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Harwood declares flood emergency but a few factors weigh in city's favor

Sheyenne and Maple rivers swell following weekend rain

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The city of Harwood declared a state of emergency on Sunday, May 1, as a preemptive strike against potential flooding.
Wendy Reuer
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HARWOOD, N.D. — The city of Harwood is bracing for the Sheyenne River to crest at near record levels, but city officials hope it will stay just under a level that would trigger the need for major flood-fighting efforts.

Harwood Mayor Blake Hankey called a special city council meeting for Sunday, May 1, to discuss potential flooding and consider if the city needed to declare a state of emergency. Declaring a flood emergency allows the city of Harwood to request county, state and federal aid should it be needed. Harwood is about 8 miles north of West Fargo.

"I think we need to be ready if we need to act," Hankey said.

The council unanimously agreed to declare a state of emergency Sunday.

Cass County Engineer Jason Benson said Sunday that the Sheyenne River is expected to crest at about 91-91.5 feet Tuesday. However, unlike other years when the city has experienced severe flooding, the Red River is not hitting major flood level at the same time and there is no ice to cause jams along the river. The Sheyenne River flows into the Red River north of Harwood.

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"The Red is only supposed to be cresting at 28 feet (in Fargo). That has been bumped up a little bit in the last couple hours — it was expected to crest at 26 feet — but the positive side is that it won't crest until the middle of the week," Benson said. The Red River does not hit major flood stage until 30 feet.

City Councilman Dick Sundberg said the trigger to sandbag County Road 22 is if the Sheyenne River reaches 91.8 feet.

"Usually we start getting nervous around 91.5 but that's when there is a lot of ice," Sundberg said.

Benson is not anticipating a high amount of overland flooding like what has been seen in the past. However, the crest levels of both the Sheyenne River and Maple River are expected to reach crests this May that would be among the top 10 historically.

Baldhill Dam, which holds back Sheyenne River water upstream of Valley City, is also expected to slow its release into the Sheyenne, which would also lessen the burden downstream in Harwood.

Benson said the Sheyenne is expected to stay high through the end of the week, which is also when the Red River is expected to crest.

Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner said his office has been and will provide additional patrols throughout the county to monitor flooding. Deputies have been in the Harwood area visiting with residents and offering resources, such as the phone number for additional sandbags.

Jahner also offered to provide the office's air boats if needed.

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"We just really want you guys to know we'll be here for you if you need anything," Jahner said. "Our biggest concern is public safety, but we want to make sure that there is no one out late at night rubbernecking, or if there is someone who has to evacuate, we'll make sure their property doesn't get broken into and vandalized."

While rain was steady in the Red River Valley since Friday, April 29, no additional rain is predicted in the next few days.

"In the next seven days there is almost no rain (predicted)," Benson said. "Really now through Saturday it will be mostly sunny with highs in the 50s and 60s."

Major flood levels are expected to be reached in the next few days on both the Sheyenne River and Maple River, causing areas near Kindred and north of West Fargo to see the most significant impacts.

As of Sunday, Cass County 10 at the Maple River near Tower City was closed as was Cass County 1 north of Cass 4 . The Cass County Sheriff's Office said other road closures may occur in and around Harwood and south to West Fargo.

If property owners need sand bags or assistance, they can call 701-298-2370.

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READ MORE FROM WEST FARGO EDITOR WENDY REUER

Readers can reach West Fargo editor Wendy Reuer at wreuer@forumcomm.com or 701-241-5530 . Follow her on Twitter @ForumWendy .

As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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