- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Fargo was back in business Wednesday, as shops reopened and residents began the unpleasant process of cleaning muck and hauling waterlogged furniture from homes swamped by the retreating Red River.

Streets were packed with motorists returning to work and other aspects of daily life as the Red dropped below the top of permanent floodwalls.

“Our word for the day is restore and recharge,” Mayor Dennis Walaker said.

Forecasters said the river could rise again when more snow melts but future crests weren’t expected to approach the levels feared during the weekend, when the river reached a record 40.82 feet early Saturday. Walaker said the city had no immediate plans to remove roughly 3 million sandbags, a pile added after forecasters predicted the Red would crest above flood levels.

Across the river in Moorhead, Minn., Roger Degerman snapped on rubber gloves and hauled away couches, toys and carpeting after water came up through the sewers and wiped out his basement. He estimated the damage would soar above his $10,000 flood insurance policy.

“We lost the basement. The neighbors across the street lost their home,” he said. “The reality of all this will not sink in for awhile.”

South of Fargo, Cass County officials began assessing the damage in neighborhoods where about 50 homes were protected only by rings of sandbags. County engineer Keith Berndt said, so far, about half of the homes appeared to have damage ranging from sewage backup to flooded basements to water on the main floor. Others, he said, were dry.

“I’m amazed that some of the homes didn’t get wet,” Berndt said. “Some of those people went up against unbelievable odds.”

In Oxbow, Bob Liebelt spent Wednesday pumping 10 feet of sewage and river water from the basement of the “dream house” that the 66-year-old bought with his wife three years ago. Floodwaters ruined two bedrooms, a bathroom and game rooms, and soggy mattresses and leather chairs were left piled atop one another.

“You build the dikes and man the pumps _ and then you still lose,” said Liebelt, who had spent 48 hours fighting the flood before evacuating. “I’d move in a heartbeat if they offered to buy me out.”

Tammy McRae returned to her Moorhead home and found water and river silt in two bottom floors of her four-level home. The river had flowed past the 5-foot dike her family had built, just as they had three other times when water threatened their home in the last 12 years.

This time, she said, they lost.

She said the family had no choice but to clean up the mess, because they had no insurance and the home represented the family’s savings.

“We just got to do it,” she said. “Got to fix her up. This house is what we’ve got.”

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On the Net:

Red River at Fargo water levels: http://sn.im/enwgc

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