Flood potential remains high for Red River

Fri Mar 5, 2010 1:22pm EST
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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The high probability of major spring flooding along the Red River in North Dakota and Minnesota is little changed from last month, the United States National Weather Service said on Friday.

Potential for major flooding along the Red in key cities and towns ranges from likely to nearly certain, the weather service said.

Fargo, North Dakota, the valley's largest city, has a 96 percent chance of major flooding above 30 feet, unchanged from the weather service's last outlook on February 19. There is a 20 percent chance of the river reaching 40.6 feet at Fargo, just under last year's record of 40.84 feet.

Major flooding is still likely at Grand Forks, North Dakota, and five key towns along the Red, although the weather service has reduced the probability for some of them.

The valley is waterlogged from excessive rain last autumn and a heavy snowpack and will likely receive more precipitation through the spring melting period.

The magnitude of flooding will likely be similar to last year, the weather service said. The flood of 2009 damaged hundreds of homes in North Dakota and forced hundreds more to be evacuated.

Flooding also left many farmers unable to plant crops, making it one of the worst in the state's history.

The valley is an important farming region for spring wheat and sugar beets.

The Red River runs north into the Canadian province of Manitoba. The provincial government's flood forecaster, Alf Warkentin, said on Wednesday that recent mild weather that has begun melting snow is decreasing the threat of a serious flood there, according to the Canadian Press.

Warkentin was not immediately available for comment Friday.

(Reporting by Rod Nickel)

<p>An aerial view shows the rising Red River lapping at Highway 75 just north of Morris, Manitoba, April 14, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Fred Greenslade</p>