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Big snow presents big Fargo flood risk

U.S. weather service issues 90-day outlook

U.S. snowstorms starting in late January and extending through this month have greatly increased the risk of flooding in the Fargo area.

In a forecast Thursday, the U.S. National Weather Service said there is a 60 per cent or greater risk of major flooding along the Red River, from its headwaters near Wahpeton, N.D., to Fargo.

The risk of flooding is far less severe in Grand Forks and moderate in comparison near the Canadian border at Pembina, N.D., the weather service said.

The forecast assessed the risk of flooding in the next 90 days on the U.S. portion of the Red River.

Manitoba will issue its first flood forecast of 2013 on Wednesday, incorporating the latest U.S. data in its calculations. Until now, provincial officials have expressed more concern about the potential for flooding this spring along the Assiniboine River in western Manitoba than about a possible Red River flood.

The U.S. National Weather Service said recent snowfalls in western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota have significantly boosted the flood risk at Fargo, but the agency does not expect the Red to crest near record levels set in 2009.

"I'd say it's a manageable flood at this time," said Mike Lukes, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.

The weather service said there is a fair risk (30 per cent to 60 per cent) of moderate flooding at Grand Forks and a fair risk of major flooding at Pembina.

In an interview, Lukes explained less flooding is expected at Grand Forks compared with Fargo because the river channel is wider there. Flows from the Red Lake River, a Minnesota stream that merges with the Red at East Grand Forks, are expected to be minor.

The risk of flooding rises again at the Canada-U.S. border because of flows from the Pembina River, a tributary of the Red, he said.

Manitoba flood officials declined comment Thursday on the U.S. forecast. A government spokesman said recent snowfalls, soil moisture levels at freeze-up and U.S. river forecasts will all be factored into the province's spring flood outlook on Wednesday.

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