Weather Forecast


Weather Talk: Difficult to compare 1897 flood to 2009

Before there were any dikes or diversions, before coulees were straightened or fields were tiled, before flood forecasts were modeled, the flood of 1897 was the flood to which all other Red River floods were compared.

That winter had been a terrible one, with a series of severe blizzards in November and plenty of snow and cold to follow throughout the winter. March 15 was the last of four days with the temperature at or below zero all day. The low on the morning of March 15 was 32 below zero, and the high that day was minus 2.

Suddenly, starting March 16, the weather turned into spring. Along with a rapid thaw, it rained nine of the next 21 days.

The Red River crested in Fargo at an estimated 40.1 feet on April 7 that year. Although the 2009 flood crested a few inches higher, different circumstances make a realistic comparison difficult.

John Wheeler

John was born in Baton Rouge, LA, and grew up near Birmingham, Alabama. As a teenager, his family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, and later to a small town in northeast Iowa. John traces his early interest in weather to the difference in climate between Alabama and Wisconsin. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a degree in meteorology. Like any meteorologist, John is intrigued by extremes of weather, especially arctic air outbreaks and winter storms.  John has been known to say he prefers his summers to be hot but in winter, he prefers the cold.  When away from work, John enjoys long-distance running and reading.  John has been a meteorologist at WDAY since May of 1985.

(701) 241-5387