- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 16, 2010

FARGO, N.D. | Police escorted convoys of flatbed trucks carrying piles of sandbags into neighborhoods along Fargo’s Red River on Monday as residents began preparing to keep the looming flood waters out of their homes.

The cities of Fargo in eastern North Dakota and neighboring Moorhead, Minn., were in flood-fighting mode after the National Weather Service bumped up its flood crest forecast because of warm weather and rain. The Red River is expected to crest on Saturday about 20 feet above the flood stage, meaning the rising waters flowing over the river’s banks could threaten nearby houses, roads and parks.

Last year, about 100 homes in the area were damaged and thousands of people were evacuated after the Red River rose above the flood stage for a record 61 days and crested twice. Officials say they are better prepared this year for flooding thanks to earlier sandbagging efforts and the building of stronger levees across the region.

Miles of clay levees, more than 1 million sandbags and portable wall systems will be used to help protect an area of about 200,000 people in Cass County, N.D., and Clay County, Minn. Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said a handful of residents outside the city left their houses mainly because they don’t want to be stranded by overland flooding.

“Everybody has to understand that this is for real,” Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said after a briefing with city and county officials on Monday.

Fargo has mapped out a plan to deliver sandbags over the next three days, starting with the most vulnerable neighborhoods. Sandbagging is expected to kick into high gear on Wednesday, when high school and junior high students will be excused from school to chip in with the flood preparation efforts. The city also asked for 200 National Guard members for help.

“We have 27,000 pieces of property in the city of Fargo alone and they are all vulnerable,” Mr. Walaker said. “We really need volunteers. We really need protection.”

Mr. Walaker said he’s confident the city could handle a crest of 38 feet this year, which is expected to happen on Saturday. Last year, the river crested on March 28 at a record 40.84 feet, nearly 23 feet above flood stage.

“Hopefully on Saturday it’s time for the champagne and lighting the cigars,” he said. “But it’s not the time today.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide