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David Lawrenz of Moorhead looks over the floodwaters of the Red River as it approaches its crest Sunday, April 7, from the top of the parking ramp of the Moorhead Center Mall. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service

Fargo-Moorhead watches as Red River creeps toward crest

FARGO — The Red River inched closer toward its crest this weekend, but Fargo city staff who worked to make sure it was smooth sailing amid rising tides had a mostly quiet weekend.

That’s how City Engineer Brenda Derring described it Sunday, April 7, noting there weren’t any big problems that popped up as the Red River inched toward its estimated crest of 35 feet.

“At these levels, we don’t need to do any sandbagging,” she said.

The Red in Fargo was 34.6 feet deep as of 4 p.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. That’s well below the 2009 record of 40.8, but the depth still put the stream above the major flood level.

The rising waters tested Fargo’s flood wall for the first time. The river in city limits crept up toward the bottom of bridges, overtaking low roads and pathways. City crews from Moorhead and Fargo spent the weekend inspecting and maintaining flood protection measures.

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Residents could be seen Sunday walking along bridges and sidewalks near the flood walls in Fargo as they tried to catch a glimpse of the rising water. People stopped by the Moorhead Center Mall to take photos of flooded areas nearby, and some stood from atop the parking ramp to get an overhead view.

A tough winter with above-normal snow prompted meteorologists to warn the public much of the Red River Valley could see moderate to major flooding, especially in rural areas. There was a 5 percent chance the Red in Fargo could have broken the 2009 record, but a slow melt and limited precipitation since late March lowered the anticipated crest levels. Now the Red will have to get to 35 feet in Fargo in order to break the top 10 list for river crests.

Overland flooding in Cass and Clay counties has closed roads, especially north of West Fargo and near Harwood, N.D. Water was close to Interstate 29 in north Cass as the Sheyenne River in Harwood hit 91.3 feet on Sunday, inches from its anticipated crest of 91.5 feet and less than a foot below the 1997 record crest of 92 feet.

Some residents were slated to be cut off from services as high waters overtook roads.

The Sheyenne is expected to level out in Harwood over the week and likely won’t start to go down until late this week, according to the weather service. Cass County officials asked residents on Friday to make their final preparations to protect their property.

With almost all of the snow melted, the Red in Fargo likely will begin to go down by late Monday, April 8, or early Tuesday, April 9, according to the weather service. As that happens, overland flooding should pull back in the coming days, weather service meteorologist Greg Gust said.

“As the Red River recedes, that water should go with it,” he said.

Rivers have started to recede in some parts of southeast North Dakota and west-central Minnesota. The Buffalo River near Dilworth, Minn., had dropped more than 3 feet since Thursday afternoon, and the Red River near Hickson, N.D., and in Wahpeton, N.D., were trending down as of Sunday, according to the weather service.

Rivers in northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota will start to rise toward the flood stages, if they haven’t already. For most, it’s too early to tell when the crest will happen, especially for rivers close to the Canadian border, Gust said.

There are several chances for rain this week, including a storm that could move into southeast North Dakota and southern Minnesota, the weather service. That could bring snow or rain, but that shouldn’t impact the Red much since it is coming in after the crest, Gust said.

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