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Major Spring Flooding Seen In North Dakota

Potential for cities and towns to be hit by major flooding along the Red River in North Dakota and Minnesota runs from likely to a near certainty this spring, the United States National Weather Service said Feb. 19.

The Red River Valley’s biggest city, Fargo, North Dakota, has a 96 per cent chance of major spring flooding and a 20 per cent chance of setting a new river elevation record of 41 feet, because of heavy fall rains, deep snow and prospects for more precipitation.

“The magnitude and extent of spring 2010 flooding will likely be similar to that experienced during the spring of 2009,” the Weather Service said in its most recent outlook.

In late January, the Weather Service had estimated a 10 per cent chance of Fargo flooding at last year’s levels.

Last year at Fargo, the Red River reached a record 40.84 feet, damaging hundreds of homes in the state and forcing hundreds more to evacuate. Flooding also left many farmers unable to plant crops, making it one of the worst in North Dakota’s history.

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

The Red River is prone to flooding, because flat lands along the riverbank allow the water to spread like spilled water across a table, said Bill Barrett, hydrometeorological technician at the Weather Service in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

The river’s south to north flow is also affected by melting snow and ice moving to frozen ground that cannot absorb it.

With at least a month before significant melting usually begins, the outlook is subject to change, depending on further precipitation and how quickly melting occurs, Barrett said. The Manitoba government is conducting its own survey of snow levels and plans to produce a flood outlook this month.

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