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The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him: adam.belz@gazcomm.com

Crest may rise to 43 feet, things getting dire

The latest Red River crest prediction — up to perhaps 43 feet by Saturday — shook Fargo residents who thought their week of non-stop sandbagging had protected their homes from flooding.

“Beginning of the week they were talking about 39 to 41, and 41 is a record,” Neil Litton, of south Fargo, said.

The new National Weather Service prediction, issued at 5:15 p.m. Thursday, raised the crest by at least a foot to 42 feet. The river could stay at that level for five days.

City officials are asking residents to raise the dikes — which were built with clay and sandbags to 43 feet — another foot.

“We have 24 hours to go another foot, and that is our goal,” said Fargo Deputy Mayor Tim Mahoney.

The City Commission last night considered banning travel on some major arterial routes through town.

Early Thursday afternoon, Litton stood next to the Rose Creek Golf Course in heavily-populated South Fargo and said he was confident. The course was a lake, with geese swimming in it, but a chest-high wall of sandbags and clay separated the water from homes along the fairway.

Just an hour later, with fresh news of the higher crest prediction, Litton and his neighbor were worriedly discussing whether to sandbag their homes or plug their drains.

While Grand Forks, N.D., further downstream and 80 miles to the north, rested easy last night behind a 63-foot, $417 billion flood protection system, Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker pleaded for more sandbag volunteers and urged exhausted crews to continue to raise the dikes.

A 43 foot crest would eclipse the 1897 record level of 40.1 feet in Fargo and the 39.57 feet reached during the devastating 1997 flood. It would threaten dikes like the one built along the Rose Creek Golf Course.

Authorities used airboats, helicopters and large military trucks to rescue dozens of trapped residents in the North Dakota towns of Oxbow and Abercombie south of Fargo.

Fargo is handling its flood in one of the same ways Cedar Rapids plans to handle floods before its flood protection system is built — Hesco wire baskets, which are filled with sand by an endloader and can raise a levee several feet. The city is building contingency dikes through neighborhoods to protect the city in case another dike fails.

But in many ways, the flood here is different from the disastrous Cedar Rapids in June. It’s winter in Fargo. Eight inches of snow are on the ground, temperatures dropped into the teens last night, a steady, cold wind blew and roads were slick throughout town.

Also, the city of 92,000 is nearly flat, and threaded with creeks that are as much of a flood threat as the Red River. Huge sections of the city would flood if one of the dikes failed, and wealthy neighborhoods, such as homes along the golf course, are foten most at risk.

“Unlike the parts of town where you guys lost, these are the high buck houses here,” Neil Litton said.

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2 Responses

  1. Dustin says:

    Be safe out there guys. Great story to cover. Innovative and oh so timely here in CR. Keep up the great work.

  2. Bitter Sweet says:

    Here’s how I was able to watch the level of the Cedar River, when we were flooding. By watch the level of the river I was able to get a lot of personal property packed up and moved out to vehicles. Hope you all stay safe and be careful.

    The National Weather Service Advance Hydrologic Prediction Service. Here’s the link for North Dakota Red River, just pick the city and see the river levels rise or crest.
    http://www.crh.noaa.gov/ahps2/index.php?wfo=fgf

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