Clay County to activate 'mock' flood operations center in lead-up to possible flood

Oakport Township residents fill sandbags during the 2009 flood. Parts of Oakport have since been annexed by the city of Moorhead. Forum file photo
Oakport Township residents fill sandbags during the 2009 flood. Parts of Oakport have since been annexed by the city of Moorhead. Forum file photo

MOORHEAD — A "mock" emergency operations center is set to open here on Friday, March 29, Clay County Emergency Management Director Gabe Tweten reported to the Clay County Commission Tuesday, March 19.

The operations center, located in Moorhead's joint law enforcement center, won't fully activate on March 29, Tweten said, but some workers will begin prepping for a potential flood, particularly those that associated with data entry.

He said county officials have been meeting with Moorhead city officials to coordinate any flood fight.

Commissioner Kevin Campbell noted that the city of Moorhead will now be responsible for handling flood protection for parts of Oakport Township that in the past have been prone to flooding and now are part of the city of Moorhead.

Campbell underscored that Wall Street, a major roadway in Oakport, begins to flood when the Red River reaches a stage of 34 feet and it typically closes when the river reaches 35 feet.

Tweten said Moorhead understands its responsibilities in regard to Oakport and he told commissioners the county currently has about 250,000 empty sandbags on hand that could be used in Moorhead and elsewhere in Clay County.

Tweten said county and city officials will be meeting to talk about recruiting volunteers and how a volunteer effort in Clay County would be coordinated.

Moorhead Assistant Fire Chief Chad Stangeland said Tuesday the city completed many flood control projects following the 2009 flood that he said have greatly reduced the flood risk for many Moorhead residents.

Assistant City Engineer Tom Trowbridge agreed, stating that the city decided in 2012 that it wouldn't do large-scale sandbagging operations unless there was a deterministic forecast from the weather service that a flood of 42.5 feet was expected.

The flood of 2009 was the highest on record in Fargo and Moorhead at 40.84 feet.

Trowbridge said it is estimated that protecting city infrastructure from a serious flood would require fewer than 100,000 sandbags.

He said if a flood of 41 feet becomes strongly expected, about 100,000 sandbags would be needed to protect homes in annexed areas of Oakport.

He said before any decisions would be made regarding Oakport and sandbagging, a meeting would be held with Oakport residents to determine the best approach.

Moorhead used about 2.5 million sandbags in 2009, which were all made in fewer than 10 days during a time period when flood fighting was very accelerated, Trowbridge said.