Cold weather eases flood threat in Fargo

Sat Mar 28, 2009 5:39pm EDT
 
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By Eric Miller

FARGO, North Dakota (Reuters) - Residents of the flood-swollen Red River Valley got a break from the weather on Saturday as cold temperatures prevented more winter thaw from swamping the city and flood barriers held, officials said.

Hundreds of National Guard troops, local residents and volunteers continued to reinforce and raise sandbagged barriers and floodwalls. They had been bracing for a record crest on Saturday but awoke instead to a slightly lower water level.

"The river is cresting. That's good news," said Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker. "Everyone thinks it's over. It's not over until the river gets down maybe 6, 7 feet."

Cold weather froze flood waters in the fields around this metropolitan area of 175,000 people, keeping spring melt from adding to the flooded river, said Mike Hudson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fargo.

The Red River Valley is an important farming region for spring wheat and sugar beets, although spring planting is still weeks away. Wet soil could delay some seeding, which for wheat and corn can go well into May. U.S. wheat prices fell on Friday as snowstorms in the Plains aided needed soil moisture.

The river's level has continued to drop since midnight CDT and was 40.61 feet at 1:15 p.m. CDT on Saturday, down from 40.82 feet. The temperature was 21 degrees F (minus 6 Celsius) just before 1 p.m.

The river had been forecast to crest on Saturday at 42 feet before freezing temperatures caused the weather service to revise its forecast. The river should stay at its current level or drop over the next three to four days, the NWS said.

Hudson said ice jams could cause the river to rise or fall half a foot to one foot in the next 24 hours, but the freezing temperature looked set to keep run-off stalled for a while.   Continued...

 
<p>Houses right on the Red River on the southside of Fargo, North Dakota are separated by a secondary dike to protect houses farther inland in case the dike on the river fails March 28, 2009. Hoar frost is visible on the trees. Residents of the flood-swollen Red River Valley got a break from the weather on Saturday as cold temperatures prevented more winter thaw from swamping this city and flood barriers held, officials said. REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson</p>