster Professional Services is available to tackle any level of water damage, whether due to spring snowmelt, spring flooding or any other natural or manmade cause.

ServiceMaster Professional Services is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to respond to your water damage emergency. Our specialists serve the surrounding communities of Minneapolis, St. Cloud, Hutchinson, Marshall and Willmar, Minnesota, and stand by to take your call.

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