The National Weather Service on Monday lowered the expected crest forecast in Fargo and Moorhead, Minn., to 35.5 feet on Wednesday. That's down from the 37-foot prediction issued Sunday.
Residents have spent the last week building clay levees and sandbag dikes to protect Fargo to 40 feet after an earlier weather service prediction took into account the possibility of rapid snowmelt and steady precipitation.
Instead, forecasters say the conditions are ideal for a gradual melt cycle.
The river topped the 30-foot mark Sunday night. A 35.5-foot flood would be the ninth-highest level, but would cause little damage after recent efforts to build permanent levees and buy out homes in low-lying areas.
Dave Kellenbenz, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, says the late season snow melt has made the river more difficult to predict.
"Folks need to stay diligent," he said. "Folks in this area are very prepared. They know how to handle this high water levels."
Among those prepared: AJ Thapa, a sophomore at Fargo South High School, who was one of the 1,500 students who fanned out around neighborhoods to haul sandbags.
"It's volunteering. It's good to help people," he said.
The Red River has topped major flood stage in Fargo, but is held back by permanent levees. The river topped the 30-foot mark Sunday night, which is 12 feet above the level where the river spills its banks and the point that the National Weather Service considers major flood stage, even though few structures in the city are threatened.
MPR reporter Conrad Wilson contributed to this report.