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Published April 15 2010

Red River level to rise slightly after rainfall

So close, but still so wet.

Just when it appeared the Red River in Fargo-Moorhead might fall below flood stage for the first time since March 13, rainfall earlier this week has the river on the rebound.

The Red hovered at 20.32 feet Wednesday afternoon. Flood stage is 18 feet.

The National Weather Service predicts the river will begin rising today and will reach 21.5 feet before starting to recede again Monday.

Weather service meteorologist Jim Kaiser said heavy rainfall earlier this week in the southern Red River basin – including one report of 3.5 inches near Wyndmere, N.D. – is boosting river levels.

The Wild Rice River near Abercrombie, N.D., was forecast to hit moderate flood stage late today or early Friday, and Antelope Creek also was on the rise. Both rivers empty into the Red River upstream of Fargo-Moorhead.

Abnormally warm, dry weather is helping to dry out the basin. The average monthly temperature for Fargo was 8.3 degrees above normal in March and 9 degrees above normal so far in April through Tuesday, according to the weather service.

But the water table remains extremely high from last fall’s wet conditions, Kaiser said.

“So that’s what we’re dealing with is very wet subsoils keeping these base flows really high, so that when we get one (rain) event like we just did, we see these hiccups” in river levels, he said.

Asked to predict how long it’ll be before the fickle Red River in Fargo drops below flood stage, Kaiser laughed.

“That’ll depend on if we can keep this quiet weather,” he said. “Relatively speaking, we’ve had a quiet, warm spring.”

A slight bump in the Red’s level won’t cause any major problems for the Fargo Park District, said Roger Gress, the district’s executive director.

At 21.5 feet, water would creep onto the No. 2 fairway at Edgewood Golf Course and some campground areas of Lindenwood Park, prolonging the post-flood cleanup process, which is about 70 percent completed, Gress said.

“It’s more of a minor complication,” he said.

Help from Mother Nature is on the way. Kaiser said the seven-day forecast calls for only a slight chance of showers on Monday and Tuesday, with highs in the 60s or near 60.

“What would really help is if we had some crops going to get that moisture out of the ground, because that’ll speed up the process,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528