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Published March 28, 2009, 12:20 AM

Dikes in Moorhead take beating as residents flee

In a week wracked by alarm, Moorhead got more of it Friday.

By: Dave Olson, INFORUM

In a week wracked by alarm, Moorhead got more of it Friday.

Early morning phone calls warned residents to evacuate if they lived between Main Avenue and Interstate 94 west of Eighth Street.

It was the second evacuation call in as many days, leaving a large chunk of the city’s southern half under a voluntary evacuation order.

Firefighters and other city workers, National Guard troops and volunteers, all labored Friday to maintain dikes in the face of a possible 42-foot river crest now expected Sunday.

The effort took on urgency Friday evening, when a call went out that a dike at Rivershore Drive and 37th Avenue South gave way.

Major scares

A massive response was launched Friday afternoon, with National Guard trucks hauling loads of sandbags to the stricken dike.

The assistance turned out not to be needed, as firefighters and residents, who had been working on the dikes all day, plugged the breach.

More firefighters were sent to the location to reinforce the dike overnight and into today.

Moorhead officials said it was the most serious of about 10 dike breaks that had occurred as of 8 p.m. Friday

A number was not available for how many people evacuated homes in Moorhead, though it was believed to be substantial, according to city officials.

Mark Rice and his dog, Clover, were among those staying put.

Rice has lived next to the Red River near Horn Park in south Moorhead since 2000. He said after sandbagging in 2001 and again in 2006, he and his wife, Rhonda, decided to fill in their walk-out.

“I was pretty proud of myself and thought I’d never have to do this again. And here we are,” said Rice, who said his house should be good to 41.5 feet.

He said a number of his neighbors also were sticking around, but many left, including several who already had water in their homes Friday morning.

Street battles

Contract workers and volunteers aided city crews in battling floodwater that entered the storm sewer system and pooled on city streets.

In some neighborhoods, sandbag dikes were placed across streets at strategic spots to control the flooding, while also creating routes for traffic.

Street flooding in the Country Club Addition in north Moorhead prompted officials to issue an emergency evacuation for that area Friday evening.

Moorhead Public Service announced late Friday that water service was being shut off to residents north of 28th Avenue North, including Oakport Township, to protect the city’s water system.

A massive sandbagging effort, helped by hundreds of students and other volunteers, got under way early Friday outside Nemzek Hall on the campus of Minnesota State University Moorhead.

The sandbags were destined for infrastructure protection, not homes, as sand was becoming an increasingly rare commodity, said Mark Hintermeyer, a Moorhead city councilman.

With both resources and public patience wearing thin, Hintermeyer said it’s important for people to remember that everyone is doing their best.

The tension is felt, he said, every time information goes out, only to become obsolete within minutes.

Hintermeyer said when someone disseminates information they may believe it to be true, “but it’s going to become overcome by events in a very short time.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

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