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Record Fargo Flood Forecast For Red River

March 26, 2009

Friends of mine have their family home in Fargo, and as such I have been following the weather and news closely as the water and fears rise in that city.

Check out the Red River water levels here.

North Dakota’s largest city moved to the brink of potentially disastrous flooding Thursday, with earlier optimism fading as officials predicted the Red River would reach a record-high crest of 41 feet by the weekend.

Thousands of volunteers who have been piling sandbags for days scrambled to add another foot to Fargo’s dike protection, and official briefings lost the jokes and quips that had broken the tension earlier in the week. Instead, Thursday’s meeting opened with a prayer.

“We need all the help we can get,” Mayor Dennis Walaker said.

The city of 92,000 planned to distribute evacuation information to residents Thursday afternoon, but at least four nursing homes began moving residents without waiting.

The sandbag-making operation at the Fargodome churned as furiously as ever, sending fresh bags out to volunteers who endured temperatures below 20 degrees in the race to sandbag to 43 feet. Similar sandbagging was under way across the river in Moorhead, Minn., where some homes in a low-lying northern township had already flooded.

As the struggle continued in Fargo, the threat in the state capital of Bismarck was receding. A day after explosives were used to attack an ice jam on the Missouri River south of the city of 59,000, the river had fallen by 2 1/2 feet. At least 1,700 people had been evacuated from low-lying areas of town before the river began to fall.

The New York Times added this.

The mayor said an evacuation had never been tried in Fargo, even after a major tornado more than half a century ago. Some residents, who live in homes that would not be protected by the second ring of dikes, expressed fear that the city’s decision to quickly build those dikes indicated that Fargo officials had now given up on saving their properties.

“We are not abandoning anybody,” Mayor Walaker said. “That was never the intent.” Still, the mayor said that given the record levels now expected here, the city was forced to look for ways to save the bulk of the city and its crucial infrastructure, in case the first protections were to fail.

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