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Rural areas in northern Cass County to avoid overland flooding

It's a far cry from what was thought might happen even a week ago, as commissioners reject even declaring an emergency disaster declaration.

Flooded
Here's what some of the overland flooding from the Sheyenne River looked like in 2014 as it created a sea of water north of West Fargo and west of Cass County Road 17 in mid-April. It's not going to happen this year.
Forum file photo
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FARGO — Projected heavy overland flooding in Cass County appears to not be coming to fruition.

County Engineer Jason Benson said he took about a six-hour tour of the county on Sunday and found most of the snow had disappeared, somewhat surprisingly considering just a week ago, the county was looking at overland flooding to be a high concern.

Commissioners were also surprised and after hearing the report Monday night, they rejected a call for an emergency disaster declaration, often even done during minor flood years in case of damages to rural roads and homes, saying it would send the wrong message to county residents.

"We don't need to cry 'wolf' when there's no wolves out there," said Commission Chairman Rick Steen.

"This is almost too good to be true," commissioner Mary Scherling said.

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She thought it was kind of early for the flood danger to be called off and wondered if there wouldn't be a second peak.

Benson said, though, that one reason for the improved outlook was that likely because of last year's drought, the soil has been able to soak up a lot of the snow melt. The other is that the weather outlook calls for very little precipitation over the next 10 days.

The National Weather Service has also greatly lowered its estimate because of the way the melting has progressed.

Benson said the NWS crest predictions this week for the Maple River at Mapleton are 21.5 feet, for the Sheyenne River at Harwood at 89.5 feet and for the Red River in Fargo at 29.5 feet.

All three are the lowest in the past three years, he pointed out. Last year there was little snow and in other recent years an almost perfect melt has helped, too.

The biggest problem in the rural area lately was in 2019 when the Maple River peaked at 22.2 feet, the Sheyenne at Harwood at 91.6 feet and the Red in Fargo at 35 feet.

The area of major concern in a report Benson had originally prepared for the board starting about two weeks ago was the area along the Sheyenne, Maple and Rush rivers north of West Fargo to Argusville and Harwood, where many of the rivers collide before dumping into the Red River.

He had anticipated "major overland flooding and loss of access on many roads."

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But it's not going to happen.

Some drainage ditches backing up with blocked or frozen culverts still could be a problem and a few rural homes may experience a problem or two, Scherling and Benson said.

Thus, Benson said the county has about 10,000 sandbags filled and available to rural residents at the county highway department if any problems arise.

In all the county has at its disposal about 425,000 sandbags and 27,000 feet of trap bags that can be deployed to stop water and eliminate the need for sandbags. The trap bags come in heights of 2, 3 and 4 feet.

Related Topics: CASS COUNTY COMMISSION
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