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"We need to button it up," officials want final push to finish dikes as rivers near record level

Earthen and sandbag dikes protecting Fargo and Moorhead are about 95 percent done, with areas with special needs being addressed today. Officials meeting this morning said they still need volunteers, especially adults, to help finish the flood fi...

Earthen and sandbag dikes protecting Fargo and Moorhead are about 95 percent done, with areas with special needs being addressed today.

Officials meeting this morning said they still need volunteers, especially adults, to help finish the flood fight efforts this afternoon.

With harsh weather conditions, all volunteers are asked to dress appropriately. Residents are encouraged to not drive so flood fighters and trucks can move more easily on streets.

Reports about sand running out at sandbagging locations in Fargo shouldn't detour volunteers, as contractors battled poor driving conditions this morning. The city expects to have the sand it needs to fill bags.

Flood-fight leaders praised efforts this week, especially those from students, but said specific neighborhoods still have sandbagging needs.

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Volunteers filled 450,000 sandbags on Monday and more than 500,000 on Tuesday, just in advance of a presidential disaster declaration for North Dakota.

Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland said every dike in the city would be checked today as all flood walls must be built to protect against a 42-foot level Red River.

"I just hope we get this wrapped up by the end of the day," Voxland said.

The river is still expected to crest this weekend around 40 feet, even with .78 inches of total precipitation since Tuesday morning.

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said efforts in the city helped complete 95 percent of the dike system hoped to keep the city safe from rising spring floodwaters.

"I went and looked at the dikes last night and they are significant," Walaker said.

"We need to button it up. We need to be at 100 percent."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it needs about 36 hours to get all its work done.

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They are working with city officials on contingency plans, including secondary dikes, to protect the city. Decisions will be based on need and time available to complete work.

In Cass County, many sandbag dikes for rural subdivisions along the Red and Wild Rice rivers have been complete. Cass County Engineer Keith Berndt said individual sandbagging appears to be about 95 percent complete.

"We ask people to be vigilant and keep at it," said Berndt, adding county crews will be finishing up earthen dikes today to help protect some rural subdivisions.

Both county and city road crews will be out plowing roads as 5 to 8 inches of snow is predicted to fall on the area.

"We're going to have everything out there," said Al Weigel, the public works operation manager for Fargo. "We're concentrating on the routes used for the sandbagging."

One of the biggest concerns is levels for the Wild Rice River, which is expected to reach record levels. The river feeds into the Red River south of Fargo, near several rural subdivisions.

"I've never seen the level and the projection we have," said Walaker, adding the area is seeing an unprecedented Red River level that may match the 1897 record of 40.1 feet.

In 1997, the river reached 39.57 feet. The city lost two houses in neighborhoods - Oak Grove and the Fargo Country Club.

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Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes said all officers now are working 12-hour shifts, and will begin patrol dikes today. He urged people to stay away from dikes unless they are sandbagging.

Greg Gust, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the F-M area needs to be prepared to see river levels up to 41 feet.

"Again, that's uncharted territory for the flood fight," he said.

Related Topics: MOORHEAD
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