Flooding closes 30-mile stretch of I-29 north of FargoThis community just north of Fargo was the scene of two water rescues Sunday as flooding in the area forced the closing of 31 miles of Interstate 29 and prompted officials in nearby Harwood and Casselton to the southwest to halt water use. Open the article or use the accompanying links to see video of the flooding on Interstate 29 and in the Harwood, N.D., area.
By: Dave Olson , Forum Communications
ARGUSVILLE, N.D. — This community just north of Fargo was the scene of two water rescues Sunday as flooding in the area forced the closing of 31 miles of Interstate 29 and prompted officials in nearby Harwood and Casselton to the southwest to halt water use.
The North Dakota Department of Transportation on Sunday afternoon closed I-29 between exits 69 and 100 until further notice after several inches of water began coursing over the highway between mile markers 72 and 84.
A detour sent traffic through Casselton and Blanchard between Cass County Road 20 just north of Fargo and North Dakota Highway 200 just south of Hillsboro. The detour is about 33 miles longer than the stretch of interstate it replaces.
Before the highway was closed early Sunday evening, the flooding was causing an hour delay for northbound traffic, according to Bob Walton, district engineer for the department of transportation.
The expanse of water in the area reminded one highway official of Devils Lake:
“As far as you can see, it’s water,” said Bruce Nord, maintenance superintendent for the transportation department.
Nord said the stretch of highway hasn’t experienced flooding conditions since the early 1970s. The affected portion of the interstate had been rebuilt in recent years, but not raised.
Nord warned that the interstate in this area could be closed for several days.
Casselton officials issued a plea Sunday afternoon asking residents to stop using water, as the city’s sanitary sewer system was backing up due to heavy inflows into the system.
The situation was similar in Harwood, where residents were also being asked to restrict water use due to sewer problems.
Casselton and Harwood resident were told to make sure sump pumps were discharging outside and not into the sanitary sewer.
Casselton officials also warned that the detour resulting from the closure of I-29 would be sending additional traffic through town.
Overland flooding caused widespread problems in Cass County on Sunday.
County officials reported that at least 60 miles of county roadways were impassable.
The cost of repairing the roads will likely be high, according to Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who spoke at a news conference in Fargo.
“It doesn’t take long to add up to millions in damages,” Dalrymple said.
Cass County Administrator Bonnie Johnson said overland flooding on county roads is expected to be an issue for at least the next week.
“Our advice as it’s always been is, ‘Turn around, don’t drown,’” she said.
The North Dakota National Guard and the Cass County Sheriff’s Office conducted two flood rescues near Argusville Sunday.
In one, a woman called authorities to report that her son, Jordan Richards, was trapped in a tractor stuck on County Road 4 near Argusville.
Cass County boat teams located the tractor and all of its occupants were transported to safety.
The sheriff’s office was called about 3:30 p.m. to 2551 173rd Ave. S.E. in rural Argusville on a report of a dike that broke.
Five people, ranging in age from 10 to 57, as well as a dog, were safely evacuated by Cass County airboats.
Meanwhile, three teens who were feared missing in the flood were found safe Saturday night.
Concerned parents of the teens from Fargo, West Fargo and Casselton contacted the Cass County Sheriff’s Office when they hadn’t heard from the boys, said Sheriff Paul Laney.
The teens, who were attending the Casselton prom, were found safe.
“They just weren’t where they were supposed to be,” Laney said.
The Sheyenne River reached flood stage in Valley City Sunday when it topped 15 feet shortly before noon and the river was expected reach 18 feet by this morning, due to increased releases from Bald Hill Dam.
Main Street in Valley City was closed between Fifth Avenue and Central Avenue Sunday night.
“At the projected river level of 17.5-18 feet, it will be necessary to close major storm sewer gates in that area and install pumps to move water from the storm sewer into the Sheyenne River to prevent flooding inside the emergency levee system,” City administrator Jon Cameron said.
Valley City saw a record crest of 20.69 feet in 2009.
A spokesman for the National Guard said guard members would start moving into Barnes County and Valley City early this week.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was working Sunday to beef up the permanent dike around the city of Perley, Minn., about 22 miles north of Fargo and Moorhead.
It was expected rising floodwaters will stop level with the levee’s top, so 2 feet of freeboard was being added as a precaution, said Norman County Sheriff Jeremy Thornton.
Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said Sunday the city’s flood defenses were in good shape, but he warned that people still need to keep watch for any problems with dikes.
Officials said residents were apparently getting the message about discharging their sump pumps outdoors instead of into the sanitary sewer system, as Fargo’s wastewater plant saw inflows drop by 6 million gallons between Saturday and Sunday.
Moorhead’s wastewater treatment system remained under stress Sunday from high flows apparently caused by homeowners continuing to discharge sump pumps into floor drains, City Manager Michael Redlinger said.
Mayor Mark Voxland has said if the wastewater treatment plant’s overloading problem becomes too severe, it could cause sewers to back up.
On the plus side, Moorhead’s network of dikes appeared to be in good shape Sunday, and there were no reports of problems, Redlinger said.
The Minnesota National Guard will be conducting a training exercise in Moorhead starting about 10 a.m. today.
The Guard’s quick response force will place about 2,500 sandbags between an existing clay levee on 40th Avenue south and higher ground immediately next to the levee.
Except for local traffic, no driving was being allowed on county or township roads in Ransom County Sunday, as sightseer traffic was taking a toll on flooded roadways, Sheriff Darren Benneweis said.
“They’re getting chewed up,” Benneweis said, adding that if people are caught driving on a closed road they face getting a ticket.
He said the city of Sheldon, N.D., remains threatened with flooding, though no additional volunteers are needed today.
Benneweis said that situation could change, however.
Dam flows boosted
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Sunday it was increasing outflows from White Rock Dam, which is part of the corps’ flood-control project at Lake Traverse, near Wheaton in southern Minnesota.
The increase in outflows was to continue until the maximum of 6,000 cubic feet per second is reached sometime today.
The corps operating plan dictates that dam gates be open when the pool reaches an elevation of 981 feet.
Lake Traverse forms part of the headwaters of the Red River.
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