FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The flood fight is kicking into high gear in southeastern North Dakota, where residents are preparing for what could be the fourth major flood in five years.
The National Weather Service has warned residents in Fargo and Cass County to prepare for record amounts of high water from the Red River and its tributaries. Forecasters say the river has a 40 percent chance of topping the 2009 record of nearly 41 feet.
On Monday, the NWS said the Red River at Fargo is forecast to rise to 32 feet by next Monday, 2 feet above major flood stage. Currently, it’s at about 16 feet, and flood stage begins at 18 feet; major flood stage is 30 feet.
The forecast doesn’t say when the Red River will crest in Fargo. That prediction is expected to be issued later this week.
Cass County officials were starting sandbagging operations Monday in outlying areas of Fargo, where County Commissioner Ken Pawluk said residents in rural subdivisions should prepare for record flooding from the Sheyenne River and other Red River tributaries.
Sandbags will be delivered to city residents beginning Tuesday. High school students will help place the bags on Thursday and Friday, and early next week if necessary.
Some neighborhoods began seeing action Sunday, as crews blocked off several areas with signs and barricades to make room for trucks hauling sandbags and clay for levees.
In some neighborhoods, residents are getting used to finding alternate routes home.
“It might add an extra five, 10 minutes to your drive,” Aaron Yaggie told WDAY-TV. “But I mean, it works out if it’s what’s best for the city.”
Signs blocked off half of Erik Holder’s street, but he said he doesn’t mind.
“It’s actually cutting down the traffic a little bit, so it’s kind of nice and peaceful,” he told KVLY-TV.
“It inconveniences you for maybe a few days or maybe a week or two, but save the town — that’s what’s really important,” Holder said.
Recent snowfall has bumped up the odds of major flooding in Fargo and neighboring Moorhead, Minn., a metropolitan area of about 200,000 people.
April has been the snowiest month of the winter for the Fargo area, which is unusual, according to the National Weather Service. January typically is the snowiest month, but this winter it was only the fourth-snowiest, the agency said.
As of Friday, 16.4 inches of snow had fallen in the Fargo area this month. The next-highest total was 14.6 inches in March. The weather service said this April has been the fourth-snowiest of all time for the Fargo area, with more than a week to go in the month.
Forecasters said a sustained warm-up could happen by the end of the week — hastening the snowmelt and resulting flooding — with highs statewide reaching into the 50s and 60s. That will be a big departure from a cold early spring in the state.
Bismarck, Minot and Jamestown all set record-low temperature records for the date on Saturday, with the mercury dropping into the mid- and low teens, according to weather service reports. Bismarck’s and Jamestown’s records had stood for 47 years, and Minot’s had stood for 86 years. Dickinson had a record low on Thursday, at 11 degrees.
Flood warnings are in effect for the Minnesota cities of Dilworth and Sabin along the Buffalo River, and for the North Dakota city of Wahpeton, along the Red River, as snowmelt begins running off into those rivers, weather service meteorologist Jeff Makowski told Forum Communications.
“The main-stem Red is also on the rise, in Wahpeton, in Hickson, even modestly in Fargo,” Makowski said.
More dramatic river rises are possible heading into the weekend as the warm-up gets under way, he said.
In Grand Forks, to the north of Fargo, city officials on Monday closed one pedestrian bridge over the Red River and said they would close a second on Tuesday, in anticipation of flooding.
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