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A Look at the Southern Valley From Above - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

A Look at the Southern Valley From Above

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As folks in the Red River Valley prepare for a possible major flood, Valley News Live takes to the sky to get a look at how much snow is still on the ground right now. 

In Wahpeton there is a 90 percent chance the Red River will hit 15 feet. That is two and a half feet lower than the 2009 level, but any water there eventually has to flow north.

When Valley News Live was in the Wahpeton area, we found places where there is still two to three feet of snowpack.

From the air, we saw cracks in the Red, but it is still mainly frozen. Nearly every field has a heavy amount of snow as well.

Richland County Emergency Management Director Brett Lambrecht says, "There's a little bit of concern in what the melting does here. Thought we'd get rid of a lot of the snow by now and get those streams open, and the culverts and the ditches open, but that hasn't happened."

Richland County is gearing up for a potential flood. The county is hoping to have 5,000 sandbags available when the big melt does come. The National Guard is also on standby.

National Weather Service officials say the favorable spring thaw in eastern North Dakota should continue for the next week.

State and local officials are preparing for what's expected to be major flooding in some areas of the state, especially along the Red River and its tributaries.

The outlook released Thursday by the weather service calls for temperatures to remain about 10 to 15 degrees below normal.

Officials say the combination of daytime highs above freezing and nighttime lows below freezing will cause the snowpack to diminish slowly and not overwhelm the river channels with fast runoff. 

However, the prolonged gentle melt does increase the risk for heavy spring rains. 

The weather service and U.S. Geological Survey says the Red River in Fargo is likely to peak after April 15.

The USGS says stream gauges indicate the Red River has still not begun its spring rise, meaning that the impending flood will be considerably later than the large floods of 2009 and 2011. The 2013 flood likely will be later than the 1997 flood, which was aggravated by an early April blizzard.

Greg Wiche, Director of the USGS North Dakota Water Science Center says the large floods that have hit Fargo occurred in April 1952, 1965, 1969, 1979, and 1997 and crested from April 15 to April 19. Above normal snowpack and cold March temperatures have contributed to this year's late melt.

The most recent outlook predicted a 50% chance of a 38-foot level in Fargo. The National Weather Service is waiting for rivers to open before it provides an update on a crest.

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