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Red River Flood Fight In Fargo Area Getting Louder

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The Fargo-area flood fight was getting louder Tuesday thanks to the sounds of heavy equipment moving clay into place for levees and police sirens escorting flatbed trucks filled with sandbags into low-lying neighborhoods.

There was quietly some good news, too. The National Weather Service slightly downgraded its crest forecast for the Red River at Wahpeton, about 50 miles upstream of Fargo, and predicted below-normal precipitation into next week.

Still, officials in the Fargo and Moorhead, Minn., metropolitan area of about 200,000 continued to prepare for a record flood in the 41-foot range, or 23 feet above the point where the river spills its banks. That likely would require sandbagging for several hundred homes in the two cities.

“If those sandbags need to sit out in the street and we protect less, that would be great,” Fargo engineer Jeremy Gorden said Tuesday while inspecting a north side neighborhood. “It’s easy to load them back on the truck and send them on their way.”

The weather service has lowered the peak in Wahpeton to 16.5 feet, down half a foot. A crest prediction for Fargo could be released Wednesday.

About 300,000 sandbags were expected to be dropped off in flood-prone areas on the north side of Fargo by the end of Tuesday. The sandbag delivery, expected to take three days, is unlikely to cause major disruptions other than some traffic hassles, Gorden said.

“I tell you, if you don’t live on the street you’re hardly going to notice,” he said. “They are being delivered during the daylight hours when most people aren’t home. They’ll just come home to a bunch of sandbags and plywood on the street.”

Workers dropped off 4,000 sandbags to Fargo resident Ed Schmidt, who has lived near the river for nearly 25 years across the street from Oak Grove High School. Schmidt has sandbagged his 94-year-old house six times, including three straight years beginning with the record 2009 flood.

“This is a great location,” Schmidt said, explaining his decision to stay when several neighbors have been bought out by the city. “We can walk to either downtown in Fargo and Moorhead.”

He said it “was a great neighborhood” and added: “There’s not much left anymore.”

Schmidt had not outlined his flood protection plans this year, but said he’s “prepared to do what’s necessary” to save the house.

The sights and sounds were unnerving to Elizabeth Scotti, who moved from Denver to Fargo last year during one of the mildest North Dakota winters on record. She returned home Monday from an out-of-town trip to find a massive clay dike between her apartment and a softball complex.

She shook her head at the 10-foot levee.

“My friends told me not to get comfortable, that last year was rare,” Scotti said, referring to last spring’s lack of flooding. “I would describe it as scary.”

Construction on about 11 miles of emergency levees in Fargo will continue around the clock. The city is also using temporary floodwalls called TrapBags, a process that allows workers operating front-end loaders, excavators or other heavy equipment to quickly put sand in woven polypropylene bags that are 4-to-6-feet deep.

Moorhead officials enlisted volunteers Tuesday to help homeowners with sandbagging. The city planned to begin sandbag delivery on Wednesday. Depending on the crest forecast, there would be about 38 to 110 properties to protect, Moorhead city manager Michael Redlinger said.

“It sounds like we’re going to have good weather through the end of the week and into the weekend and hopefully a lot of interest in getting out there and getting things put up,” Redlinger said.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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