Red River floodwaters rise in northern U.S. Plains

Tue Mar 16, 2010 4:42pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The Red River rose three feet on Tuesday, getting closer to causing major flooding at Fargo, North Dakota for the second straight spring in the key U.S. wheat-growing state.

The Red River rose 3 feet in one day to 28.2 feet by Tuesday afternoon and was expected to reach the major flooding stage of 30 feet by midnight Tuesday, said Greg Gust, warning co-ordination meteorologist for the U.S. National Weather Service.

Volunteers and National Guard troops were placing sandbags on dikes in North Dakota while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built dikes of dirt and clay.

The river has risen nearly 10 feet in three days as mild temperatures melted deep snowpack earlier than expected, flooding some city parks and forcing closure of a few streets. Water washed over the ends of one bridge, but no homes were flooded by mid-Tuesday afternoon, said City of Fargo spokeswoman Karena Carlson.

Once the river reaches 34 to 35 feet later this week, much of downtown Fargo will rely on dikes to stay dry, Gust said.

Fargo is the largest city in the Red River Valley, which straddles North Dakota and Minnesota.

Ice in the river between Wahpeton, North Dakota, and Fargo slightly slowed the river's rise in Fargo and pushed the forecast crest to late Saturday or early Sunday, Gust said. The Weather Service still forecasts the crest to be 37-39 feet in Fargo.

"Obviously, this is all coming in very quickly, so (the delay) gives folks just a little bit of breathing room, not much," Gust said.   Continued...