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Published May 14 2010

High amount of precipitation persists

During his 38 years in the funeral business, Larry Boulger can’t recall many times when the water table has been this high in local cemeteries.

“It’s pretty unusual for us to have water problems in January, but we did,” said the owner of Boulger Funeral Home in Fargo.

So far, May is continuing the streak of above-normal precipitation that started in December, when soils were already wet.

Total precipitation was above normal by 1.28 inches in December, 0.81 inch in January, 0.27 inch in February, 0.24 inch in March, 0.12 inch in April and, through Wednesday, 1.24 inches in May, according to the National Weather Service.

May also has been cooler than normal. The average temperature through Wednesday was 9 degrees below normal, which doesn’t allow for a lot of evaporation and drying, said Dave Kellenbenz, a weather service meteorologist in Grand Forks.

“It’s fairly saturated out there right now,” he said, noting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest soil moisture report on May 9 showed a surplus of topsoil moisture throughout the Red River Valley.

Boulger said crews have been able to dig graves at most cemeteries.

“It just presents problems with the equipment, and they don’t like to tear up the grounds and that sort of thing,” he said. “It’s just a little bit more difficult, but certainly not impossible.”

Marcus Benoit, owner of the Steamatic restoration businesses in Fargo and Grand Forks, said the number of basements soaked by sump pump failures or water seeping through foundations is “definitely more than would be considered normal,” but still manageable.

“If we were to get a huge downpour now with the ground saturation levels where they’re at, then you could see an excessive amount of wet basements,” he said.

The recent threat of spring flooding seems to have homeowners monitoring their sump pumps more closely and upgrading equipment, Benoit added.

The good news, Kellenbenz said, is that the next week is expected to bring drier and warmer weather. The forecast for Fargo calls for highs in the upper 60s to upper 70s through Wednesday with a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms on Sunday.

“So, we should start to dry stuff out here,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528