FARGO, North Dakota (Reuters) - The chances for major flooding at many locations along the Red River have grown, including the expectations for crests at Fargo and Grand Forks in North Dakota, the National Weather Service said on Friday.
"This past week has seen a significant amount of additional rain, sleet and snow" in north central North Dakota and the central and southern parts of the Red River basin, the National Weather Service said.
The Red River has a 50 percent chance of cresting in Fargo at 40.5 feet, just short of the record 40.84 feet set in 2009 and 1.7 feet higher than the outlook set three weeks ago, it said.
In Grand Forks, the Red River has about a fifty-fifty chance of reaching a crest of 51.9 feet, about 1.5 feet higher than the March 3 forecast, it said.
The National Weather Service said it sees a 10 percent chance for the Red River crest to exceed the record levels of 1997 when it hit 54.35 feet, but a better than 90 percent chance that this year will be the second highest on record.
Heavy rains last fall left the ground in much of the upper Midwest saturated, followed by heavy winter snowfall that has led to expectations for near record flooding along many major rivers in Minnesota and North Dakota.
Major flooding is a near certainty at most locations along the Red River and expected at many points on tributaries to the river in North Dakota and Minnesota. The river forms a border of those two states and runs north into Canada.
Several Minnesota highways have been closed due to flooding in the Minnesota River valley southwest of Minneapolis with forecasts for many rivers to begin to crest over the next week.
St. Paul officials are making emergency preparations for flooding along the Mississippi River, including moving an impound lot, preparing a temporary flood wall at a smaller airport and closing some roads to build temporary barriers.
A snowstorm hit central and southern Minnesota on Tuesday and Wednesday, adding moisture to the already saturated area, but a cold snap that followed has slowed the thaw. That could cause complications in April, forecasters have said.
(Reporting by Brianna Ehley in Fargo and David Bailey in Minneapolis; editing by Ellen Wulfhorst)