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Grand Forks ready to help Fargo fight flood

The first streams of Red River floodwater that would eventually besiege Grand Forks and damage 83 percent of its homes topped the city's dikes 16 years ago Thursday.

Volunteers fill sandbags in Fargo
Volunteers bag and stack sandbags on pallets at "Sandbag Central" in Fargo, N.D. on Wednesday, April 3, 2013. Three machines were operating Wednesday, and sandbag operation manager Bruce Grubb said each has the ability to produce about 6,000 sandbags an hour. Having gained plenty of unwanted practice in dealing with floodwaters, Fargo kicked off its annual rite of spring Wednesday when hundreds of junior high school students got out of school to help fill sandbags. (AP Photo/Minnesota Public Radio, Natha...

The first streams of Red River floodwater that would eventually besiege Grand Forks and damage 83 percent of its homes topped the city's dikes 16 years ago Thursday.

This year, Fargo residents have filled more than 1 million sandbags in hopes of preventing a similar disaster in their city as the flood forecast points to a record event. Should they need help from Grand Forks, city officials here say they will be there to answer the call.

"Usually we wait until they tell us they need help," said Sharyl Simeone, a public information officer for Grand Forks. Simeone said the cities are in touch, but, so far, Fargo hasn't requested assistance.

Sending help

The latest flood forecast released Wednesday by the National Weather Service advised Fargo residents to prepare for crests in the range of 38 to 42 feet with a 40 percent chance of seeing a new record flood.

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The news prompted Cass County officials to add another 200,000 sandbags, which would bring the county's total reserve, including Fargo, to 1.8 million.

In past years, one of Grand Forks' sandbagging machines has been sent down to Fargo to help with flood fighting efforts, according to Public Works Director Todd Feland.

Called the "spider machine," the contraption has 12 sandbag filling points and takes a six or eight-person crew to keep running while volunteers fill bags.

"It needs a lot of people to keep things going," Feland said. Grand Forks hasn't used the spider since 1997, but the city has sent it to Fargo and Mandan for flood fighting efforts.

The city also owns two machines capable of filling four bags at a time, but they are usually used for Public Works projects instead of flood fighting, he said.

Home-front fight

Grand Forks' flood forecast reports a 50-percent chance of the Red River reaching 49.6 feet this spring. The city's major flood stage is 46 feet. The levees would keep out 60 feet of water, and the floodwalls grant another three feet of protection, though sandbags would be needed to raise the levees to the same level.

Feland said he doesn't think the city will need to make sandbags, but other locations in Grand Forks County might not be so lucky.

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"We're anticipating some residents in the county may need sandbags, but not any within the city limits because of the flood protection system," said County Emergency Manager Jim Campbell.

The Grand Forks County Highway Department will distribute empty sandbags to residents from its location at 1700 N. Columbia Road, Grand Forks. Pickup can be arranged by dialing (701) 780-8248 24 hours a day. The number of bags given will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Call Jewett at (701) 780-1108; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1108; or send email to bjewett@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: RED RIVER
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