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Published April 04, 2009, 12:00 AM

McFeely: Walaker’s words sedate flooding panic

The Voice has spoken, and it’s given us this message: Go shopping.

By: Mike McFeely, INFORUM

The Voice has spoken, and it’s given us this message:

Go shopping.

It also said this:

The National Weather Service should’ve kept its trap shut.

Sounding astoundingly confident in his own instincts, Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker reassured residents Friday afternoon that all would be well – even though the weather service announced earlier that the Red River would crest again at near-record levels later this month.

The Voice also took another shot at the weather folks, saying he wished the new river projections could’ve been kept quiet until Monday so folks could enjoy a stress-free weekend.

It was just another remarkable day in a remarkable time in the Red River Valley.

Despite another sky-is-falling prediction that the river had a 90 percent chance of exceeding 40.4 feet in late April, close to exceeding the record crest of 40.82 feet reached a week ago, Walaker is sticking to his unscientific guns that the Red will peak in the 37- or 38-foot range.

“They think it’s possible,” the mayor said of a probable crest of 41 or more feet. “I don’t think it’s possible. I’ve watched this river for a long time and I don’t see the water out there.”

We call Walaker the Voice because folks in the valley have turned to him for reality and reassurance. He played the role perfectly again on Friday, refuting the scientists only hours after their numbers served as a right to the stomach and a left to the jaw for flood-weary residents.

Is it a dangerous game? Possibly, but Walaker has time on his side. The second crest is not coming for at least two weeks, so the mayor is confident in telling people to relax and recharge. He specifically mentioned going to West Acres and a movie.

“It’s not time to panic,” he said.

Walaker clearly wanted the weather service to hold off on its new projection until Monday, to give our frazzled communities and nerves time to feel normal and anxiety-free – at least for a couple of days. The mayor’s heart is in the right place, but suppressing information is a dicey avenue.

“If there is any point I’d like to make … We need to regroup. We need to take some time off,” Walaker said. “We cannot continue this process of doom and gloom.”

Walaker’s credibility is so strong that people will be soothed by his words. They probably will relax this weekend, do some shopping and try their best to forget what the weather service said. Such is the strength of Walaker’s words.

“Everybody needs the weekend off,” he said.

The Voice has spoken. We will listen.

Come Monday, it’s back to reality and science. That 41-foot crest is still out there, the 800-pound gorilla that won’t disappear for three long weeks.


Forum columnist Mike McFeely can be heard from 1 to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or mmcfeely@forumcomm.com. McFeely’s blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/mcfeely

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