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Red River in Grand Forks on track to crest at 48 feet by weekend

The cities of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks closed the Sorlie Bridge on DeMers Avenue on Monday. At the time of this photo Wednesday afternoon, the Red River had climbed to 45.92 feet. Lee Smalt and Cody Rogness / Click Content Studios 1 / 2
A loader operator for RJ Zavoral and Sons builds an earthen levee in East Grand Forks near the Point Bridge and Louis Murray Bridge in an effort to keep the Murray Bridge open past the projected crest later this week. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service2 / 2

GRAND FORKS — Views of the Red River from above show the spreading waterway reaching nearly to the Sorlie Bridge and well beyond its banks to the east and west.

The good news is that a massive storm brewing to the south is only expected to skirt the northern Red River Valley and probably won’t add much to the floodwaters, according to the National Weather Service.

Early estimates show Grand Forks may get between 3 and 4 inches of snow, although it could be significantly more or less. Devils Lake could see less than an inch.

Some places in northern South Dakota could see as much as 30 inches of snowfall.

National Weather Service meteorologist Amanda Lee said the snow could cause prolonged high-water levels in the Red River but that it won’t have an immediate impact on current river levels. Liquid amounts from the snowfall are expected to contribute about a quarter to half an inch to flooding, according to the weather service.

“If we were getting this amount of precipitation as rain it would be a different story,” Lee said. “Rivers would rise or continue rising again much quicker, but with it being snow, it’ll take a little longer to get in the river system. We might see some additional rises in places where it has already crested, like Wahpeton and Fargo areas; they might rise again a little bit, but probably not as high as they were.”

River updates

The Red River was at 45.92 feet Wednesday afternoon in Grand Forks, and is expected to crest at 48 feet by the weekend. The record in Grand Forks is 54.35 feet in 1997. Major flood stage is considered 46 feet.

As the river rose, two of the city’s three bridges closed, leaving only the Kennedy Bridge connecting Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. On Wednesday, the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Office sent out a press release to remind citizens the Red River is closed for public boating because the high water, ice jams and debris make it unsafe.

Several roadways are closed in the area, and the release said driving around barricades could result in a $250 fine.

The Red River crested in Fargo at 35.03 feet Monday and was at 34.2 feet Wednesday.

The Red River at Oslo was at 37.33 feet Wednesday and is expected to reach 38 feet by the weekend. If the river rises more than expected, it could break the 38.4 foot record set in 2009.

At Pembina, the river was at 39.3 feet and is predicted to reach 50.9 feet by the middle of next week.