UPDATE: I-29 closed between Grand Forks and Fargo; Red River at Grand Forks to crest soon
The Red River at East Grand Forks stood at 46.81 feet Thursday afternoon, less than 2 feet from its anticipated crest of 48 feet and hours before the area was due for a mid-April snowstorm.
The Grand Forks area could receive anywhere from 2 to 7 inches of snow by Friday morning, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Tom Grafenauer. The storm could bring 45 mile per hour winds and blizzard conditions.
The storm will be more intense near Fargo, which Grafenauer said could receive up to 8 inches of snow.
The North Dakota Department of Transportation on Thursday afternoon closed Interstate 29 between Fargo and Grand Forks because of blowing snow and near-zero visibility.
“It is going to be a major winter storm, especially if you’re traveling to the south,” he said. “You know, travel is going to be impossible at times. It’s a situation where snow removal, road removal crews may not be able to keep up with the snow. If that’s the case, the effects of the system could last into Friday morning.”
The weather service doesn’t expect the storm to have any immediate impact on water levels or flooding near Grand Forks.
“There’s a couple silver linings with this storm, if you can find the silver lining in a major winter storm,” Grafenauer said. “The good thing is it’s falling as snow. If it would fall as rain, there’d be a more immediate runoff of water into the river system. But with it falling as snow, the water is basically locked up. It’s just sitting on the ground, and then it will have to melt and more gradually run off into the river systems.”
The storm could lead to a smaller, secondary crest next week or it could act to keep water levels high for a longer period of time.
The latest observed water level at Oslo was 37.57 feet at 12:15 p.m. Thursday. Flood stage at Oslo is 26 feet, and the river there is expected to reach 38 feet Saturday.
The latest observed water level at Drayton was 36.83 feet at 12:45 p.m. Thursday. Flood stage at Drayton is 32 feet. The river is expected to reach between 41.5 and 43.5 feet about Wednesday.
In Pembina, the latest observation was 40.38 feet at 12:30 p.m. Pembina has a flood stage of 39 feet, and the river is expected to reach 50.5 to 52.5 feet about April 21.
The NDDOT temporarily closed the northbound off-ramp of Interstate 29 at Exit 164, about 20 miles north of Grand Forks, Thursday morning due to water on the roadway. NDDOT said it will re-open the exit once river levels recede.
NDDOT also urged drivers Thursday morning to use caution while traveling across the eastern side of the state. Water-filled ditches add extra danger to the incoming weather system.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation has closed several highways and roads because of flooding and the winter storm warning, including:
Highway 1 between Oslo and the North Dakota border.
The Sorlie Bridge in East Grand Forks.
Highway 75 south of Halstad.
Highway 75 north of Halstad at mile post 285.
Highway 75 north of Climax at mile post 303.
Highway 220 north of Oslo, between Highway 1 and Highway 11.
Highway 317 between Highway 220 and the North Dakota border.
Highway 220 south of Oslo is still open at mile post 42, but MNDOT said it currently has water over the road.