Fargo Resident Told To Brace for Flooding

January 26, 2011

Officials in Fargo, ND informed residents earlier this week that it’s time to begin preparing for another major flooding along the Red River. It is anticipated that this will be third such spring flood in a row.

On Monday, during the first public planning session for possible flooding, Mayor Dennis Walaker said, “I don’t think anybody is ready for this. Not three in a row.”

A recent flood outlook report from the National Weather Service shows a 20% chance of the river surpassing the record crest in Fargo, ND and it’s sister city Moorhead, MN set in 2009, and a 50% chance it will beat last year’s crest, which was the sixth-highest on records.

Fargo officials said that beginning next month they’ll be spending time in a local warehouse nicknamed “Sandbag Central, filling sandbags. The city currently has about 370,000 filled, shrink-wrapped sandbags in storage, but in mid-February there will likely be a call for volunteers to fill an additional 2 million of them, according to Bruce Grubb, who is coordinating the sandbagging effort. Between March 1st and 15th last year, volunteers filled a million sandbags, just in time for the river to crest on March 20th.

Over the last several years, the city of Fargo has bought and removed dozens of homes from flood-prone parts of the city, and officials are currently in negotiations to acquire about ten more houses before the river has a chance to flood this year, said city administrator Pat Zavoral.

Zavoral explained, “It’s up to the property owners to decide. None of these are condemnations. It’s all volunteering.”

The record crest of 2009 came in at almost 41 feet. This year, city officials are preparing to protect structures below 44 feet with sandbags, levees, and other flood-control methods. Some neighborhoods are requesting help with the construction of “hescoes,” interlocking steel-framed containers filled with sand. April Walker, the city’s senior engineer said that residents in one neighborhood had no objections when informed that hescoes would make a worse mess of their yards than sandbags.

She added, “They’re just darn tired of bagging.”

Fargo city officials plan to meet with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers later this week, to review the technical aspects of levee construction, according to city engineer Mark Bittner. He said, ““Is it time to make some decisions? I’m not sure. But it’s certainly time to plan.”