Red at Fargo expected near major flood stage by next weekend
The Red River is forecast to rise faster than previously predicted, nearing major flood stage in Fargo next weekend.
The forecasted surge - 11 feet in the next week - even prompted the National Weather Service to move up its flood outlook three days.
Friday's seven-day forecast predicts the Red River at Fargo-Moorhead to reach 28.2 feet by next Friday.
"I hope that isn't a trend," said Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker, noting an earlier prediction called for 21.8 feet by Friday. "The reality of the fight is here."
In last spring's flood, the Red River didn't top 28 feet until March 23, when it reached 28.32 feet on its way to a record crest of 40.84 feet on March 28.
The Red surpassed 17 feet Friday and will reach the city's 18-foot minor flood stage Sunday.
The weather service decided Friday to move up its next spring flood predictions for the Red River Valley to Tuesday.
Moving up the flood outlook, which will give the chances of the Red River cresting at a range of levels, will better allow officials and property owners to prepare, said Tom Grafenauer, a weather service meteorologist.
Other rivers in the southern Red River Valley also are showing rapid rises from recent rains and thawing temperatures.
Minnesota's Wild Rice River north of Twin Valley jumped three feet early Friday morning, with a two-foot surge in 30 minutes, probably due to an ice jam.
Elsewhere, the North Dakota Wild Rice River at Abercrombie, was at 2.93 feet Friday, but is expected to jump to 16.5 feet in a week. One year ago, there was less than a foot of water in the riverbank as the Wild Rice built to a record 27.78 feet on March 25.
The south branch of the Buffalo River at Sabin was at 10.35 feet Friday, and expected to climb to almost 14 feet in seven days. Moderate flood stage is 15 feet.
As of Friday afternoon, the level of the Red River at Fargo-Moorhead, 17.13 feet, was higher than it was on the same date during major floods last year, 2006 and 1997, according to a comparison by the U.S. Geological Service, which operates a network of river gauges.
In light of the rapid early rise, the city of Fargo will keep its sandbagging operation going beyond the original goal of stockpiling 1 million bags, Walaker said.
Also, Fargo soon will start building levees in critical areas, starting with North Oaks in the north and Timberline in the south, and the Army Corps of Engineers will start building dikes Sunday or Monday, Walaker said.
Despite the jolt from the recent rains, this spring's flood fight allows more time for preparation than last year's record crest, the mayor said.
"It's easier than last year because we have more time," he said.
The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers