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Vigilance is key in today's flood fight in Fargo-Moorhead; Red River's rise beginning to slow

The Fargo, N.D., welcome sign sits in floodwaters while Kent Heckendoft, background, left, assistant flood engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, inspects the levee protecting the downtown from the rising floodwaters of the Red River, Friday, April 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

FARGO - Area residents are waiting and watching today - waiting to see the effects of an expected inch or so of rain on the rivers, and keeping watch over flood protection measures to ensure their integrity.

The catch-phrase at Fargo's morning's press briefing was "vigilance."

"In '09 we really focused on routine," said Andy McLean, a psychiatrist who spoke at the meeting. "This time around, the routine really needs to be vigilance."

By 8:15 a.m. today, the Red River was at 38.71 feet. Its rise appears to be slowing, as the measured level at 7:15 a.m. was 38.72 feet. Friday forecasts originally projected the Red River to be at 39.1 feet by 7 a.m. today.

Official National Weather Service projections still suggest the river could swell almost another foot between now and 1 a.m. tomorrow.

The weather continues to be the source of unpredictability. The National Weather Service predicts the potential of up to an inch of rain throughout the southern end of the Valley. The main threat of heavy rain is south of the Fargo area.

However, officials say they don't expect the rain to cause big increases to rivers, though it will keep river levels high.

Also, if a significant amount of rain does fall, Fargo Enterprise Director Bruce Grubb said the city will encourage water conservation among residents in order to avoid overwhelming the system.

Cass County officials also are continuing to monitor other area rivers, such as the Wild Rice and Maple River.

In particular, there's a lot of flooding north of Fargo and West Fargo, Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said.

It's the "worst they've ever seen it," Laney said.

County Administrator Bonnie Johnson also stressed this morning that many of the county roads continue to be dangerous, and motorists need to use caution.

And because the need for volunteers has been fluxuating, Johnson said people should work directly with FirstLink if they're interested in helping out today.