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Forum News Service, Published April 30 2013

Fast-melting snow floods Duluth-area streams; more snow forecast

DULUTH, Minn. - Record April snow, an unusually warm string of days, thunderstorms and now the possibility of snow in May are all contributing to Northland rivers spilling over their banks, some of them flooding roads.

No major flooding was occurring or expected in the Northland, but the National Weather Service has posted advisories for small stream across the region, and several roads have been closed. Fairly heavy rain and snowfall expected Wednesday night could add to the flooding problem later in the week, especially in Northwestern Wisconsin.

The National Weather Service in Duluth says 6 inches or more of snow is possible along a line from north of the Twin Cities to Ashland and Ironwood. A winter storm watch is posted for Burnett, Sawyer, Bayfield, Ashland and Iron counties.

The precipitation will begin as rain early Wednesday and then transition to a wintry mixture of rain and snow throughout the day.

More than 3 inches of accumulating snow is expected just south of the Twin Ports with an inch or two of accumulation in the Twin Ports, mostly Wednesday night.

“At this point it doesn’t look to be a big deal for most of Minnesota,” said Dean Melde, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Duluth. But he said computer models were disagreeing with each other and that snowfall could move north or not occur at all.

The additional precipitation, up to an inch of rainfall equivalent in Northwestern Wisconsin, will only add to the hydrological overload, Melde noted.

“We will continue to see some rising rivers. … If it comes quick enough, we could see some additional problems,” he said, noting that any precipitation falling as snow would help delay the runoff.

The forecast of snow comes just a day after the Northland experienced its first widespread thunderstorms and temperatures that soared into the 70s to near 80 across the region and after 5 days of what seemed like long-overdue spring.

A thunderstorm dropped hail Tuesday morning along parts of the North Shore. Quarter-inch-diameter hail was reported from Boulder Lake north of Duluth through Larsmont, Two Harbors and on to Grand Portage. Half-inch hail was reported in Illgen City with 1.5-inch diameter hail reported in Silver Bay, all before about 8 a.m. The National Weather Service in Duluth said they received no reports of damage from the hailstorm.

The St. Louis River at Scanlon was rising Tuesday toward the level where it causes problems for a couple of businesses along the river, the National Weather Service reported. A flood warning has been issued through Thursday night for the river, which was at 9.9 feet Tuesday morning. The river could reach 10.5 feet or higher, which is the flood stage for low-lying areas. No major flooding is expected.

The Weather Service has issued a small stream flood advisory through Thursday for rivers in Carlton, Douglas, Ashland, Bayfield and Iron counties. The Nemadji, Polar, Iron, Montreal and Bad rivers are susceptible to flooding for another couple of days.

In Aitkin, the Mississippi River reached flood stage at 12 feet Tuesday. The river is expected to rise to above 13.5 feet by Sunday, at which point minor flooding occurs, including over some roadways.

The Weather Service reminds people never to drive into standing water on roadways and to report flooded areas to law enforcement.