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No firm crest prediction yet as Fargo flood fight set to begin

FARGO - Sandbagging efforts will begin here today as city leaders want to build levees up to 40 feet to prepare for a river crest late next week between 38 and 40 feet.

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...

FARGO - Sandbagging efforts will begin here today as city leaders want to build levees up to 40 feet to prepare for a river crest late next week between 38 and 40 feet.

The Red River is expected to hit 38 feet Thursday, according to an updated forecast released by the National Weather Service on Thursday afternoon.

The new seven-day forecast said the crest of the river is still more than a week away.

The prediction hydrograph that accompanies the new outlook appears to show the rises in the river flattening out at 38 feet, but forecasters warn that heavy rains Tuesday or Wednesday could still bump that up to 40 feet.

Though it would be the fifth-largest flood on record in Fargo, the 38-foot crest city officials are planning for requires a relatively tame flood fight effort.


Building to 40 feet of protection requires just 100,000 bags to protect about 55 homes, said Nathan Boerboom, a division engineer for Fargo. Around 1,000 student volunteers will start placing bags at 9 a.m.

"We're hoping by 1:30 p.m., all the sandbagging efforts will be done," Boerboom said.

The Red was at 18.49 feet at about noon Thursday, crossing into the flood stage of 18 feet. It is predicted to hit 32.7 feet Monday, 35.9 feet Tuesday, and 37.5 feet Wednesday, the outlook says.

The record flood of 40.84 feet was set in 2009. A crest of 38 feet is about a foot lower than 2011 and about a foot higher than 2010.

Crews are expected to begin building tonight the northern part of a 42-foot earthen dike along Second Street North downtown here, a familiar landmark in flood fights. It will run from First Avenue North to Sixth Avenue North.

Boerboom said Second Street could be closed by 2 p.m. today to prepare for the dike, but city officials would decide on that for certain by a flood preparation briefing this morning.

Construction on the north side of the dike could be delayed until Saturday morning, when the city plans to build the southern portion, which runs in front of the Fargo High Rise.

The First Avenue North bridge should be closed by Monday.


City officials decided Wednesday night to protect the city up to 40 feet. Sandbag deployment finished Wednesday with enough bags delivered across Fargo to protect to at least 41 feet. Neighborhoods on the city's north side received enough bags earlier in the week to protect to 43 feet, before a lowered crest forecast was issued.

The flood-prone Oakcreek neighborhood in south Fargo will receive sandbags Saturday, and the city will be putting a call out to adjacent neighborhoods for help in building sandbag levees there, Boerboom said. A temporary earthen dike should be finished there this weekend.

'A big wooshing sound'

Across the Red River Basin, overland flooding is expecting to begin today and through the weekend as overnight temperatures are predicted to stay above freezing, bringing the first blast of spring weather, said Greg Gust, a warning coordination meteorologist for the weather service.

"There's going to be a big whooshing sound out there," Gust said.

The warm-up will also cause the Sheyenne River to begin flowing, forecasters said. In Harwood, it's expected to hit 890 feet by Wednesday, but that's still below the major flood stage of 891 feet, said Mark Ewens, a weather service meteorologist.

The record in Harwood was set at 892.02 feet in 1997, and floods in 2009, 2010 and 2011 have all hit 891 feet. While 890 is fairly close to those record amounts, Ewens said a foot or two makes all the difference in Harwood.

"It's going to be a relatively manageable flood," he said. "The terrain is so flat that a foot and a half can really spread out over a large area."


The Sheyenne River in Kindred is expected to hit 17 feet by Sunday. Moderate flood stage there is 19 feet. It was at 7 feet on Thursday afternoon.

Cass County Administrator Keith Berndt urged residents along the Sheyenne to keep an eye on the forecasts. He said many of them are well prepared, having experienced significant flooding for several consecutive years there. He said the county will monitor the overland flooding.

"We'll be prepared if there are isolated areas that we need to respond to, but overall things are looking really positive," he said.

More than 100,000 sandbags have been deployed countywide, and delivery will continue through Saturday. Levee work on Forest River Road and 76th Avenue South will continue today.

A crest between 36 and 38 feet is expected early next week on the Red River at Hickson, forecasters said. The Red there should rise to 37 feet by Tuesday, then drop 35.8 feet by Thursday.

Major flood stage along the Red in Hickson is 38 feet. Moderate flood stage is 34 feet. A crest of 37 feet would be the fourth-largest in recorded history. The record was set in 2009 at 39.04 feet.

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