Flood Watch On Along Red River

The cresting Red River is menacing riverside communities, including Fargo, N.D. But a revised National Weather Service forecast stirs optimism that the high water won't be as devastating as has been feared.

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jacki Lyden. The images we've seen the last few days are striking: houses protected by makeshift dikes looking like islands separated by a frozen sea. There is good news today for the folks battling to save their homes along the Red River in North Dakota and Minnesota.

The National Weather Service says the river may have crested and won't rise as high as previously thought. To start today's show, we'll talk to several people along the river.

First up, NPR's David Schaper. You're on a bridge, David, between Fargo, North Dakota, and Moorhead, Minnesota. How's it look from there?

DAVID SCHAPER: Well, I'm looking at water that is rushing underneath, just inches beneath the deck that I'm standing on. And the water level is at a record high level. It's over 40 feet. But the National Weather Service says that the levels have now stabilized.

Nobody here is willing to call it a crest just yet. They've seen this happen before, where the levels have stabilized, and then they've risen a couple of days later.

LYDEN: What's the operation look like now?

SCHAPER: Well, the operation doesn't consist of the sandbagging operations that we saw earlier in the week. Pretty much, it's wait, watch and respond.

LYDEN: Would you remind us, David, how this flooding all got started?

SCHAPER: Well, the flooding actually, it started because of a very wet fall, and there was so much water in the ground when the deep freeze set in for winter that all of that just started melting. And it's one of those few rivers that actually flows from the south to the north.

So, the melting and the runoff begins in the south, and much of the water goes into the river system before it is fully thawed, and there's still ice up in Canada. This flows into Lake Winnipeg, up to the north. So, there's not a lot of places for the river water to go, and this is also an extremely flat area.

So, instead of just flowing up north, when there's a problem, when the river gets too high, it looks for other places to go, and it just goes far and wide.

LYDEN: NPR's David Schaper, standing over the Red River in Fargo, North Dakota. Thanks David, and stay dry and warm.

SCHAPER: Thank you, Jacki.

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