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Snow, rising waters usher in spring in parts of Midwest

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Spring delayed by snowstorm
  • Red River waters forecast to rise another foot this weekend in Minnesota, North Dakota
  • State of emergency declared in Oklahoma in anticipation of snow storm, governor's office says
  • Meteorologists forecast 2 to 6 inches in the Texas, Oklahoma panhandles through Saturday

(CNN) -- A snow storm on the first day of spring could drop several inches this weekend from New Mexico to Missouri, while farther north, Minnesota and North Dakota brace for the rising waters of the Red River.

The waters of the Red River are forecast to rise another foot this weekend, testing the more than a million sandbags stacked as a defensive barrier along Fargo, North Dakota, and Moorhead, Minnesota. Waters had reached 36.8 feet -- just two-tenths short of cresting level -- by Saturday night, the National Weather Service reported. The river had reached flood stage at 18 feet and major flood stage at 30 feet.

The river is expected to crest Sunday, about 3 feet below last year's record flood level of 40.8 feet. Last year, there were 10 reports of property damage, Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said Saturday. There have been no reports of property damage associated with the recent river rising, he said.

More than 700,000 sandbags were guarding Fargo, and the National Guard was deployed to help in the city and surrounding Cass County on Friday.

The flooding began last week when warmer weather and rain melted snow south of Fargo and Moorhead, causing the Red River to swell. Upstream, snow and ice have yet to melt, pushing water back toward the two cities. Near one area of the river bank in Moorhead, a mound of packed snow several inches high sat across from a flooded and impassable underpass.

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The waters are expected to start receding Monday afternoon, but Walaker said he plans to keep Fargo's sandbags in their places through next week as a precautionary measure.

"Right now, I feel that all the dikes, sandbags and earthen dikes should stay in place until we at least get it down to 30 feet and if its continuing to go down we can start the process," he said. "But I would hate to see us move because of the quick change in the weather. I mean it doesn't take much to bounce us back ... just a weather front moving in with significant precipitation."

The Weather Service forecasted the waters to recede to 32 feet by next Saturday.

Farther south, the Plains are dealing with another severe weather threat.

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry called for a state of emergency on Friday in anticipation of the coming snow storm, according to the governor's office. Ten to 14 inches of snow could fall from northeast Oklahoma to northwest Arkansas, the Weather Service said. The Tulsa metro area could see 5 to 9 inches of snow.

By Saturday night, snow accumulations had reached up to 7 inches in some areas and had slowed down operations at Will Rogers World Airport. Freezing fog and snow have caused delays of at least an hour and several flight cancellations, the airport announced in a news release. Continental Airlines canceled all departures and four arrivals, according to the statement.

A ski resort in New Mexico's Santa Fe County received 21 inches, the largest snowfall total from the storm in the state, according to the weather service. Other parts of the county saw half an inch or less, while 15 inches dropped over Rociada, which lies on the east side of the Santa Fe National Forest.

More than 6 inches of snow had already fallen in Lawrence, in northeast Kansas, the weather service reported. Seven inches of snow was tallied about 120 miles northeast in Conception Junction, Missouri.

From southeast Kansas to western Missouri, 4 to 8 inches of snow are expected through Sunday, the Weather Service said. Meteorologists forecast 2 to 6 inches in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles through Saturday afternoon. Wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour could cause whiteout conditions on roads, the Weather Service said. Snow drifts higher than 2 feet could also occur.