FARGO — A weather system that could bring snow to some parts of eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota could impact crest levels, the National Weather Service said Monday, March 30.

In the first of daily briefings expected to run out this week, the weather service said rivers in the region could crest later this week. The Red River in Fargo could hit 31 feet on Thursday, April 2, which is much lower than initially expected. Fargo crossed into the moderate flood zone, which starts at 25 feet, on Monday and could rise above the major flood level (30 feet) on Wednesday, April 1.

With that expected crest, Fargo and Moorhead won't have to build emergency levees, city staff said. Fargo has more than 100,000 sandbags that could go to other parts of the state if needed, City Division Engineer Nathan Boerboom said.

“While this is considered major flood stage,” Moorhead City Engineer Bob Zimmerman said in a statement, “31 feet is a very manageable event for our city.”

Rain is expected to move into the area Tuesday, March 31, and could change into snow, lead forecaster Jim Kaiser said. Low temperatures could drop below freezing Tuesday through Thursday, and possibly into the high teens by Friday, April 3, the weather service said.

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“We’re going to see if we’re going to be adding to our snowpack,” Kaiser said.

The Red River as seen Monday, March 30, near Moorhead Center Mall. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum
The Red River as seen Monday, March 30, near Moorhead Center Mall. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

Meteorologists still are looking at models to determine how much snow the region could see. If the precipitation turns into snow, it could add a secondary crest to the forecasts.

Most of the models have rivers across eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota dipping after Thursday, but they do not account for possible precipitation this week, Kaiser said.

Early numbers in January pointed to a top five year for flooding in Fargo. The Red River Valley went into the winter with saturated soil, and heavy snowfall increased the chances of high river levels.

The weather service also relies on other critical factors when issuing early forecasts, such as snowpack.

The first forecast, which used 60 years' worth of data to project the potential for flooding this spring, said Fargo had a 50% chance of making the top 10 list of its record floods with a crest of 35.9 feet, which would have risen above last year’s levels. It also had a 5% chance of almost hitting the 2009 record of 40.8 feet.

But those forecasts improved with a slow melt and little to no additional precipitation, Kaiser said.

“Since then, we have been very dry,” he said. “If we would have been normal … these forecasts that we are looking at would be much higher than what we are looking at right now.

Much of the area surrounding the Red River in North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota is in a flood warning.

Cass County announced Monday it has 115,000 sandbags filled for residents to use. Residents can order bags online at www.casscountynd.gov/our-county/highway/orders or by calling 701-241-8000.

Flood protection could be limited for areas along the Red River that are managed by the Fargo Park District, including the Edgewood Golf Course, district leaders said.