Spring flooding has been on many minds in the past couple of weeks and the reluctant arrival of moderating temperatures has heightened that a lot. There are a lot of variables that will come into play over the next month or so but the three biggest of them are: How quickly we get warm weather, how warm that weather will be and how much precipitation we’ll get during this coming spring snow melt. Although there is little we can do about coming weather patterns, we can all hope for a snowmelt like we experienced in March of 2014 when we had a long run of 40-degree days and 25-degree nights. A slow, measured snowmelt would provide a bit of breathing room and slowly mete out the water that’s stored in the snow and the deep frost upstream from us. Our nagging cold weather during early March certainly isn’t helping matters and the longer we have cold weather, the more likely we run the risk of a quick warm-up, later this month. And, the forecast of more snow or rain this coming weekend adds to that problem. Still, we don’t need to push the panic button….yet. We are well-positioned to take a significant amount of water, like we did in 2010 and again in 2011, the seventh-highest and sixth-highest recorded flood elevations here, when river water crept onto Minnesota Avenue in east Granite and onto the alleyway beneath the foot bridge. DNR area hydrologist Lucas Youngsma mentioned last week that he wouldn’t be surprised if we had a “top ten” flood year. The city and county have material and equipment for flood-fighting, and we have a lot of experience. Still, we will need to keep an eye on weather conditions and future flood forecasts. The National Weather Service (NWS) issued their first flood forecast two weeks ago and it predicted minor flood levels in Granite Falls and major flood levels in Monte-video. That difference is a reflection of what remains in the flood plain and potentially in harm’s way. The NWS will issue a new forecast on Thursday, March 7 and will update that every few days thereafter. They will factor in short-term and long-term weather patterns and forecasts as well as upstream snow-cover, water content in that snow and frost depth. We’ll know more after looking that over and will share new flood forecast info as we get it. Meanwhile, the talk of flooding has some folks thinking about and buying flood insurance. There’s a 30-day waiting period before flood insurance policies take effect. If you know someone who is thinking about buying flood insurance, tell them to talk to an insurance agent as soon as possible. * * * * * * It was wonderful to read the news last week about the expansion of the Minnesota West powerline technician program to the Granite Falls campus. The program, which has long been a staple at the Jackson campus, will be expanded to the Granite campus this year and already has students enrolled for this coming fall semester. Much thanks is owed to Bruce Peterson, the Minnesota West Dean of Energy Services, for recognizing and advocating for expanding the program to the northern reach of the Minnesota West area. The new program will utilize space available in the 300 building, the westernmost on the campus. That building has a high-ceiling shop area and available classroom space left after the auto body technician program was shut down a few years ago. The building was briefly a target for demolition in a plan to “right-size” the campus space needs. The Friends of the Minnesota West Campus opposed that idea and advocated instead for finding new program use for the underutilized portion of the building. Not only does the new powerline program expansion accomplish that but it will fill a large need for training in this important field amid many impending retirements and a growing need for replacing aging electric lines and upgrading existing lines. This is a most welcome development and a great news for our local campus. * * * * * * The flocks (yes, flocks) of robins in our backyard have to be a bit puzzled at the white ground cover where they normally scratch for worms, grubs and insects. We’ve seen a few robins here all winter, and there’s evidence of that every year. Some robins, if they can find a reliable source of food over the winter, opt to stay around and not take the risky migration path to the less snowy points in the south. I wonder if the mild early winter weather and bare ground until mid-January kept more than the usual few robins around this winter. Those flocks of robins are a welcome sign and give us some hope that warmer weather is on the way. They seem to be finding plenty to eat in our lilac thicket. And, they seem to know more about the weather than we do _________