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Published December 23, 2011, 12:24 PM

Early Flood Outlook Looks Favorable for Eastern ND

(AP) — Residents in the Red River Valley who have endured three straight major floods may be in for a break, based on the first National Weather Service flood outlook of the season.

By: Associated Press,

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota residents who have taken turns battling major floods the last three years may be in for a break, based on the first National Weather Service flood outlook of the season.

Hydrologist Allen Schlag says the current dry weather and sparse snow cover means only a low chance of flooding in the Missouri, James and Souris river basins in western North Dakota. The same is true for the Red River that separates North Dakota and Minnesota, the weather service said.

"We don't have much snow sitting on the ground so that's a major plus for us at this point for not seeing a lot of spring flooding," Schlag said.

Residents in Fargo and neighboring Moorhead have endured major floods for three straight springs, but last year was devastating for western North Dakota.

The Souris River flooded more than 4,000 homes and businesses in Minot, where the federal disaster assistance has topped $1 billion. Extensive flooding along the Missouri River caused millions of dollars' worth of damage in Bismarck and other communities.

Reservoir levels for the Souris are expected to be at normal drawdown levels before spring, the weather service said.

The outlook shows an 11 percent chance of major flooding along the Red River in Fargo. Flood stage is 18 feet. Major flood stage is 30 feet. The river has gone over 36 feet in each of the last three years, including a record crest of nearly 41 feet in 2009.

The outlook is showing only minor flooding along Red River tributaries.

Schlag warned that several factors could change the picture, including heavy snow, spring rains and ice jams on rivers. "That's the risk," he said.

The next flood forecast is scheduled to be released Jan. 24.

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