The Hot Beat


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

Night time dike patrol in south Fargo

Jon and I spent the evening with Neil Litton, an old friend of WMT’s Bob Bruce who showed us around on Thursday afternoon.

Litton and his family live 500 feet from a creek bed called Drain 27. In normal times, it joins Rose Creek a little further east and flows into the Red River a little over a mile away.

Tonight Drain 27 is broad as a river, on both sides contained only by dikes made with sandbags and HESCO baskets.

The neighborhood — like most neighborhoods in Fargo — has banded together to monitor the dike 24 hours a day. There’s a sign-up sheet hanging on someone’s back deck, where people can volunteer for a two hour shift checking for seepage and breaches. The sheet is full until Tuesday, when only one slot is open, from 2 to 4 a.m.

Litton guided us out to where the dike winds through the woods behind his development. We took flashlights. Heavy equipment beeped and scraped in the distance. It was 12 degrees and steam drifted off the water.

We ran into the people patrolling, a couple that was walking the dike from west to east. The caked mud along the sandbag wall was rutted and frozen. We only found a couple spots where the water trickled under the dike.

We noticed that the water, with thin slabs of ice floating on the surface, was flowing backwards. It was flowing away from the Red River toward the west, the surest sign that the Red is yet to crest. When creeks — coulees, as they call them here — begin to flow toward the river again, Fargo residents will breathe a sigh of relief. Until then, they’re watching the dikes.

“Just like we spent all that time putting the dike up, we work together to keep monitoring it,” said Tracee Buethner, who was patrolling the dike.

She was worried not that the water would top the dikes, but that the added pressure of another foot of water — the Red is at 40.8 feet and the projected crest is 42 feet — would breach dikes in some places.

Water was flowing over the bridge at 40th Avenue S, and piles of clay blocked water and the road on both sides.

The clay for such dikes is coming from the soccer fields at Centennial Elementary School, just down 40th Avenue. Endloaders, excavators and backhoes had turned the fields into a giant crater. It was like something from science fiction — the white lights of the heavy equipment, the steam rising from the clay and the homes and elementary school in the background.

Filed under: Flood, , , ,

One Response

  1. jane says:

    Thanks for your blog. BEing out of town and still having family in the area, it has been difficult to get info out of the area. National media is updating only 1x or 2x a day and often with footage or details that are no longer current. Bloggers are filling in the gaps with first-hand info of what it’s like there on the front lines. Really appreciate you taking the time. I’m sure everyone is both mentally and emotionally exhausted at this point.

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