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Surprise return of flood risk

In New Ulm, but drought could easily return

May 13, 2012
By Josh Moniz - Staff Writer , The Journal

NEW ULM - In a surprise switch of conditions, both the Cottonwood River and Minnesota River at New Ulm returned to minor flooding risk levels this week, despite months of severe drought. But, the possibility of slipping right back into a drought still linger over southern Minnesota.

Prior to this last week, southern Minnesota had endured intense drought conditions as far back as last fall. The conditions were so severe that the National Weather Service (NWS) projected the Minnesota River in New Ulm was 40 percent less likely to flood than an average year.

This week's rainfall over back-to-back days almost immediately dropped most of southern Minnesota down two categories to "abnormally dry." The water levels on the Minnesota and Cottonwood rivers in New Ulm simultaneously jumped up to "action level," which is the lowest flood stage where water just begins to leave the banks.

Article Photos

Staff Photo by Josh Moniz
Heavy rains back-to-back last week raised water levels for the Cottonwood and Minnesota Rivers.

NWS Forecaster Joe Calderone said the change was fueled by days of rain in the middle of last week in southern Minnesota that ranged from three to seven inches.

He attributed the rising rivers to water following too rapidly for the ground to soak up, resulting in most of it being funneled directly to the rivers. But, he said reduced drought conditions were more legitimately gained by much needed water.

He warned that the reduced drought conditions were still not enough to make up for months of dry days. He said another long stretch of waterless weather could easily cause southern Minnesota to slip back into a severe drought.

Calderone said dry days are projected for this coming week and most of the week after. Some light rain could fall Tuesday, and minor rains have a 30 to 40 percent chance into parts of that following week, though none are expected to bring notable amounts of water.

Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at



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