FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Government officials outlined plans Friday to protect Fargo from a major flood predicted for the third straight year, an effort that could include nearly 2 million sandbags, 7 miles of clay levees and 12 miles of portable floodwalls.
The National Weather Service says there’s a 35 percent chance the north-flowing Red River could beat the record crest of about 41 feet set in 2009. That’s the figure Fargo officials are using in their preparations. Levees are being built to 44 feet and sandbags will be placed to 43 feet.
Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said the city will do “whatever’s necessary” to beat the flood.
“We’ve had a good response from the public,” Walaker said Friday during a meeting with local, state and federal representatives. “Maybe that’s the good news for having three in a row. They’re tired too.”
The city plans to deliver 400,000 sandbags a day for four straight days, most of them to about a dozen threatened neighborhoods. Officials said the flatbed trucks could roll out as early as Thursday, depending on the weather.
The weather service is scheduled to give an updated flood forecast Thursday. Current predictions call for the river to crest in early April.
“I think what people have to remember is that we’re floating a little bit with the weather,” said Tim Mahoney, Fargo deputy mayor. “When the river begins to run, we might have to run as well.”
Volunteers and city workers in Fargo began making sandbags on Valentine’s Day. It took 22 days to produce about 2.5 million bags.
County officials opened their own sandbag center for the first time and expected to have 500,000 sandbags completed by the end of Friday. About 1.5 million sandbags are available for residents across the river in Moorhead, Minn.
Flood stage for the Red River in Fargo is 18 feet. The weather service considers major flood stage to be 30 feet, at which time the city will build an earthen levee in front of city hall and close down a couple of streets near the river. Most structures in Fargo are largely protected to 38 feet.
The record flood of 2009 forced thousands to evacuate and damaged about 100 homes. The river crested at 40.84 feet. The river topped out last year at 36.99 feet, the sixth-highest crest on record.
This year’s flood preparations are much the same as in the past two years. A “code red” communication system will be used to call for volunteers or deliver urgent news. Eight rapid response teams will be available to check on reported levee breaches within 10 minutes. Plans are in place to evacuate people from nursing homes and hospitals if necessary.
For now, officials are optimistic because of the advanced preparation and weather that’s favorable for a gradual thaw.
“Everybody understands their goals, everybody understands their roles,” Walaker said, closing Friday’s briefing. “So good luck. We’ll see you next week.”
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)