FARGO, N.D. – Fueled by a wicked snowstorm that blew into the region on Monday, the swollen but receding Red River is expected to crest for a second time in Fargo and Moorhead, Minn., by mid-April, the National Weather Service said.
But the height of that crest in the flood-weary Red River Valley is in debate.
While it’s likely to be lower than the record 40.82 feet reached Saturday, the Weather Service said that it could range from as low as 37 feet to a high of 41 feet under one scenario.
The cities have built their flood protection to 43 feet.
Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker, a long-time flood fight veteran, said he thinks a crest of 37 or 38 feet is more likely.
The Red dipped below 39 feet in Fargo late Monday afternoon and is expected to drop nearly a foot a day over the next several days as temperatures stay below freezing, slowing the melt.
Steve Buan, a hydrologist with the Weather Service, said the crest prediction was based on the snow already on the ground, projections for more precipitation, rate of melt and the depth level of the frost.
Its best estimate of a worst-case scenario is a crest of 40 or 41 feet, based on up to an additional 2 1/2 inches of precipitation in coming weeks.
“We know it will go back up,” Buan said. “But we’re not saying it will go to 40 or 41.”
Although city and county officials in both Fargo and Moorhead expected a second crest, the projections came just as an early spring storm packing high winds and heavy snowfall began pounding the Red River Valley.
As much as 14 inches could fall in Fargo-Moorhead and the southern valley by the end of the day today, complicating the flood fight and paralyzing a region that has been hit with everything from sunny skies and a sudden warm-up to rain, sleet, snow and unseasonably cold weather in the past two weeks.
“Darn weather,” Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland said. “This is ridiculous that we’re ending March with a forecast of 14 inches of snow. This just adds to the pain and agony.”