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Flood forecast gives 50 percent chance of 38 feet, 10 percent chance of 2009 levels

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FARGO - The Red River here has a 50 percent chance of topping 38.1 feet when it floods this spring and a 10 percent chance of exceeding 40.9, which would top 2009's record-setting crest.

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There is also a 5 percent chance of the Red River rising to 41.3 feet in Fargo during this spring's flood, according to the National Weather Service.

The flood outlook released this morning by the National Weather Service predicts a risk of severe flooding in Fargo that has increased since its last probability-based forecast two weeks ago, when meteorologists said there was a 5 percent chance of the river exceeding 38.2 feet.

Cold and snowy weather in March is driving the increased flood risk, according to the weather service report. Water content of 6 inches is common in the southern Red River Valley basin, south and east of Wahpeton, according to Greg Gust, a weather service meteorologist.

Gust said melting isn't expected until early April, when there's a greatest possibility of a rapid warm-up mixed with hard rains, "a potentially volatile mix."

According to the forecast, the Red River in Fargo has a 95 percent chance of topping 34.2 feet, a 90 percent chance of going over 34.8 feet, a 75 percent chance of exceeding 36.9 feet and a 25 percent chance of hitting 39.1 feet.

Sandbagging begins in Fargo at 37 feet. At 40 feet, 1 million sandbags are needed.

The weather service is holding a news conference about the forecast at 10:30, which will be followed by an 11:45 a.m. news conference at which Fargo officials will talk about their plans for the coming flood fight.

City officials said Wednesday night they will announce plans today to build an additional 500,000 sandbags to add to its existing supply of 750,000 sandbags left over from the 2011 flood.

Check back later today for an update on this developing story.

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