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Moorhead approaches flood situation with 'guarded optimism'

Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland said there was "guarded optimism" in the city Monday as the Red River was slowly going down. Reflecting that optimism, evacuations in two areas were lifted. Officials announced that people living in the Country Club Ad...

Shoveling
Tyler Grosz of Moorhead fills sandbags Monday as snow covers the sand pile behind him and the hat and jacket of the volunteer holding the bag at M State in Moorhead. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland said there was "guarded optimism" in the city Monday as the Red River was slowly going down.

Reflecting that optimism, evacuations in two areas were lifted.

Officials announced that people living in the Country Club Addition and from Main Avenue south to Interstate 94 west of Eighth Street (with the exception of the Woodlawn Point neighborhood) could return to their homes.

Meanwhile, Gov. Tim Pawlenty met with Voxland, Clay County officials and Moorhead-based National Guard troops aiding in the flood fight as part of a swing through the area to thank volunteers, bolster spirits and look at damage from this historic flood.

Pawlenty said Minnesota is waiting for a major disaster declaration from President Obama to help homeowners and renters affected by the flood.

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Pawlenty said he also talked with North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven on Monday. They hope to jointly get the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies to "move aggressively" to get permanent flood protection for Fargo-Moorhead and the Red River Valley.

He said the state's budget deficit should not affect flood-control projects because they can be put into a bonding bill.

Optimism aside, Voxland urged residents to help make 150,000 sandbags as a reserve, but the effort required several appeals through the media to gather volunteers.

Voxland said the city's dikes were holding well. He said people who left homes still in voluntary evacuation areas should stay away for a few more days to give the sanitary sewer system time to recover.

The mayor said five homes have been inundated in Moorhead, but he does not know how many have sustained water damage due to sewer backup.

Mike Smith, a coordination officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Clay County flood damage is being assessed and his agency will open a local office.

Smith said homeowners can clean up their homes to make them livable when they return, but should keep all receipts for cleanup so FEMA can determine reimbursement.

Officials said the dispatch center was inundated with nonemergency calls. People are urged to call:

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  • Evacuation assistance line: (218) 477-4747.
  • Emergency operations center: (218) 299-5255.
  • City engineering department: (218) 299-5399. Bruce Jaster, director of environmental services for the county, said residents with flooding within 50 feet of wells should assume the water is contaminated.

    He said well-testing kits are available free from the county.

    Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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