Reporting Chris Simon
FARGO, N.D. (WCCO) – There are two very different opinions from at least two prominent figures about just how high the Red River may crest this time around, which may very well affect the safety of residents coping with another flood season in Fargo-Moorhead.
Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker is still not ready to bow to official predictions of a red river crest of 38 feet. He says 35 feet is about as high his experts say the river will go.
“My initial was 32 feet, which apparently quite low for some people,” he said.
One of those people may have been Diane Cooper, senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, who believes far too much faith is being put on temporary levies and sandbagging.
“I would make sure I had an evacuation route planned and a bag packed in case we do need to evacuate, in the event that something happens. I hope your flood insurance is all in order at this point,” Cooper said.
Back in Fargo, the mayor said he has yielded to pressure, but his numbers are still below the National Weather Service crest prediction.
“So I hedged with that a little bit, I went up to between 32 and 35 feet, and I don’t see any reason to change that at all at this present time.”
Cooper said playing down the size of the crest may an effort to keep folks calm, which she can understand. However, she believes the people should know the true flood potential of the river and the truth about the levies which she says are only temporary structures.
“I would be concerned, these levies are temporary and not necessarily designed or engineered to withstand the test of time,” she said.
And with this late melt, and latest storm, more pressure will be placed on those levies and the crest levels could rise even further.
“We haven’t melted up there yet, and any time you get later and later into April, you have the opportunity to add additional water to the snowpack,” Cooper said.
She encourages residents to have their bags packed. The river is already poised to break a late cresting record set back in 1979. If this year’s crest comes after April 19 it will be the latest in the Red River’s recorded history.
Still, despite Cooper’s warning, city officials remain confident in the sandbags, levies and property buyouts since last year.
“There’s no threat to the community by any means. The infrastructure is stable and solid. You’re not going to have any street closures or impacts there to other utilities, so only about seven parcels in the community may be impacted,” Moorhead City manager Mike Redlinger said.