FARGO, North Dakota (AP) -- The Red River crested at Fargo and began receding, but many property owners were still struggling with overflowing tributaries and water-covered roads.

Flooding from the Sheyenne and Maple rivers cut off all road access to the farm where Matt Smith and his parents raise show horses. BNSF Railway came to the rescue, hauling in 20 bags of pine shavings to serve as bedding for 10 horses.

"The railroad is our only way in and out," Smith said Wednesday. "In the bad flood of 1997, we walked the railroad tracks into town and rented a condo for three months."

Melting snow and heavy rain pushed the Red River above its banks this spring, leaving farms under water and causing anxiety along the river that runs north along the Minnesota-North Dakota line.

The river crested Tuesday in Fargo at just over 37 feet, two feet shy of the 1997 flood, the city's worst in a century.

By Thursday morning, it had crested at Grand Forks, a city 75 miles to the north that had been devastated by the 1997 flood. The river's overnight crest there was 47.8 feet, about 20 feet above flood stage but not high enough to top the new levee, the National Weather Service said.

At least two houses in Fargo and one in nearby Moorhead, Minnesota, were lost to flooding this week, officials said. Water from the Sheyenne River was 3 to 4 inches deep on some parts of Interstate 29 north of Fargo. And in surrounding Cass County, the flooding had already caused an estimated $1 million in damage to roads and bridges.

The National Weather Service warned that the water would remain high into the coming week as it slowly recedes, and continuing rain could prolong flooding in some areas.

In Minnesota, the Red and Wild Rice rivers crept up on Hendrum, a small town about 30 miles north of Fargo. Workers pumped away water that seeped through the levee that forms a square around the town.

The Wild Rice River was expected to crest there at 32.6 feet Thursday morning. Hendrum's levee -- raised after the 1997 flood -- protects the town to 36.8 feet.

National weather outlook

A low-pressure system moving eastward through the Plains on Thursday could bring more severe thunderstorms and tornadoes to the region, forecasters said.The central Plains and the upper Mississippi Valley were expected to receive rain, while Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas were at the highest risk for severe weather.

The heaviest rain was to progess gradually into the Ohio Valley in the late afternoon and early evening.

As the storm moves out into the Plains, westerly winds were expected to increase. Combined with low humidity, the winds were to create another day of high fire danger.

Light to moderate snow was forecast from the central to the northern Rockies.

The West Coast was expected to be dry Thursday, but another Pacific storm was to move into the region late Friday.

The warmest temperatures were forecast for the southern Plains and Southeast, with highs rising into the 70s, 80s and 90s. The Northeast was expected to be in the 40s and 50s, while the northern Rockies were to be in the 30s and 40s.

Temperatures in the Lower 48 states Wednesday ranged from a low of 10 degrees at Embarrass, Minnesota, to a high of 98 degrees at Laredo, Texas.