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Red could rise above 2009 level: report

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The U.S. National Weather Service has once again revised its flood forecast for the Red River, which now has a greater chance of rising higher than it did in 2009, the second-worst flood of the past 50 years.

Federal meteorologists and hydrologists in North Dakota now say there’s a 40 per cent chance of the Red reaching a record height in Fargo, expecting the river to crest somewhere between 38 and 42 feet in May. The record crest in Fargo, set in 2009, was 40.84 feet.

In Grand Forks, there’s now a 50 per cent chance of the Red rising higher than the 49.86-foot crest achieved in 2011, the highest peak since the 54.35-foot 1997 flood that caused widespread damage. The city now has floodwalls to protect it against a crest of 63 feet.

At Pembina, N.D., which sits across the Canadian border from Emerson, the Red has a 50 per cent chance of exceeding the 2009 flood crest of 52.71 feet. The levee protecting Pembina sits at 57.3 feet.

What this means is Manitoba could expect a Red River flood approaching the scale of 2009 by the time the crest crosses the Canada-U.S. border. In 2009, the Red crested at 22.6 feet James in Winnipeg, requiring several hundred low-lying properties to be sandbagged.

Manitoba flood forecasters are expected to issue a new outlook on Thursday, taking the U.S. information into account. The U.S. forecast includes precipitation expected this coming weekend.

It would be exacerbated by major rains over the next month. The Red is not expected to crest in the United States until mid-May, which raises the possibility Winnipeg’s crest could arrive as late as the Victoria Day long weekend.

During the 1950 flood, the Red did not crest in Winnipeg until May 19.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

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