March 16, 2010 / 3:39 PM / in 8 years

Red River rises 2 feet at Fargo, nears major flood

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The Red River rose closer, as expected, to causing major flooding at Fargo, North Dakota, on Tuesday, rising more than two feet since Monday afternoon.

The Red rose to 27.4 feet early and was expected to reach the major flooding stage of 30 feet by early Tuesday afternoon, said Greg Gust, warning co-ordination meteorologist for the U.S. National Weather Service.

So far, the river has flooded some city parks and forced closure of a few streets. Once it reaches 34-35 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 may slightly slow the Red’s crest in Fargo 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.

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

Sunshine and mild temperatures Wednesday and Thursday will likely melt remaining snowpack in the south Red River Valley in North Dakota, Gust said.

The Red remained at the major flood stage at Wahpeton, North Dakota, south of Fargo, and was observed slightly receding on Tuesday morning to 16.36 feet.

The Red River flows north into the Canadian province of Manitoba. The Canadian Wheat Board, which markets all of Western Canada’s wheat and malting barley, said on Monday that it was ordering additional rail cars to certain southern Manitoba elevators to allow farmers to move grain from areas that were forecast to flood.

SNOW, RAIN TO BEAR DOWN ON MIDWEST

An intense storm was forecast to bring heavy snow, strong winds and a drop in temperatures Friday afternoon into Colorado and Nebraska, said Allen Motew, meteorologist at QT Information Systems in Chicago. The storm moves into Missouri on Saturday, leaving heavy snow in eastern Colorado, western and central Kansas and scattering rain from Iowa to Texas, he said.

Additional precipitation will worsen flooding of several rivers in Iowa and Minnesota, Gust said.

“That’s certainly cause for concern,” he said.

The storm moves into Michigan on Sunday, leaving snow behind from Missouri to Wisconsin, Motew said.

Reporting by Rod Nickel; editing by Julie Ingwersen

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