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Updated Red River Valley conditions

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Updated Red River Valley conditions
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Daytime high temperatures in the 30s and overnight lows in the 20s will slow runoff from the latest round of blizzards that has covered the Red River Valley in 10 to 20 inches of heavy, wet snow.

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The National Weather Service estimates that the new snowfall, which is expected to continue sporadically through today, will produce up to 1.5 inches of water.

"The falling temperatures are good news in an area where they're already dealing with too much water," said Director Kris Eide of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. "It's going to keep the water in the snow pack and away from the Red River for a while."

The river level in Fargo-Moorhead was 37.86 feet late Tuesday afternoon. Weather Service analysts expect it to drop at about one foot per day for the next three or four days and then more slowly through the middle of next week.

The river level is expected to drop to 32 feet by April 9 or 10. But that level remains 14 feet above flood stage and will rise when more seasonal temperatures return and the snowmelt begins, creating a second flood crest of at least 37 feet, which Weather Service analysts anticipate by mid-April.

The more immediate concern is wind-driven waves, which have emergency workers monitoring dikes. Strong northeasterly winds are expected to push ice chunks and waves against dikes on the North Dakota side of the river.

Northwesterly winds predicted for today are expected to create the same problem for Minnesota dikes. The Army Corp of Engineers and State Fire Marshal have emergency workers in place to repair any potential damage.

As of Tuesday, the Fargo-Moorhead area had received 10 inches of snow. Snow is expected to continue through midnight Tuesday, leaving as much as 16 inches of new snow in Fargo-Moorhead and 20-plus inches in Wahpeton, N.D., Breckenridge, Minn., and Fergus Falls, Minn.

Seven Red Cross shelters are open in Minnesota and North Dakota. An independent shelter is available at the Detroit Lakes Armory, and 15 additional Red Cross shelters are on standby. Flood victims looking for a place to stay should contact 866-GET-HELP (438-4357).

Minnesota Department of Transportation, Department of Natural Resources, Army Corps of Engineers, Hennepin County, cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul and local fire departments all have heavy equipment and personnel in the area.

The Minnesota National Guard has almost 700 guardsmen deployed including a new sandbagging effort in Kittson County. The U.S. Coast Guard has 120 personnel on the scene.

The State Fire Marshal has about 300 firefighters from around the state in the area on dike patrol and other duties as needed.

The National Weather Service (NWS) reports that the Red River crest is now past Halstad,Minn., and as of 8:30 a.m. today was approximately 12 miles upstream of East Grand Forks, Minn. The crest is expected to arrive in East Grand Forks within the next 12 to 36 hours.

According to NWS, the recent storm system that moved through the Red River Valley dumped 26 inches of snow in southern Wilkin County, Minn., 20 inches in Breckenridge and 10.5 inches in Moorhead. The 10.5 inches of snowfall in Moorhead contained 1 inch of water.

For the month of March, Fargo-Moorhead set a new record of 28.1 inches of snowfall and 4.62 inches of total precipitation. This precipitation total easily beat the previous record of 2.83 inches in 1997. NWS is assessing the impact of this record precipitation on river levels; currently, the service predicts that river levels in the Fargo-Moorhead area will continue to slowly drop.

The Minnesota National Guard has 547 guardsmen on the ground, with troops currently conducting sandbag operations in Kittson County, Minn., in the areas around St. Vincent and Hallock. In addition, the National Guard has a support presence in Becker, Clay, Norman, Polk and Marshall counties. This support activity includes conducting dike patrols and repairing minor leaks as they are detected.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is working in cooperation with state and local officials to conduct damage assessments for public assistance and individual assistance in the affected Minnesota counties. Public assistance is targeted to governmental agencies and certain non-profit organizations, while individual assistance is targeted to homeowners, renters and small business owners.

To learn more about disaster relief and recovery, and for all public communications regarding flooding, go to www.MinnesotaRecovers.org .

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Pioneer staff reports
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