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Dave Olson, Published May 20 2013

Rains may swell Red River to minor flood stage

FARGO – Rains that began over the weekend are expected to continue in the Red River Valley through at least tonight, leading to a National Weather Service flood warning for creeks and rivers in the region.

There’s also a chance for spotty, overland flooding.

From late Friday evening through Monday morning, Fargo received 1.44 inches of rain.

As of early today, the Red River had risen to approximately 17 feet.

Based on the current forecast, the Weather Service believes the river could reach minor flood stage of 18 feet sometime tonight early Wednesday and rise as high as 20.1 feet by some time early Friday morning.

However, a Weather Serivce spokesman said there are many variables in play, including ground absorption rates, and it's possible the Red River will not reach the 18-foot stage in Fargo.

In addition to the Red River, rains from the last few days are expected to cause a rise in the Buffalo River in Clay County and the Wild Rice River in Norman County, according to the Weather Service.

Recent weather shows the Red River Valley’s propensity for climatological extremes, said WDAY meteorologist John Wheeler.

“It is pretty amazing how, in our part of the world, you can go from being concerned about a flood, to being concerned about a drought, to being concerned about too much rain again – all inside a few weeks,” Wheeler said.

And while rivers and creeks may rise, Wheeler said the threat from that direction is remote.

On the other hand, he said areas receiving localized heavy rain may experience flash flooding, such as what happened in areas in the region last weekend when 3 to 5 inches fell in spots.

“That’s too much rain for this flat land to handle,” Wheeler said.

In general, though the recent rains should be positive, he said.

“It’s obviously going to put the rest of spring planting back for a while,” Wheeler said, “but trust me, those growers will be glad they got this rain come July, unless the rain just keeps falling, which I doubt that it will.”

The chance for rain in the Fargo area is 80 percent today, 60 percent tonight and 20 percent Wednesday, according to the weather service website.

Bismarck, Dickinson, Jamestown, Minot and Grand Forks all set rainfall records for the day on Sunday, according to weather service reports. Bismarck received 1.45 inches, breaking a record that had stood since 1877.

Grand Forks received 1.37 inches, breaking a record set in 1950; Dickinson received 1.04 inches, breaking a record set in 1983; Jamestown received .99 inch, also breaking a record set in 1983; and Minot received 1.13 inches, breaking a record set in 1994.

Water receded on Interstate 94 near Jamestown early Monday, a day after water about a foot deep reduced vehicle speeds and swept two semitrailers off the road. No injuries were reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555