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Fargo: Officials preach vigilance

FARGO -- Colder temperatures took some of the heat off Fargo-Moorhead's flood situation Friday, as the National Weather Service lowered its crest prediction from 38 feet to 37.5 feet.

FARGO -- Colder temperatures took some of the heat off Fargo-Moorhead's flood situation Friday, as the National Weather Service lowered its crest prediction from 38 feet to 37.5 feet.

The revision came as an extra confidence boost for local officials already feeling good about the metro area's chances of riding out the crest, expected to hit Sunday or early Monday.

"Now we just need to finish the job and finish out strong," Moorhead City Manager Michael Redlinger said.

Fargo's Timberline subdivision rushed to make a last-minute fix when a storm sewer drain succumbed to water pressure. Residents and volunteers placed an estimated 15,000 sandbags to tie off the neighborhood's levies.

Otherwise, F-M officials remained in monitoring mode, making sure clay and sandbag dikes held firm against the Red, which stood at 35.8 feet at 4:15 p.m. Friday.

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Fargo stood ready with 250,000 sandbags in heated storage, and Moorhead with 50,000. The National Guard also stationed eight rapid response teams in Fargo and three in Moorhead, each with 2,000 sandbags on a flatbed truck, in case of breakouts.

High river levels are expected to persist through next week. Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said residents must be diligent in their efforts, particularly in watching sandbag levees on private property.

"We are still in harm's way, in my opinion, until the river gets down to 30 feet, which is major flood stage," he said.

Redlinger asked Moorhead residents not to remove sandbag levees after the crest, just in case the river rises quickly again.

In Cass County, overland flooding is expected to continue "until the mighty Red lowers" and the Sheyenne can empty north of Fargo, County Administrator Bonnie Johnson said.

Officials stressed safety, particularly on waterlogged roads that cut off access for some residents near Harwood, Hickson and areas close to the Red.

Sheriff Paul Laney said air boats are staged and ready to go. The U.S. Custom and Border Patrol planned reconnaissance missions to aid in reaching isolated residents.

Laney also warned that, under federal statute, sightseers could be arrested and fined up to $32,000 for boating on the Red River during the flood.

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"We will certainly deal with it if you're out there," Laney said.

Flooding forced Clay County to close Wall Street, a main road through Oakport Township. That left County Road 93, which only has one lane open, as the sole access road into the township, and that road also will close once flood levels reach 37 feet, Sheriff Bill Bergquist said.

After touring the area, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty praised local officials for preparing for what he anticipates to be a "very manageable flood."

Friday's below-freezing temperatures locked up runoff in fields and helped to slow the rise of the Red and its tributaries, said Greg Gust, warning coordination meteorologist for the weather service in Grand Forks.

"It's pretty ideal," he said of the recent weather.

The weather service expects a second crest above flood stage on the Sheyenne River in Valley City and points downstream in April, but not on the Wild Rice River or Red River in Fargo, though those rivers will swell some as spring thaw occurs, Gust said.

"However, if a big April rain event were to occur while the ground is still frozen, we could still get a secondary flood crest," he said.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are owned by Forum Communications Co.

Related Topics: 2010 FLOODSRED RIVER
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