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Red River to top 1997 level by Thursday night, reach 40 feet early Friday

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FARGO - The Red River, with residents racing against time to build dikes and sandbag to protect cities and homes throughout the region, is now expected to crest a full day earlier than previous predictions.

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"They really need to take this serious," said Greg Anderson, president of Oakport Township north of Moorhead, as he scrambled to brace for rising river levels.

Anderson didn't have much time to chat, but said the new crest prediction is serious.

Oakport Township residents are encouraged to attend a meeting at 7 tonight at the township meeting hall, 1401 28th Ave. N.

The city of Fargo also put out an urgent call for sandbag volunteers to help as a strong weather system bears down on the region. Up to an inch of rain could fall in Fargo tonight.

The latest crest predictions by the weather service show the Red River is expected to surpass the 1997 flood level by 7 p.m. Thursday. The National Weather Service in Grand Forks, N.D., says the river in Fargo is expected to reach 39.7 feet then, topping the 39.57-foot level in 1997.

The river is expected to continue rising, reaching 40 feet at 1 a.m. Friday. The river could stay at the level for several days, and multiple crests could happen, the weather service said.

Previous predictions showed the city had a 50-50 chance of reaching 40 feet between Saturday and April 1.

A warning on the weather service's Web site about the pending storm says:

"This is a very dynamic system, and will have a significant impact to the weather across our region. The amount of rain, the intensity at which this rain falls, the areal coverage and how much of it turns to snow, will all impact the developing flood. Rain falling on the frozen, snow covered ground of the Sheyenne River Valley will run off very quickly; where the snow has melted but the ground, ditches and drainage systems are all still frozen, expect overland flooding to develop."

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